As expected, Brett Hull wasn't playing for the Dallas Stars in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Buffalo Sabres tonight. As expected, he wasn't happy about it.
"He's out -- no matter what he says, he's out," Stars Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's fighting it, he wants to go in. He's just not ready."
Hull, who has two goals in the first three games of the tightly played finals and seven overall in the playoffs, suffered a groin injury in Game 3 on Saturday night.
While Hull argued against his coach, Hitchcock pretty much felt all along that he would not be available for tonight's game.
"He just needs to be pain-free," Hitchcock said.
Will Hull be ready for Game 5 in Dallas on Thursday night?
"He's really day-to-day," Hitchcock said.
On his way out of the Stars' practice Tuesday morning, Hull seemed reconciled to the situation.
"If I can't play, I can't play," he said.
Randy Cunneyworth has to feel lucky. Just off an appearance in the Calder Cup finals, he suddenly finds himself playing in the Stanley Cup finals.
The veteran was one of the players brought up from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League to inject "spunk" into the Sabres' lineup, according to Coach Lindy Ruff.
The Americans lost in the Calder finals to the Providence Bruins, dropping the fifth and final game on Sunday. That makes it two finals for Cunneyworth in three days.
"I've never been past the second round," an amazed Cunneyworth said.
Ruff says that he has talked to other coaches in the league in an attempt to get information on how to beat the Stars. It's a common practice among NHL coaches, but not for Hitchcock.
"We do it differently here," he said. "I have a guy like [General Manager] Bob Gainey. I lean on him hard. I'm lucky to have people who have won [the Stanley Cup] like Bob Gainey and Doug Jarvis. I prefer to stay within the bubble."
Two for One
There's at least one player's vote for the NHL's new two-referee system, and it comes from a surprising source -- Dallas forward Brian Skrudland.
"I think the game has gotten better. [The two-ref system] keeps players from taking cheap shots behind the play," he said. "I never thought I'd like it, considering the way I like to hack."
Whatever It Takes
Joe Nieuwendyk won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and now is trying to win another with the Stars.
Any similarities between the teams' styles?
"The game's changed so much," Nieuwendyk said. "It's used to be more wide-open. Now it's more tight-checking."
There is one thing that hasn't changed, though.
"Both teams do whatever it takes to win."
Tough Row to Hoe
The Sabres considered tonight's game their "Game 7." That was the talk in the locker room during their morning skate, and for good reason.
A loss would put them behind three games to one with Game 5 set for Dallas on Thursday night.
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team since 1939 to win the Cup after dropping behind 3-1.
New York Islanders General Manager Mike Milbury has confirmed that he is trying to trade Zigmund Palffy, the team's best offensive player.
Things are getting complicated, though. There are two other teams involved, reportedly the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings.
And a lot of cash, Milbury says.
"When you're talking seven figures, and it's not my money, then there are other people getting involved."