Back injury could keep Yzerman out of Game 4

Updated: April 26, 2006, 7:23 PM ET
Associated Press

EDMONTON, Alberta -- As if a double-overtime loss wasn't enough for Detroit to worry about, the Red Wings are now facing the possibility of playing Game 4 without their captain.

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2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM G A PTS +/- PIM
61 14.0 20.0 34.0 8 18

Steve Yzerman only played two shifts in the first overtime of the 4-3 loss to Edmonton on Tuesday night because of back trouble and his status is questionable heading into Thursday night's game.

The Oilers lead the series 2-1 and Detroit won't decide if it will have Yzerman back in the lineup until just before Game 4.

"He'd be a huge, huge, enormous loss," Red Wings goaltender Manny Legace said on Wednesday.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he will wait for a decision on the team captain before juggling the lineup.

"If he can go, he is definitely going to play," Babcock said. "His contribution to our team is not just measured in what you see."

With or without Yzerman, Detroit needs more scoring. It had eight 20-goal scorers in the regular season but has had trouble solving Edmonton's Dwayne Roloson in the first round of the playoffs.

Brendan Shanahan, for one, has six shots and no goals through the first three games.

"In a lot of areas we have been good, but not great," said Shanahan. "Some of our lines have lacked the chemistry they had during the season. Same with goaltending and defense."

The Oilers, meanwhile, are feeling good.

Jarret Stoll slammed home the winner at 8:44 of the fifth period on Tuesday to send the Rexall Place sellout into a frenzy despite it being just after midnight.

"It is something I will never forget," said Stoll, who was the hero in his first home playoff game. "We're playing loose and having fun."

Detroit had appeared to score in the first overtime but video replay showed that Jason Williams' shot had actually gone under the side of the goal.

The Red Wings took the opening game of the series in double overtime on Kirk Maltby's winner but have suffered two straight losses.

"We've turned the series into a best-of-three with two games in our building," Babcock said.

Oilers coach Craig MacTavish had high praise for defenseman Chris Pronger, who logged 47:17 of ice time in Game 3 and is on a three-game points streak with two goals and an assist against Detroit.

"I think it's quite clear we've got the best player in the series," MacTavish said. "That is something you couldn't have said about the Edmonton Oilers in a long time."

Pronger isn't worried about fatigue.

"It's not hard to recover, especially when you win," he said.

Babcock won't be switching goaltenders after Legace made 28 saves but fell to 1-2 in his first season as a playoff starter.

The longtime backup in Detroit knows he needs to improve.

"I can't be letting in three goals a game," Legace said. "Those are backbreakers for our team."

The eighth-seeded Oilers realize they have a chance to take command of the series with a second home win on Thursday.

They finished the regular season 29 points back of the league-leading Red Wings, who earned a league-record 31 road wins.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press