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March 17, 2004 - Trio's health center of attention on trip
My Kris Draper Page

Trio's health center of attention on trip

March 17, 2004

BY NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

When the Red Wings leave today on a five-game trip out West, injured centers Pavel Datsyuk, Kris Draper and Robert Lang will go with them.

Datsyuk hasn't played since suffering a sprained left ankle March 3. He skated with the team for the first time Tuesday morning.

"I'd hope (he'd play) by the end of the road trip," coach Dave Lewis said.

Draper hasn't played since suffering a partially torn left rotator cuff March 3. He started working with weights and skated with the team Tuesday morning.

"I did a little bit of passing," Draper said. "Today was probably the first day that I could do that. Each time I tried to pass a little bit harder, just to kind of see where I can go with it. It felt good. The way it looks, I think every day (trainer Piet Van Zant) is going to kind of give me a little bit more rope to kind of try to push it."

Lang hasn't played since suffering a fractured rib March 8. He said he hoped to skate today or Thursday.

"You never know," Lang said. "A miracle could happen, and it would be perfect. But I think at this point I'll just take it nice and easy. There's no sense in rushing it to play the last four games or last two games."

Draper and Lang expect to be back for the playoffs. Until then, they'll do what they can.

"We're cheerleaders right now," Draper said, smiling. "I've got pompons and everything. My outfit's not very good, but . . . I mean well."

It won't be hard to make do in Arizona or Southern California.

Lang has been a Wing for less than three weeks, since they acquired him from Washington on Feb. 29.

"You just want to be with the team," Lang said. "You get to know the guys even better."

Draper has been out of the sun for too long.

"I can certainly use a tan," Draper said, smiling some more. "I'll scare people if I ever take my shirt off and lay by the pool. They'll be calling me 'Powder.' "

NOTEBOOK: Hot goalie. Hungry team. It was the playoff formula used last year by Anaheim, which swept the Wings in the first round, and it looks like the one that could be used this year by Calgary and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, whom the Wings might face in the first round.

"I think they're legit. You look at the numbers Kiprusoff has put up," Draper said. "I mean, obviously we know what hot goaltenders can do. It's a team that believes in themselves. Anaheim obviously got on a roll and believed in themselves, and . . . obviously the rest is history. They were one game away from winning the Stanley Cup." . . .

When Lang went down, he lost his chance at the scoring title. "Definitely you think about it," he said. "It would have been nice." Told he still had a chance at the Stanley Cup, he said with a smile, "It would have been nice to have both."