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KINGS-DUCKS REPORT : Kings

Blake Hopes to Return Despite Back Injury

October 23, 2000|JIM HODGES

Looking for a lift after a disastrous trip and a 0-3-1 run in their last four games, the Kings could get one tonight at the Arrowhead Pond.

Rob Blake, their captain and best defenseman, said Sunday he might be able to play against the Mighty Ducks, back injury and all.

"It doesn't feel too bad," Blake said Sunday after practicing with the Kings for the first time since a bone scan revealed a hairline fracture in his lumbar vertebrae. "We'll see how it is tomorrow."

Blake said that the odds of him playing tonight are "50-50" and that he definitely would be able to play on Wednesday when the Mighty Ducks return the visit at Staples Center.

"I still have an injury," said Blake, who is on injured reserve but is eligible to come off the list today. "It's gotten better, though. Otherwise, I wouldn't consider playing."

Blake's game is a physical one, and his hip check is feared throughout the NHL. But throwing a hip with a broken bone nearby is something that would make any orthopedic specialist cringe.

"I played on it once, a week ago," reminded Blake, who suffered the injury when he was elbowed in the third period of a game against Boston on Oct. 13, then played against Phoenix on Oct. 15 before the break was found.

"I know how to play when I'm injured. I'm not going to run around and try to hit everybody on the ice."

Blake's presence, should he be able to play effectively, should help the Kings' penalty killing, which has gone sour in surrendering six goals in the last two games; and their power play, which has gone 0 for 15 over the last three games.

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Blake could be joined on the ice by winger Stu Grimson, also on injured reserve because of a hand injury suffered in an exhibition game at Colorado.

"I'm 100%," Grimson said Sunday. "If there's a number more ready than that, I'm that number."

Grimson is eager to get back on the ice, particularly against his former Duck teammates.

Roster moves would be necessary to accommodate Blake and Grimson. Should Blake be ready, the logical move would be to send defenseman Andreas Lilja back to Lowell.

Grimson's case is more difficult, because his presence would probably involve sending out a forward. A week ago, winger Tomas Vlasak seemed a probable candidate, but he is getting ice time on a line with Ziggy Palffy and Jozef Stumpel.

Another possibility would be Eric Belanger, whom Stumpel replaced on the line with Palffy, but Belanger has six points, among the league leaders as a rookie.

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Stumpel reported he is no worse for wear after playing 23 shifts totaling 22 minutes 10 seconds Saturday night at Dallas in his first game since ending his holdout.

He admitted some nervousness and said he needed time to adjust to playing with Vlasak and Palffy.

"Normally, the second or third game back is where you find the most difficulty," he said.

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