'I'll probably play'
Barring last-minute switch, Stars' Modano in for Game 3
Posted: Saturday June 12, 1999 06:25 PM
But the Dallas Stars' top player also said he would wait to see how he felt at game time before making his final decision.
"I have the rest of my life to heal," the Stars' center said. "This is a crucial game and in my gut, I'll probably play."
Modano, the Stars' regular-season leading scorer and all-around best player, suffered an injury to his left wrist when hit by Buffalo's Jay McKee in Game 2 on Thursday night.
Modano has four assists in his last five playoff games, and leads the Stars in playoff assists and takeaways. He is second in points, faceoffs and shots and is third in average ice time.
There was much speculation about the extent of the injury -- everything from a fractured wrist to strained ligaments. Meeting the press Saturday afternoon, Modano came out wearing a short-sleeve shirt with no bandage or anything on the wrist that would indicate an injury. He kept his arms folded throughout a news conference.
Modano called the injury a "bad bruise. I jammed it pretty good. It's pretty sore. I'll have to have a cast on it to protect it [for the game]. There will be a little bit of a bull's-eye on it."
Stars defenseman Derian Hatcher warned the Sabres against targeting the injury.
"If they take whacks at it, and end up busting it, I wouldn't want to be that guy," Hatcher said.
Modano said he would meet with a doctor before making his decision.
"We'll see what the magic of needles can do," he said.
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said the decision was purely up to Modano.
"It's Mike's call, but he knows the parameters of the call right now," Hitchcock said. "If he's not 100 percent, he's not going to play."
The Sabres didn't think Modano's absence would make any difference.
"Whether he's in or out, they're still the best hockey team in the league," said Dixon Ward.
The hit on Modano sparked even more verbal sparring between the teams in this contentious series. Following Modano's injury, Hitchcock said, "They go after our best player, we'll go after their best player, tit for tat. Their best player is Hasek."
The Sabres have their own problems trying to protect Dominik Hasek, the award-winning goalie who has become a target in more ways than one. The Stars felt they gave him too much space in Game 1, and were much more aggressive in Game 2 by crashing the net and creating traffic in front of him.
"They were very aggressive in front of me," Hasek said. "They were falling on me on purpose. They pushed my teammates on me when I was down on the ice, which is very dangerous."
Hasek is one of the most animated goalies in the NHL, forever wandering out of his crease to play the puck like a third defenseman. It doesn't matter where it is, either -- in the corners, or behind the net.
Listening to Hitchcock, it could be open season on goalies the rest of the way.
"The message isn't to go after Dominik Hasek," Hitchcock said. "The message is on loose pucks. They're just as much ours as they are Buffalo's if they're up for grabs and if a player is going to interfere, get out of the way. Stay in the net, that's what you're paid for and if he wants to come out of the net, then pay the price."
The Sabres feel the Stars have played dirty against Hasek, taking runs at him. Suddenly, there is a rivalry between a couple of teams that only played twice during the regular season and don't have much of a history with each other.
"I think that happens in the playoffs," McKee said. "There is some level of hate, and especially when guys are running at Dom ... that's going to tick us off a bit ... so it's going to get more emotional and physical."
Almost lost in all this verbal cross fire is the fact that this has been a whale of a series so far. The Sabres won the opener 3-2 in overtime and the Stars won the second game 4-2 in what was a one-goal contest until Hatcher scored an empty-netter in the final minute.
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