Work in Sports
Stanley Cup Notebook
Langenbrunner the talk of Dallas
Posted: Monday June 05, 2000 06:24 PM
DALLAS (AP) -- Jamie Langenbrunner doesn't get what all the fuss is about.
After all he's just a guy with 68 career regular-season goals and 13 more in the playoffs in five NHL seasons. Yet on Monday, hours before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, Langenbrunner is the player everyone wanted to talk to since he's about to return to the Dallas lineup.
"I turned into a lot better player while I was hurt," said the 24-year-old right wing the Stars hope will give an added boost to their offense.
Langenbrunner sprained his right knee in Game 5 of the conference finals and has not played in the five games since. His line has not produced without him -- most notably last year's playoff MVP Joe Nieuwendyk.
Langenbrunner, expected to play Monday night, doesn't have the answer as to why he fits with Nieuwendyk.
"Why do peanut butter and jelly taste good together?" he asked. "I know where he is, I know what he's doing on the ice and I think he's the same with me. It just seems to work well; I can't explain why. "
Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock doesn't need to know why, he just needs to get Langenbrunner back out there as the Stars trail the Devils 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. If not only to get Nieuwendyk started.
"He is a streaky player," Hitchcock said of Nieuwendyk. "If he scores early, like he did at times during the last two series, then he is a very effective player for that game and the next few games. But when you don't score, you start thinking too much."
Game 4 has proven to be the time for Nieuwendyk to get the ball rolling. He scored twice in Game 4 of the second round against San Jose and added another in the clinching fifth game. Against Colorado in the last round, he got his first goal of the series in Game 4 and then tallied the overtime winner in the next game.
The Stars are 7-0 in these playoffs when Nieuwendyk registers a point and 5-0 when he scores a goal.
Questions remain as to what Langenbrunner's return adds to the Stars.
"Everyone says he adds goal scoring -- he's got one, so we'll see if he can add to that," Hitchcock said. "He's a gritty guy and this is a gritty series. Hopefully, he can bring back some chemistry and some continuity."
Larry Robinson took over a struggling, underachieving team with just a handful of games left in the regular season.
He now has the New Jersey Devils just two wins away from the Stanley Cup.
"Life is full of ups and downs," said Robinson, who replaced the fired Robbie Ftorek with just eight games remaining. "I just try not to get too high with the wins or too low with the losses."
If the Devils can finish off the Dallas Stars, they will most assuredly look back to Robinson's leadership as a key to getting them a title.
Robinson twice in the playoffs reacted harshly and angrily following losses and New Jersey responded with wins. That couldn't have happened with Ftorek, as his voice had long been tuned out by the time he was released.
Coffee with Jere
Jere Lehtinen might be the unsung MVP of the Dallas Stars. At least Ken Hitchcock thinks so.
"We use Lehtinen as a catalyst," the Dallas coach said. "When anybody is not going well, we just put him with Lehtinen. If I am having a bad day, Lehtinen comes for coffee with me."
Lehtinen has been playing with Mike Modano and Brett Hull on the extremely productive top line.
The winner of the last two Selke Trophies as the NHL's top defensive forward, Lehtinen has returned strongly from injury woes. Despite missing 65 games this season and the first 10 in the playoffs, Lehtinen has been a force at both ends of the ice, contributing a goal and four assists.
A compelling conclusion to all NHL playoff series is the handshake lineup right after the final buzzer. After grueling, physical battles, the teams get in line to shake hands and offer best wishes.
"I have always thought it is a great tradition," said three-time Stanley Cup winner Claude Lemieux. "I think playing the game that we do, and as mean as everyone has to be to one another to be successful, you must keep that tradition involved in the game.
If the Devils win, Lemieux would become the first player to win a Stanley Cup with a team, get traded away to another club and win there, only to return to the first team to win again.
Lemieux was with the Devils when they captured their first Cup in 1995 and moved on to Colorado and won a year later. He was also a champion with Montreal in 1986.