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Hockey

Day at a Glance

Now there's something to shout about

Posted: Saturday June 19, 1999 05:37 PM

By Denise N. Maloof, CNN/SI

In the Crease
Sports Illustrated contributor Pierre McGuire, a former coach of the Hartford Whalers, dissects strategy for CNNSI.com throughout the Stanley Cup finals.

It wasn't pretty, but the Dallas Stars got the job done in game five. They battled physically in all three zones, played with the passion required, and they got a lot of key efforts from grinders. Jamie Langenbrunner was the guiding light for the Stars, because after the first period it seemed the Buffalo Sabres had more energy then the Stars.

Langenbrunner got the second period started with some physical play, second effort, and he painted a picture for his teammates to follow. Players that get their uniforms dirty shift in and shift out have a unique ability to stimulate their teammates. Langenbrunner was that man in Game Five.

It may have been the most inartistic game in this years playoffs, but it was the most intense game of the year. It came down to whomever won the last one-on-one battle would be victorious. The insurance goal for the Stars was scored because of a battle won by Mike Modano versus Alexei Zhitnik along the boards. If the Stars are going to win their second game of these playoffs at Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo, they'll need a lot of the same type of efforts displayed by Modano and Langenbrunner.

Buffalo can bring a lot of confidence into Game Six. They matched the Stars hit for hit, and they also made the appropriate adjustments, which allowed them to compete. While Mike Peca didn't get to play a lot of minutes against Joe Nieuwendyk in Dallas, look for the scenario to change when Lindy Ruff gets the last line change in Buffalo.

This series is becoming a war of attrition. Case is point was the injury in the dying moments of the game to Sabre Defenseman Rhett Warrener after he tangled with Derian Hatcher. Game Six will not be a game for the faint of heart.

Buffalo (CNN/SI) -- Sixty minutes, and maybe we've got a Stanley Cup champion.

Folks have returned to Hot Wing Land for that very reason, and the most anxious are the Sabres, who got their lack of offense and a 3-2 Stanley Cup finals deficit handed to them in Thursday's 2-0 loss at Reunion Arena.

Both Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock and Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff called it the most emotional and intense game of the series, and they should know. The two men ended Game 5 with a cameo shouting match across ice, boards and assistants, and both chuckled it off separately, post-game.

"I was angry because Hitch was angry at me," Ruff said. "So I guess we were both emotional. He started yelling at me. I was yelling back. [The crowd was so loud I couldn't heat what he was yelling. I doubt if he could hear what I was yelling. Heck with it."

"Kind of two guys from Aubrug saying hello to each other," was Hitchcock's straight-faced assessment, invoking geographical rivalries from both coaches' Alberta roots. "He's from Aubrug. I'm from Edmonton. We're not too far away."

Neither coach would divulge subject choices at that moment; what a surprise. And perhaps a credit to them, for not hogging the spotlight. But they came clean on Friday's off day in Buffalo, with Hitchcock admitting irritation at Rhett Warrener's presence on the ice at the end of Game 5. (Warrener paid for the assignment with a broken right ankle, suffered in a tumbling fight with Dallas' Derian Hatcher).

"In my opinion a skilled player was taken off the ice and a tough player was put on the ice," Hitchcock said. "The faceoff puck dropped and Warrener went after Hatcher and that is fine. But Lindy is the same guy that was bitching and complaining at [Toronto coach] Pat Quinn for doing the same thing in the last series.

"So don't go and play the almighty when we both know as coaches what the message was there. I just wanted to let him know that I knew what he was trying to do."

Here's Ruff:

"Personally, I don't know what it was all about. Hitch came off the bench screaming, I decided to scream back. He screamed back at me and I screamed back again. I asked him if he wanted some water; he said, no. That was it."

A little later, being serious:

"I will be very honest with you, I wasn't really the guy that was responsible for that change. [Assistant coach] Don Lever does the changing. But the thinking was, on the part of our back end was, let's get somebody out there in case they try something; have a Warrener out there or a [Jay] McKee, two guys that can physically protect themselves, and who are good fighters in case something happens.

So expect Saturday night's meeting in Marine Midland Arena to be a Game 6 rolled up in a Game 7. The Sabres win or retire to golf courses. The Stars can claim Lord Stanley's Cup. In many ways, Thursday's game was a Game 7 for the Stars, whose older legs may have found it near-impossible to rebound for two straight wins.

Saturday, it's the Sabres turn, and it's good bet that nobody - media included - want to return to Dallas for Game 7

"Absolutely we expect to win," said Buffalo's Dixon Ward. "I'm not going to guarantee anything, but we are going to go out there with full intention. We're going to give everything we've got to win it."

"Personally, I don't do anything different," said Buffalo's Dominik Hasek, who probably felt like the Long Ranger on Thursday thanks to no offensive support. "One mistake, one goal is the difference every game," he added. "It's close and I expect it to be the same in Game 6."

Storylines We're Following
Just win, baby
Yes, the goalies are huge, but the Stars have performed despite suffering two potentially crippling injuries to big guns Mike Modano and Brett Hull while the Sabres, who have escaped relatively unscathed, pending news of Rhett Warrener's right leg, have sputtered and fizzled offensively.

Buffalo desperados
Whatever stops Lindy Ruff has left in his coaching bag, he'll need to pull them out for Saturday's Game 6. Whether it's commiserating over unlucky bounces or lighting a fire under some forwards' butts -- read: Miroslav Satan -- all the usual stuff like lineup matchups may not be enough.

Goal duel
It's come down to this: The Dominator and the Eagle. The best man will extend an already-exciting series or win a Stanley Cup.
 

NHL's Three Stars
Each day throughout the Stanley Cup finals, we'll take a look at three key individuals.

Mike Modano . It's a Stars sweep this time. Only four had more ice time Thursday night, and one was goalie Ed Belfour. If he's as active Saturday as he was Thursday (28 shifts, three shots, two points, 15-of-23 on faceoffs) imagine what he might do with a healthy left wrist.

Pat Verbeek . He's an unrestricted free agent, one of Dallas' thirty-somethings, and probably won't return next season, but his icer at 15:21 of Game 5 deserves kudos for its one-on-one quality against Dominik Hasek.

Darryl Sydor . The same guy who then-juniors coach Hitchcock once sent from a summer youth camp because he was too young -- a 15-year-old at the time - delivered Thursday's game-winner. It was the defenseman's third playoff goal.
 

Bandwagon
Game 6 Just the fact we've got one.
More temperate temperatures At least now it feels like hockey weather, compared to last week's broiling 90s in both Stanley Cup finals cities. Thursday's high in Dallas was in the pleasant, non-humid 80s. Weekend temps in Buffalo are predicted to be in the low 70s thanks to a Canadian -- how appropriate -- cold front.
Stiff upper lips We know they have to maintain it, but the Sabres' almost-cheery, can't-wait-till-we-get-home-and-beat-their-socks-off attitude after Game 5 was a bit too much. Reality? They're one game from gone, and desperate.



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