- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2002

Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman doesn't practice any more.
He doesn't practice because he is 37. He doesn't practice because his right knee is so badly injured that if he did work out daily, he wouldn't be able to play.
How bad is it?
"He's the same as he always is, he's playing hurt," said Detroit coach Scotty Bowman with a shrug.
The Wings have played 15 games this playoff season and so has Yzerman, usually struggling early on because it takes him a while to get his knee limber. And yet, he is tied for the team scoring lead with 15 points and leads the club in game-winning goals with two.
Imagine how well he would play if he was healthy enough to practice.
But Yzerman brings much more to Detroit than scoring. The Red Wings are the Red Wings with their captain on the ice. He may be clad in red and white with the spoked winged wheel across his chest, but for some Detroit fans he might has well be wearing a red cape and a giant "S."
It's safe to say that without Yzerman, the Red Wings would have a much tougher drive on the road to the Stanley Cup finals. As it is Detroit is getting all it can handle from the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference finals, which continue tonight at Joe Louis Arena with Game 5 and the series tied at 2-2.
Yzerman, who has been Detroit's captain since the start of the 1986-87 season, wasn't the Red Wings' first choice on their draft list in 1983 heck he wasn't even second. However, the 18-year-old was taken in the first round with the fourth overall pick Brian Lawton, Sylvain Turgeon and Pat LaFontaine were taken ahead of him and all are out of the game now.
He came to camp that year weighing just 155 pounds (these days he is listed generously at 185 but looks lighter) and would have been sent out to a feedlot if he hadn't emerged as the best player in training camp that fall. He went on to score 39 goals his first season.
The goals matter but they are not the most important thing Yzerman brings to the Detroit table. Every player knows the pain associated with his injury and the intensity he brings to every game. It is obvious that if Yzerman can do it on one leg, there is no excuse for anybody else not to give their best. He played, painfully, in only 52 regular season games and probably should have skipped the Olympics with Team Canada, but that's not his style.
Yzerman doesn't raise his voice in the dressing room. He makes a statement every night just by being there and putting his equipment on for the game. Besides, the Red Wings have Brett Hull on the roster and he talks enough to make the word filibuster seem insignificant.
When asked if he has to do a lot of talking as the captain in a room full of veterans, Yzerman smiles and says:
"Brett does most of the speaking on our behalf. I don't have a lot to say."
"He's a very quiet guy," Bowman said of his captain. "He doesn't bother the players too much. I think his leadership comes from the way he plays he always plays hard. I would say that's the leadership he has, more than strategically trying to sit down with the players."
Quiet or not, 19 years in the league, 16 of them as team captain, and two Stanley Cup championships give his voice the mark of authority and there are times when he has to speak up. Like last month, when Detroit lost its first two playoff games to Vancouver and was in danger of a horrible embarrassment.
"Yeah, we talked about that," he said. "At some point you're going to face a situation where you really have to win a game and play well. We didn't expect that after Game 2 so that really woke us up and settled things down a little bit because we played very well in Game 3, and 4 for that matter. It was a good test early and we responded to it well and again at some point we'll be faced with a situation where we have to win a game. We'll be that much more comfortable going into that having been there."
The situation is not as desperate, but the Wings are sort of up against it again. They have allowed Colorado to get back into the picture and regain confidence as a team, especially goalie Patrick Roy. Detroit has opened a door for the Avalanche and now must find a way to finish off the defending champions.
It would appear that would start with the Red Wings' power play, which is an awful 2-for-15 in the series.
Yzerman is on Detroit's power play unit and Bowman and his teammates hope their captain's play the next few games will continue to speak for itself.


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