Deprived of their captain for the opening playoff game, the Colorado Avalanche took a circle-the-wagons approach to tonight's matchup with the Edmonton Oilers.
Joe Sakic, MVP of the playoffs during Colorado's Stanley Cup championship season two years ago, was suspended for one game and fined $1,000 on Tuesday as a result of a kneeing incident against Detroit's Kris Draper in the final regular-season game Saturday.
Sakic, who called the collision unintentional, said he was "shocked and surprised" by the suspension.
"I'm pretty upset," he said, "but we can't do anything about it now and we just have to focus on this series."
Avalanche Coach Marc Crawford said his team was "disappointed by the decision, but we've got to deal with it and move on. We've got a very formidable task ahead of us. . . . It was a very tough matchup before this news, and it's a tougher matchup now."
The Oilers themselves had varying reactions.
General Manager Glen Sather--asked during the Tuesday morning practice about a possible Sakic suspension, before the disciplinary measure was announced--said, "Sakic's one of the top players in the league. If he's out of there, you can probably look at it and say it's going to give us an advantage.
"On the other hand, you can look at it and say that that team is going to rise to the occasion and play a lot harder because now it brings the focus down to everyone else. So I think if I had my choice, I'd rather see him not suspended. I'd rather play them straight up."
Colorado has dominated the Oilers over the past three seasons. Since moving to Denver from Quebec, the Avalanche is 16-3-2 against the Oilers, including last year's second-round playoff series, which Colorado won in five games. Over that three-year period, Colorado has an 89-48 goal differential.
Chicago Blackhawk center Brent Sutter has reconfirmed what he said last week--he's leaving hockey after 17 seasons in the NHL.
"I don't use 'retire,' " Sutter said last week after the Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time since 1969.
"Because to me it's like you're going to sit along the beach in Florida or California. I'm not going back to the farm [in Alberta, Canada] where I probably work twice as hard as I do [playing hockey]."
Sutter, 36, one of six brothers from Viking, Alberta, to play in the NHL, had two goals and six assists in 52 games this season, his seventh with Chicago. He had 363 goals and 466 assists in 1,111 regular-season games with the New York Islanders and Blackhawks.
Sutter played on Stanley Cup championship teams with the Islanders in 1982 and 1983, and had 30 goals and 44 assists in 144 playoff games.