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KING REPORT

Murray Benches Bednar, Visnovsky

April 23, 2002|Jerry Crowe; Chris Foster

King Coach Andy Murray altered his lineup for Game 3 against the Colorado Avalanche, benching winger Jaroslav Bednar and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky in favor of Nelson Emerson and Andreas Lilja.

Emerson, 34, had not played since March 30 and had been in the lineup only three times in 19 games. He last registered a point March 16.

Lilja, a 26-year-old rookie, had played in two games since Feb. 7.

"We think Lilja is stronger physically," Murray said of the switch to the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Lilja over the 5-10, 180-pound Visnovsky. "We're wanting to be better on the defensive side of our game, although we think Visnovsky when he's playing [well] is very effective because he moves the puck effectively out of our zone."

But Visnovsky, he said, did not play well in Games 1 and 2.

"We just didn't think his game was at the level we wanted to have it," Murray said before the game, "so we're going to give him a break tonight. We expect Lilja to come in and play very good defensively for us."

Of Bednar, a 25-year-old rookie, Murray said: "We thought he was very good in the first game and then we didn't see him at all in the second game."

Emerson, who played in a career-low 41 games this season, is a veteran player, Murray said, "who in this situation deserves to show us what he can do."

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Winger Ted Donato, who played most of the season with the Kings' American Hockey League team at Manchester, N.H., was named to the U.S. team that will compete in the world championships starting Friday in Sweden.

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Of Avalanche captain Joe Sakic, who scored three goals in the first two games of the series, Murray said, "He's one of those guys like [Mike] Modano [of the Dallas Stars]. Every time he gets the puck, your heart kind of jumps to your throat....

"To me, in the last year, he's been the best [player] in hockey. He won the MVP of the league last year. He won a Stanley Cup. He won an Olympic gold medal. He was the MVP of the Olympics. You can't help but be impressed with what he's done."

Jerry Crowe

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Peter Forsberg, who missed the entire regular season, will test his stamina tonight in the second of back-to back games.

To accommodate television, the Kings and Avalanche will play on consecutive nights. Forsberg, who had a goal and four assists in the first two games of the series, was concerned about the strain on his body.

"My legs felt better last game, but this is going to be tough. But it will be tough on everyone," Forsberg said.

Forsberg has had four surgeries in the last year and, until Thursday, hadn't played since Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Kings last May.

"I really don't think I have played well enough to have five points," Forsberg said.

Of course, such statements leave his teammates smiling.

"That works well for Peter that people think he's not 100%," defenseman Adam Foote said. "Peter at 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, whatever, is still better than almost everyone else out there."

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The chances of Colorado's Milan Hejduk playing in this series are growing slimmer.

Hejduk, out since Feb. 28 because of an abdominal strain, had an extended workout after the Avalanche's morning skate Monday. But Coach Bob Hartley indicated that Hejduk's return was still at least a few days off.

"His speed has picked up and his stride is better," Hartley said. "But he is not where we want him to start doing contact drills."

There was no urgency to get Hejduk back in the lineup after his teammates scored nine goals in the first two games of the series.

The concern was greater before the playoffs, as the Avalanche had a franchise-low 212 goals this season.

Hejduk scored 41 goals last season and had 21 before being injured against Phoenix this season. But with the Avalanche scoring goals and winning in the first two games, he will likely be held out until the conference semifinals, unless the series turns the Kings' way.

"I think he's getting his jump back on the ice," Hartley said. "Hopefully, we'll get him into a full-contact practice soon."

Chris Foster

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