Originally created 04/28/01

Jagr questionable for Game 2 against Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After briefly testing his sore right leg, Jaromir Jagr isn't sure he'll be ready for Game 2 of the Pittsburgh Penguins' playoff series with the Buffalo Sabres.

Still, the Penguins are confident they can proceed without their captain.

"Obviously, he's going to be a big miss. Whoever steps into his spot has to fill some pretty big shoes," forward Robert Lang said. "It's a team sport and maybe our line's going to have to score a couple of goals and go from there."

The Penguins opened the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series with a 3-0 victory Thursday night, and are preparing for Game 2 on Saturday in Buffalo.

Jagr, who set up Mario Lemieux's game-winning goal in the first period of Game 1, sustained what the Penguins are calling a "charley horse," and missed the third period. He refuses to say how or when he was hurt, only that it happened when he was checked in the second period.

Jagr spent about 20 minutes on the ice testing his skating ability during an optional practice Friday.

Afterward, he complained of soreness, saying it was especially difficult making tight turns as well as stopping and starting.

"I could do it right now, but the game is a different speed," said Jagr, the regular- season NHL scoring champion. "I wanted to test it. When you have a charley horse, you've got blood in your legs, they told me to go try it and the movement should help. But it hurt a lot when I pushed it."

Jagr said he will be re-evaluated by team doctors who, along with the coaching staff, will have the final say on whether he's healthy enough to play.

The Penguins showed how deep they are in Game 1, when little-used forward Josef Beranek took Jagr's spot on the top line and had a hand in setting up the final two goals.

"Every time he was on the ice he was very dangerous," Jagr said.

Beranek doesn't feel any added pressure should he continue to fill in for Jagr.

"Jaromir Jagr is the best player in the world right now, and I don't look at it like I'm filling his shoes or something," Beranek said. "It's an open spot. You just go with that."

Whether they will or won't face Jagr, the Sabres have bigger problems of their own to deal with. They're coming off a flat performance in which they seemed to underestimate Pittsburgh's new commitment to defense and the ability of rookie goalie Johan Hedberg.

"We tried to make them understand that they didn't beat Washington by accident," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, referring to Pittsburgh's first-round victory over the Capitals. "Washington's a good team with a great goaltender. Don't underestimate that."

The Sabres reached the second round by playing a patient, physical, forechecking style in defeating the Philadelphia Flyers. Only flashes of that were evident against Pittsburgh.

"I thought we played out of character in the sense that we didn't do the things we needed to do," Ruff said. "Our skill guys didn't get dirty and our real good hitters didn't have real good licks in."

And when the Sabres did get scoring opportunities, they ran into Hedberg, who stopped 25 shots to record his second shutout of the playoffs, tying a franchise record.

Hedberg has emerged as one of the postseason's surprise performers, considering he was fourth on San Jose's depth chart when the Penguins acquired him last month.

He's now allowed only 10 goals in seven playoff games.

Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek, who stopped 29 shots, felt his team took the Penguins too lightly.

"For three days, we were talking about how good we are and how bad their defense is, how average their goaltender is," Hasek said. "This is something we have to change in our mind."


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