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Bourque still unsure about playing opener

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001

DENVER -- Colorado's Ray Bourque did not skate during Tuesday's practice because of a lower back strain, and the defenseman remained questionable for the Avalanche's Western Conference playoff opener Thursday against Vancouver.

Bourque will be evaluated today, team spokesman Jean Martineau said.

"Right now I am optimistic for Thursday, and I am confident I will be in there," said Bourque, a 19-time All-Star and 22-year veteran. "I think I am feeling pretty good, but I am still day to day and will see how things go (today)."

Bourque strained his lower back early in Sunday's 4-2 victory over Minnesota. He left the game and never returned.

Bourque did not participate in a 90-minute workout at the team practice facility. He spent almost the entire time with the training staff.

RED WINGS: Coach Scotty Bowman was coy when asked who would start in goal tonight against the Kings in Game 1 of the West quarterfinals: Chris Osgood, who has playoff experience, or Manny Legace, who has five losses in 39 games?

"Actually, we're going to make the decision in a few minutes," Bowman said early Tuesday afternoon. "It's that close."

Osgood won a Stanley Cup in 1998 and had a 1.97 goals-against average in nine games last spring. But this season he struggled through December to find his form, and Legace went 24-5-5 with a 2.05 GAA and .920 save percentage. But Osgood is 17-8-4 with a 2.47 GAA in his past 31 and Legace has never played an NHL playoff game.

FLYERS: If familiarity breeds contempt, it has turned to hatred in this case. Philadelphia meets Buffalo in the playoffs for the fifth time since 1995.

Philadelphia won three of those series, including a five-game first-round triumph last year, and swept all four regular-season games this year.

Still, "Nobody is taking them lightly," said Flyers forward John LeClair, limited to 16 games this season because of back trouble. "Our record against them this season, each game was close. That's not a factor."

Philadelphia won at Buffalo 2-1 Sunday to clinch home-ice advantage. Roman Cechmanek outdueled fellow Czech Dominik Hasek, stopping 36 shots to run his season total to 102 Buffalo shots faced, two goals allowed.

"I will guarantee you, if we get 37 again, we'll get more than one (goal)," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I don't know if you're going to get three or four (goals), but if you get 37, you should get two or three on him."

STARS: It's another case of deja vu in the West, where Dallas faces Edmonton for the fifth straight post-season and third straight time in the first round.

"Maybe we should put our money down in Vegas because we're probably going to play them next year, too," defenseman Richard Matvichuk said.

To get into the second round, the Oilers will have to win at least once at Reunion Arena, where they have lost 12 straight, six in the playoffs.

COYOTES: Right wing Shane Doan will have surgery within a week to repair a torn abdominal muscle. Doan will miss the World Championships this month. He was to compete for Canada.

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