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STANLEY CUP FINALS | DEVIL REPORT

Nieuwendyk's Status Still Uncertain

May 27, 2003|Jerry Crowe and Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Joe Nieuwendyk's status for tonight's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals remained in doubt Monday.

The veteran New Jersey Devil center suffered an undisclosed injury late in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Ottawa Senators and played only three shifts in the Devils' 3-2 victory Friday night in Game 7. He has not skated since, sidelined because of what has been reported as either a back, hip or knee injury. Nieuwendyk will say only that it's a "lower-body" injury.

"It's extremely frustrating," said Nieuwendyk, who is trying to become only the sixth player in NHL history to win championships with three teams, having won with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and Dallas Stars in 1999. "At this time of the year, having an opportunity to go for another Stanley Cup and you're not sure of your status, it's extremely difficult. But I just have to keep myself positive and hope that one of these days I'm going to start to feel better."

Nieuwendyk, 36, is confident he'll return at some point.

"I think I'll just take it one day at a time," he said. "If I start thinking too far ahead and worrying about what's down the road, it just becomes more frustrating. But I really, truly believe I'm going to be playing in this series."

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Oleg Tverdovsky, a former Duck defenseman who once played 363 consecutive games, has been held out of New Jersey's lineup for six consecutive games and eight of nine. Nothing is wrong physically. The post-concussion syndrome that sidelined him for a six-week span in January and February has passed.

New Jersey Coach Pat Burns didn't rule out playing Tverdovsky against his former team, but he also didn't say Tverdovsky would play in his first Stanley Cup finals. Tverdovsky simply shrugged when asked if he would play.

"I hope I have a chance to play," he said, "but we have a really solid group. Maybe I'll play because it's a team I played with before.... A lot of guys get excited to play against a team they played for."

Tverdovsky had 45 goals and 170 points during two stints covering parts of five seasons for the Ducks. He and Jeff Friesen were traded last July to the Devils in the deal that brought Petr Sykora to Anaheim.

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