By HARRY ATKINS
AP Sports Writer
May 3, 2000
DETROIT (AP) -- A year ago, the Detroit Red Wings came up with some key injuries and didn't make it past the second round of the NHL playoffs.
Could the same thing be happening now to the Colorado Avalanche?
The Avs, who still hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals, learned Tuesday they will be without veteran defenseman Ray Bourque in Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena. Bourque will sit out with what is being described as a knee sprain.
Bourque didn't return for the third period of Game 3, a 3-1 Detroit victory Monday night. Immediately after the game, Bourque said he injured his foot. Tuesday, however, Bourque changed his story. He said he had a sprained knee. He wouldn't specify which knee, although television station KUSA in Denver was reporting it was the left one.
Detroit coach Scotty Bowman, who has hidden more than a few injuries while winning eight Stanley Cup championships, figured the foot story was probably closer to the truth.
'At first we thought it was a knee, but then he came out for a few shifts,' Bowman said. ``That's hard to do with a sore knee.' Hockey clubs have a history of hiding injuries, especially during the playoffs. ``Usually they throw something out there, you pick the part furthest from the injury,' Detroit forward Kris Draper said. ``Then if they say the foot it could be his shoulder.'
Either way, the lose of Bourque is huge for Colorado.
``It's going to be tough, but everybody has to step up and make sure we fill his spot,' Colorado forward Peter Forsberg said.
After winning the first two games in Denver, the Avs had visions of a sweep. But the Red Wings regrouped for a 3-1 victory on home ice. Without Bourque to contend with, the Red Wings have to like their chances of evening the series at 2-2 tonight.
``He plays 30-plus minutes a game,' Detroit forward Steve Yzerman said. ``So it changes their power play around a little bit, whether they might use a forward as they did before they had Bourque.
``Joe Sakic played the point a lot. Or last night they were either using Adam Foote or (Martin) Skoula on it. It changes a bit.'
Bourque said the injury occurred when he got tangled up with Detroit forward Martin Lapointe during the second period. ``I finished the period, but couldn't move on,' Bourque said. ``For precautionary measures, I didn't go back out for the third. I was really hoping this morning I'd wake up and things would be a lot clearer in terms of where we were going from there.
``I woke up this morning knowing that tomorrow night I'm not going to be playing. After that, I don't know, we'll see. One thing we know it's nothing major so we'll take it day by day.'
Bourque said there have been no X-rays. He said he'd rather wait and have the injury examined more closely back in Denver. ``I don't want to go into specifics exactly what it is, but it is my knee and that's all I'll say,' Bourque said.
Before Bourque arrived, the Avs were just an average hockey club, sporting a 30-27-10 record. Since obtaining the 39-year-old Bourque in a March 6 trade with the Boston Bruins, the Avs are 18-4-1. He may be old, but he plays with the zest of someone far younger.
``If you ask them, is their power play better with Raymond Bourque or without him, obviously they're going to say with,' Draper said. ``And that's the same thing we feel.' In Colorado's first seven playoff games, Bourque led the team with an average of 30 minutes, 15 seconds. The Avs won all but one of those games. He played only 19:21 in the third game against Detroit.
``You're going to miss him,' Avs forward Shjon Podein said. ``You're always going to miss a player like that. But it gives other players now a chance to step up their game. If we all do it together to fill that void, then we'll continue to have success.'
Game 5 of the series will be played Friday night at Denver. If a sixth game is needed, it will be Sunday back in Detroit.
Pictures courtesy of Picturenow.com