They got away with it once. Twice was too much to expect.
There was no way the Mighty Ducks could defeat the St. Louis Blues without injured wingers Paul Kariya or Teemu Selanne in the lineup Sunday at the Arrowhead Pond.
There was no one to match strides with St. Louis forwards Brett Hull and Pierre Turgeon. Or to challenge defenseman Chris Pronger. The result was a predictable 6-2 victory for the Blues in front of an announced sellout of 17,174.
Kariya continues to suffer from post-concussion syndrome after getting cross-checked in the jaw Feb. 1 by Chicago's Gary Suter. It has prompted concern he might be sidelined the rest of the season.
Selanne has strained stomach muscles and his status for Wednesday's game against Detroit is uncertain.
The Ducks also played Sunday without center Travis Green, out because of a groin injury, and defenseman Drew Bannister (buttocks injury).
But Kariya's injury is by far the most serious of the four. He has been told by the team's medical staff to stay away from the rink and avoid exercise.
"We decided last Wednesday he needed to get away and chill out," team doctor Craig Milhouse said. "Being here adds to his anxiety and stress. We're not having him do anything [physical].
"I've tried to be very positive with him. I told him, 'Paul, remember how you felt two or three days afterward? Now, how do you feel? You're much better, right?'
"There was a point there when he couldn't read. Now he can read and watch a movie."
Because Kariya has been sidelined four weeks, Milhouse would prefer he be without symptoms, which include dizziness, for up to four weeks. That would put his return at the end of March at the earliest.
But if Kariya's symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it would increase his recovery period and effectively eliminate his return this season.
"There is still so little we know about the brain," Milhouse said. "It's not like it's a knee or a shoulder and we can say, 'Oh, you'll be out six or eight weeks.' "
Team President Tony Tavares said it's unlikely the Ducks can pull off a trade to bolster their ranks for the stretch run. It's believed they have an interest in acquiring veteran forward Mike Gartner from the Phoenix Coyotes, however.
"It's not like a fifth or sixth defenseman getting hurt," Tavares said. "You just go out and get another fifth or sixth defenseman. You don't go out and just get an All-Star forward like Paul."
St. Louis showed how thin the Ducks are without Kariya and Selanne in the lineup.
The Blues were too talented and too intense to fall to the Ducks the way the Oilers had in an improbable 4-0 rout Friday at Edmonton.
Hull and Turgeon each scored two goals and had two assists and Pronger and Steve Duchesne also scored for the Blues. Matt Cullen and Scott Young scored for the Ducks.
"Maybe we should admit St. Louis is a better team than we think they are," Duck Coach Pierre Page said. "They're poised. They make the safe, smart play. They play the odds."
The Ducks have been badly outplayed in two of three games without Kariya and Selanne. As ever, the Ducks' fortunes rest on their shoulders.
"The other guys have to suck it up a little bit more," Tavares said. "You can't win if you don't skate, and we didn't skate."
The Ducks seemed to move in slow motion until the third period. The Blues, who beat the Kings, 5-2, Saturday at the Great Western Forum, also looked fatigued early.
But there was a crucial difference: the Blues played it safe and smart and the Ducks did not.
The most glaring example came when Duck defenseman Jason Marshall tried a cross-ice pass from his goal line. Hull moved smartly to deflect it and the puck wound up behind startled goalie Mikhail Shtalenkov.