EDMONTON — Even as hot as they've been, the Mighty Ducks have always known they could be one wrenched knee or one twisted ankle from disaster.
Guy Hebert, Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya are that important.
The Ducks' worst fears were being played out in front of their eyes Sunday after Hebert left the game trembling, panicky and exhausted after hyperventilating and then Selanne skated off, unable to play because of a strained muscle in his left side.
The Ducks won easily anyway, beating the Oilers, 4-1, with a determined effort in a crucial game in the Western Conference playoff race, moving into a tie with the Oilers for fifth place.
The worry now is Selanne, who is the second-leading scorer in the NHL and is questionable for Tuesday's game at Calgary.
"Hopefully, it's not bad and I will play the next game," Selanne said. "That's my goal right now. We'll be able to tell more tomorrow."
Selanne scored his 47th goal of the season in the first period, tying him for first in the league with Philadelphia's John LeClair. But on his first shift of the second period, he pulled a muscle as he took a little sprint.
"I felt pain in my ribs," he said.
On the bench, Selanne twisted side to side and iced the area toward the back of his left side, trying to skate once before going into the dressing room with 12:46 left in the second period.
"The doctor, I asked if he could [administer a shot] or something but he said, 'Maybe in a playoff game, not this game,' " Selanne said. "The score was 2-0, I didn't want to take the risk."
Still, the Ducks are worried because Selanne's injury is similar to one that caused another Duck player to miss five games in January. The Ducks have nine games left but have only a three-point cushion for a playoff spot despite losing only once in their last 14 games.
"I'm concerned because it's similar to the injury Joe Sacco had--a pulled muscle in the side," Coach Ron Wilson said. "Hopefully, he'll get treatment and we'll see if he'll be ready for Calgary."
(Sacco said the injury prevented him from shooting, and said he believes he could have recovered sooner but exacerbated his injury by pushing to return too quickly.)
Hebert's episode shouldn't have any repercussions, but was far scarier than Selanne's.
"I thought I was going to die," Hebert said with a wan smile. "Near the end of the period I could hardly breathe, and I started throwing up--that's probably not the most exciting news. I had the dry heaves. At the end of the period, I struggled just to get into the dressing room. My body was shaking and my face started to get numb. But the doctor was right there and [athletic trainer Paddy Jarit] helped me catch my breath."
Jarit said Hebert hyperventilated and did not suffer from dehydration or heat exhaustion. Hebert recovered as he was calmed and his breathing returned to normal, Jarit said.
The episode came on after the Ducks had to kill off a long five-minute power play after Mark Janssens was called for a spearing major against Bryan Marchment late in the first period, and Hebert had to scramble again and again to cover the net.
Mikhail Shtalenkov relieved Hebert for the final two periods, even though Hebert returned to the bench for the third, skating during the warmup.
With two of their three stars out of the game, the Ducks held solid, protecting the 2-0 lead they took in the first eight minutes of the game. Selanne scored off a pass that Jari Kurri threaded between two defensemen in the neutral zone, and assisted Kariya on a five-on-three power-play goal, Kariya's 37th of the season.
The Ducks added to it when Sean Pronger scored at 13:13 of the second period and defenseman Dave Karpa banked a point shot in off Oiler defenseman Kevin Lowe 28 seconds later. Shtalenkov made 32 saves, allowing only a goal by Andrei Kovalenko.
"That was a great team effort after a tough loss at Colorado," Pronger said. "We responded well. A lot of teams might have folded."
Pronger carried some of the blame for the end of the Ducks' 12-game unbeaten streak Friday at Colorado after he took a penalty late in the third.
"I'm just glad we won. The fact I scored was a bonus," Pronger said. "I didn't want that small incident to turn our season around, because it was such a crushing defeat."
The Edmonton game was an invigorating victory, and two of its stars hardly played. Hebert was credited with his 100th NHL victory despite making only 10 saves, and Selanne was named the game's third star.
"Easy life," Kurri teased. "Play one period, get third star."