Monday, April 7
April 11, 8:02 AM ET
Wings captain getting stronger each day
DETROIT -- Steve Yzerman says he's lucky to be a hockey
Otherwise, there's no way the Detroit Red Wings captain could
play after having an osteotomy -- a procedure that involved sawing
into the bone below his knee and using a wedge to realign the
''I don't have the cartilage to sustain the pounding that comes
with running,'' Yzerman said. ''Fortunately in hockey, it's a
gliding thing so there's not a lot of pounding. That's allowing me
to play. Had I been in basketball, baseball, or football, there
would be no chance.''
Yzerman is not the silky-smooth skater he once was, but he has
recovered well enough from knee surgery to lead the defending
Stanley Cup champions on and off the ice.
Detroit will begin its best-of-seven opening round playoff
series Thursday against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Yzerman will lead the Red Wings into the playoffs for the 18th
time in 20 seasons thanks to a remarkable comeback. Yzerman, who
returned on Feb. 24 six months after the surgery, insisted he never
considered retiring after hoisting the Stanley Cup for a third time
in six seasons last June.
Now, Yzerman feels better than he did during the playoffs last season when he could barely get off the ice when he was knocked
''I'm skating better than I did this time last year,'' said
Yzerman, who will turn 38 on May 8. ''At the start of the playoffs
last year, it was really difficult.
''After surgery, I had hope that I would feel totally normal
again. But unfortunately, I don't think I'll ever get to that
Yzerman has just two goals and six assists this season, but he
clearly makes an impact because the Red Wings are 14-2 with him in
''He's an inspiration for what he's come back from,'' teammate
Darren McCarty said. ''He's not the old Steve Yzerman, but he can
bring so many other things to the team, whether it's the little
things he's doing on the ice, or in the room, or just being around.
''His presence goes a long way.''
Yzerman knows he's not the player he was when he scored 127
goals during the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons, but he's not
disappointed with how he's playing.
''I expected to be a lot worse,'' he said. ''The only trouble I
find is in traffic when I have the puck, I'm thinking. The hope is,
in the playoffs that it all comes back and you just stop thinking
The future Hall of Famer has 660 career goals and 1,010 assists.
In 177 playoff games, he has 67 goals and 108 assists.
When the native of Cranbrook, British Columbia, began his career
in Detroit during the 1983-84 season, he was encouraged to shoot,
shoot and shoot some more because the team was so bad.
Ten years later, Yzerman was asked to make a radical change by
becoming a two-way player under Scotty Bowman.
''Early, it just became a challenge, and we had a really good
team so I was prepared to do any role when Scotty was coach and
play any position or style to be a part of this,'' Yzerman said.
''Then it was a challenge to prove that I could be an effective
player in different areas and I enjoyed it.''
Whether or not the Red Wings repeat as champions, Yzerman
intends to play again after his contract expires following this
''I certainly want to be back,'' he said.
|2002-2003 SEASON STATISTICS|