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RED WINGS vs. KINGS : NOTES

Coaches Obscure Facts When Discussing Injuries

April 18, 2001|HELENE ELLIOTT and ELLIOTT TEAFORD

Perhaps taking a page from the Scotty Bowman playoff manual--specifically the chapter on being vague if not outright deceptive about players' injuries--King Coach Andy Murray explained defenseman Mathieu Schneider's absence from practice Tuesday as Schneider having chosen to take a day off.

However, it's believed Schneider is nursing a leg injury caused by wear and tear. He sat out eight games in late February and early March because of a groin strain and another in November because of a back strain.

"There's no lingering problem that would keep him out of the lineup, not anything broken or stretched," Murray said.

Bowman, coach of the Detroit Red Wings, is notoriously secretive about injuries and last week said that center Steve Yzerman did not have a broken finger, although Yzerman later told Detroit reporters the finger was broken.

Yzerman, who did not accompany the Red Wings to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4, refused to reveal the extent of his injuries during an interview with a Detroit columnist.

Yzerman has a "low ankle sprain," according to Bowman, and could not finish Game 1 or start Games 2 and 3. Yzerman's left ankle could be broken rather than sprained.

"I don't feel any need to tell anybody exactly what injury I have," Yzerman told the Detroit News. "It doesn't do us [the Red Wings] any good. If I were out indefinitely like Brendan [Shanahan, who has a broken left foot], I'd say. But I haven't ruled out playing in this series, so everyone can speculate all they want. I know how it is. Everyone wants the scoop."

*

Detroit's Darren McCarty, nursing a sprained right ankle, said he "fully expects to play" tonight.

"Why wouldn't I?" he asked reporters, who noticed he didn't join his teammates for Tuesday's practice and was wearing a soft brace on his ankle.

McCarty was injured March 18 and was sidelined for the final eight regular-season games. He played in the first three playoff games.

*

Sergei Fedorov, Detroit's crafty center, had a goal in each of the first two games because the Kings gave him far too much open ice and he took full advantage.

In Game 3, the Kings put center Bryan Smolinski up against him, figuring Smolinski's speed could keep him close to the smooth-skating Russian. Fedorov did not record a goal or an assist and the Kings won, 2-1.

"Oh my god, he's amazing," Smolinski said of Fedorov, whose importance to the Red Wings has been magnified by the absence of Shanahan and Yzerman.

"If you keep him out of the play for even a split-second, you're doing a good job. Obviously, we know what kind of player he is. He is an amazing player."

Murray said the best way to shadow Fedorov, the Red Wings' co-leader (with defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom) with five playoff points, is to avoid skating directly at him.

"If you go right at Fedorov, he'll go around you," Murray said. "You've got to be smart playing against a guy of that ability. You have to have a balance of assertiveness and patience."

*

The sunshine and good weather in Los Angeles this week reminded Bowman of the time then-owner Jack Kent Cooke invited him to California in 1971 to discuss an executive job with the Kings.

"He never offered me the job, he just kept talking," said Bowman, who had recently left St. Louis. "He wanted to trade his first-round picks three years in a row and get two players from Montreal, Boston and another team. At the time, George Allen was in Washington and he built his team that way. I knew right away it wouldn't work and I said, 'Mr. Cooke, you're never going to get to the top that way.' "

Bowman has no regrets. "It was too big a move for me," he said. "I wanted to be near Canada. When I told him, he said, 'I never talked to you.' "

How might hockey history had been different if Bowman had become the Kings' general manager?

"I might have sunburn," he said.

*

Murray said he will use the same lineup tonight as in Game 3, with six defensemen and a fourth line of Stu Grimson, Steve Kelly and Glen Murray. He especially liked the performance of the reunited "French Connection" line of Luc Robitaille, Eric Belanger and Ian Laperriere. The trio was responsible for the Kings' first goal, scored by Robitaille at 8:21 of the second period on a pass out from Belanger.

The three played together at times this season, but not in the first two losses at Detroit. "We didn't compete hard enough in the two games in Detroit," Murray said, "and we went into the second game with the idea the first was an aberration, so let's leave everything together. Then we went back to what we had. That line was good for us earlier this year, and Belanger and Laperriere are good forecheckers.

"We also felt Nelson Emerson's game was at a high level and we could play him with Bryan Smolinski and Glen Murray and put in Steve Kelly so we'd have four lines."

*

Five-on-five, the teams are tied in goals, 5-5. Overall, however, the Red Wings have a 10-5 scoring edge. . . . Tonight's game is sold out. . . . The Kings will again distribute 20,000 pompons to fans. . . . The Kings have a chance to win consecutive playoff games for the first time since they won Games 6 and 7 of the 1993 conference finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They haven't won two playoff games in a row at home since the final game of their 1993 quarterfinal series against the Vancouver Canucks and the first home game (and third overall) of their conference final series against Toronto.

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