DALLAS — Joe Nieuwendyk, last year's playoff most valuable player, has as many points against New Jersey in the Stanley Cup finals as his usual right wing, Jamie Langenbrunner. That's bad news for the Dallas Stars, since Langenbrunner has been a spectator since he sprained his right knee in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
Nieuwendyk didn't even get a shot until the Stars' 2-1 loss Saturday, which gave the Devils a 2-1 series lead. Dallas Coach Ken Hitchcock said the defeat put his team into "a little bit of a ditch," but that will become a chasm without production from Nieuwendyk. However, the Stars took heart Sunday when Hitchcock said Langenbrunner is likely to play today in Game 4 at Reunion Arena.
"Whether I play him with Nieuwendyk at the start, we'll see," Hitchcock said, "but just having him in the lineup is a good addition for us."
Langenbrunner, who has size, speed and good hands, had 18 goals and 39 points in 65 games, and one goal and eight points in 14 playoff games. "It's difficult to have consistency within the line," Nieuwendyk said Saturday.
"We've been forced to mix and match a lot. But we have to keep playing. We're three wins from the Cup and that's the attitude we have to have."
Instead of practicing Sunday, the Stars discussed the need to kick into a higher mental gear.
"This gear is total sacrifice, where you give up everything," Hitchcock said. "You give up every part of your body to play at this gear. We've had to do it five or six times late in the series. That's why we won those series. . . . We know that next gear. Whether we're capable of getting there physically, I don't know. But mentally we are, and we've got to go there."
The NHL fined the Stars an undisclosed amount--believed to be $10,000--for violating league rules regarding players' availability for media interviews Sunday.