'Pittsburgh captain Jaromir Jagr, bothered by an undisclosed injury that has left him unable to shoot effectively, was not in uniform for Monday night's playoff game against Buffalo.'
'The Penguins' star sat out Pittsburgh's 3-1 victory Saturday in Buffalo with what was described as a charley horse, a bruised muscle that is bleeding. However, Jagr also has a sore groin — the same injury that kept him out of four games against New Jersey in the 1999 playoffs. He also may have aggravated a shoulder injury Thursday during a 3-0 victory in Buffalo.'
'But ask any Penguins player and he will point to one player as being largely responsible for their string of six victories in seven games. It's the guy wearing the Moose helmet — Hedberg.'
'While every player on Pittsburgh's roster is committed to defense — from the left-wing lock to protecting rookie goalie Johan Hedberg — one player seems to embody the philosophy more than anyone else: Kevin Stevens.'
'Reports have Jagr's injury ranging from a charley horse to a groin pull to a shoulder problem, the latter of which is the current consensus. The Penguins have stood by their "charley horse" evaluation, but there clearly is something more severe. The team likely doesn't want opponents to target any particular area on his body shoud Jagr return, hence the vague injury report.'
'Last year, it was Ron Tugnutt standing on his head, as the hockey cliché goes, leading the Penguins to a 2-0 lead over Philadelphia. Four games later, their season was over. Just that fast, things can turn in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Penguins are looking to avoid a repeat of last year's fate.'
'Gary Bettman swore it was only coincidence. Pure circumstance that he hadn’t been in HSBC Arena since the 1999 Stanley Cup finals.'
Since the last seconds of Game 2 ticked down, the statistical history of the Buffalo franchise has been well documented: they have never come back to win a playoff series when trailing two games to none. That does not bode well for any Sabres' fan. However, there is a collective source of optimism to be found within the annals of Sabres history.
The Sabres aren't hanging by a thread yet, but the rope is certainly getting thinner with every loss.
The Sabres have lost their depth, their offense and their confidence.
'It appeared the Sabres' 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins smacked them across their collective head Saturday. They have a daunting task awaiting them in the next three days and little room for error. The Eastern Conference series between the Sabres and Penguins shifts to Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh tonight, where Buffalo has won once in the last 12 games.'
'When team owner Mario Lemieux and coach Ivan Hlinka described Hedberg's emergence as a "surprise," they weren't kidding. The Pens were so surprised to see Hedberg play his way into the starting job that they neglected to make room for the 27-year-old first-year player.'
'Boy, the perception of a hockey team can change dramatically from one week to the next, can't it?'
'Predictably, Jagr downplayed his confrontation with Hlinka. The conversation was in Czech, but sources said both raised their voices outside the Pens' dressing room and it appeared anything but friendly. At one point, Hlinka walked away with his arms folded in apparent disgust while Jagr pointed a stick toward his coach.'
'"It's playoff time, and I'm not going to tell," Jagr said when pressed about the injury. "I know it might look funny to some people, that it's a charley horse. There are some other (injuries) besides that, but I'm not going to tell anybody. … (And) it bothers me that I'm not playing.'