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NHL PLAYOFFS | KING NOTES

Injuries Won't Slow Visnovsky, Miller

April 11, 2001|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DETROIT — Defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky and Aaron Miller are expected to play today in the Kings' playoff opener against the Detroit Red Wings, after impressing Coach Andy Murray in Tuesday's practice at Joe Louis Arena.

Visnovsky suffered a bruise and temporary numbness when he was slashed on the back of the left leg in the season finale at Calgary, and Miller missed the last nine games because of a sprained left wrist.

"I was pleasantly surprised by both," Murray said. "We felt Visnovsky would be ready, but we wanted to be sure. With Miller, the advancement the last couple of days has been remarkable."

Miller still has some discomfort but hopes the adrenaline rush of playing will mask the pain.

"I'm excited to play," he said. "This team has been playing really well. Down the stretch, we won a lot of important games and we're playoff-hockey ready.

"One thing about the Red Wings is to try and outwork them, and that will be No. 1 on our list."

Red Wing defenseman Chris Chelios, who broke his left thumb March 17, isn't expected to play today but could play this weekend. Winger Darren McCarty, who sprained his right ankle March 18, will play.

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Detroit goalie Manny Legace, who played 17 games for the Kings in 1998-99 and spent time in their minor league system, had only good things to say about his former team even though the Kings didn't re-sign him.

"Jaroslav Modry and his wife, and my wife keep in touch through e-mails, and Harpo [King assistant coach Mark Hardy] coached me in Long Beach, so I know a few guys over there," Legace said. "Luc [Robitaille] is a good friend too. It's kind of weird playing against friends. The Kings gave me my start and the organization was good to me."

Legace had an outstanding season, with a 24-5-5 record, 2.05 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. He was solid when Chris Osgood got off to a slow start, and he is likely to play sometime in the series, probably this weekend when the series shifts from Detroit after a Saturday afternoon game to Staples Center Sunday night.

"It's been a dream to play this year and carry over into the playoffs," he said. "Hopefully I'll get in a game or two."

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If Miller plays, Philippe Boucher will be scratched. The Kings need more of a physical force than Boucher provides. . . . Stu Grimson will play "not because of what he does to the Red Wings but what he does to our team," Murray said. "We are trying to play a more physical style and he's great in our locker room."

Murray advised players to steer the conversation toward the Kings when reporters ask them to comment on the Red Wings.

"We know what the Red Wings have done but we were one of the top five teams in the NHL the last 22 or 23 games," Murray said. "If I want to have nightmares, I can go to bed thinking about Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov and Igor Larionov. I'd rather smile and think of Luc Robitaille, Jozef Stumpel and Felix Potvin. You might as well dream about winning the Stanley Cup as have a nightmare about being knocked out of the playoffs."

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The Red Wings' theme this year is "Get the red out," and they've urged fans to wear red clothing. The Kings will counter with "Back in black," asking fans to wear black.

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