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Still(man) hurting but playing

Times staff writers
Published June 6, 2004

The closest-kept secret in this Stanley Cup final is the health of Lightning forward Cory Stillman.

He was second on the team in points during the regular season but has struggled in the playoffs. Entering Game 6, he had two goals and four assists in 19 games. The assumption, though the Lightning and Stillman won't confirm or deny, is he is hurt.

Whether because of injury or not, the Lightning made a change in Game 5 when coach John Tortorella sat Stillman, who refused to use an injury as an excuse.

"Coach's decision," Stillman said.

Stillman was back in the lineup for Game 6.

"I didn't lobby or anything," Stillman said. "Just found out I was playing."

Stillman didn't lobby before Game 6, and he didn't pout during Game 5.

"I know Cory felt real bad," the Lightning's Tim Taylor said. "He really wanted to play. But it was a situation where the coach made a decision and went with it. ... Cory didn't mope around. I talked to him after the game. He was disappointed we lost, but he said he would be ready to go if called upon. Obviously, you're upset when you don't play, but you're not jealous of one guy going in there. You're just hoping he'll get the job done, and that shows what kind of team player he is."

Dingman shares comeback story

The first thing some Lightning players did after the loss in Game 5 put Tampa Bay behind three games to two was seek out Chris Dingman. The Lightning left wing was with the Avalanche in 2001 when it fell behind 3-2 to the Devils in the final.

With Game 6 in New Jersey, Dingman said defenseman Ray Bourque, facing his final chance to win a Cup in his final season, addressed the team.

"He was emotional almost to the point he was in tears," Dingman said. "He said, "I believe in you guys. This is my last shot at it. This is my last year.' He said, "We're going to win this game. Win it for yourselves. Don't win it for me because if you guys win, I'm going to win.' He was like, "Take advantage of your situation.' "

Colorado won 4-0 and then Game 7 at home.

"When he said that, every guy just felt five feet taller," Dingman said. "I know how I felt. I felt I could go out and walk on water almost."

Iginla not as big of a factor

A game after Jarome Iginla scored a goal and assisted on another to push the Flames within a win of the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy candidate was held to two shots, none in the third period or overtime, despite playing 30 minutes and 13 seconds. Iginla had a point in 12 of his previous 15 playoff games and five points against the Lightning.

"He always has the same effort he brings to lead us," defenseman Steve Montador said. "The fact he didn't score, (it's) an area where the rest of the team should step up."

Not too down about loss

Though the Flames lost an elimination game for the second time this postseason, and were stunned by Martin St. Louis' double-overtime winner, they either regrouped quickly or remembered sixth-seeded teams aren't supposed to make the Stanley Cup final.

"If you told us before the season we could play one game for the Stanley Cup, it's a deal we would have accepted," Montador said. "It's hockey at its best, I think."

Calgary police ready

A report in the Canadian Press said Calgary police expected about 100,000 people to clog the so-called Red Mile if the team won the Cup in Game 6. The stretch of 17th Avenue W, a popular entertainment district, has become party central during the Flames' playoff run.

The Mounties and officers from Edmonton were reportedly brought in to help Calgary's police control the crowds. Riot police will be stationed on nearby streets.

"We'll have strategies in place and resources to make sure people can celebrate safely," inspector Dan Jahrig, a Calgary police spokesman, told the CP. "But we're anticipating a very positive and happy crowd."

Perrin appreciates the ride

He has not played one minute of the Cup final, but Lightning center Eric Perrin said he would not trade his season for anything. Called up from AHL Hershey with four games left in the regular season, Perrin, a childhood buddy of Martin St. Louis, lived a dream of playing in the NHL.

"You're a competitive guy. You want to play. That's human nature," Perrin said. "And when you don't you feel a little helpless towards the guys. But in another way, you have a lot of pride being part of something so extraordinary. I'm cherishing every moment I'm spending right now in the NHL."

Winning one for Andy

Dave Andreychuk said he doesn't want the focus to be on him, but some Lightning players said a motivation for a comeback is their captain, who, in his 22nd NHL season, is playing in his first Cup final.

"It's definitely a lot of motivation," center Vinny Lecavalier said. "It's great for everyone to be here, and to win the Cup is something everyone wants. But for a guy who's been in the league for 22 years, it would be really nice to get it for him."

"Win or lose, I don't think anything changes in what this guy is to the game," Tortorella said. "He's a Hall of Famer. But it doesn't override our locker room. Dave Andreychuk will not allow it to override the locker room. He knows the reason why we're here at this stage is you play as a team. You do everything as a team."

Donovan out, Nieminen in for Flames

Saying before the game the decision would be his, Flames right wing Shean Donovan did not dress for Game 6. Donovan was injured in Game 5 when Lightning defenseman Jassen Cullimore landed on his right leg. Donovan played only three shifts after the second period Thursday. Coach Darryl Sutter called the injury a charley horse, though it seemed more serious. Flames left wing Ville Nieminen returned from a one-game suspension for driving Lecavalier's head into the glass from behind late in Game 4.

Moments of silence

The sellout crowd at the Saddledome honored former President Ronald Reagan, who died Saturday, and the anniversary of D-day with moments of silence before the singing of the national anthems.

Sutter's future uncertain

Sutter has played dual roles for the Flames, serving as coach and general manager. He does not recall having a day off last summer, and many close to the organization expect him to give up the coaching job and work solely as GM. Asked if he would coach next season, Sutter was typically noncommittal.

"Wow, I might not be allowed to," Sutter said, joking after riling league officials with his comments the NHL did not want small-market Calgary to win the Cup. "No, I haven't thought about that. I just stay in the moment."

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