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NHL Jagr's wrist ailing as Caps face Lightning



Published: Fri, April 11, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Stanley Cup Playoffs open Wednesday with four games.

ODENTON, Md. (AP) -- After years of beating the Washington Capitals in the playoffs, Jaromir Jagr finally gets a chance to help them win a series.

He just has to figure out a way to play with his sore right wrist.

"I cannot do things I could do before," said Jagr, staring at the wrist he broke nearly one month ago. "I have to change it somehow. ... It's not good, but I'm not going to miss the playoffs."

The uncertainty over Jagr's wrist dampens the excitement of his first playoff appearance with the sixth-seeded Capitals, who open their Eastern Conference series Thursday at Southeast Division winner Tampa Bay.

"I think everybody in the Washington organization has been looking forward to the day when Jaromir Jagr puts on his skates for his first playoff game," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We know how much he enjoys being the go-to guy in the playoffs -- I just hope his health allows him to do that."

Opening night

Half of the NHL's eight first-round, best-of-7 series begin Wednesday. Eastern Conference top seed Ottawa plays host to the New York Islanders, while Western Conference regular season champ Dallas faces Edmonton for the sixth time in seven years. Toronto opens at Philadelphia.

On Thursday, Detroit begins its Stanley Cup defense at home against Anaheim. Playoff-newcomer Minnesota is at Colorado, which won its NHL-record ninth straight division title. St. Louis, making its 24th consecutive playoff appearance, travels to Vancouver.

The Capitals, who expect to lose another $20 million this year, have invested $11 million per year in Jagr to get them over the playoff hump.

Six times between 1991 and 2001 he helped Pittsburgh eliminate Washington in the playoffs, but injuries and adjustment pangs in a new city made his first season with his new team a disappointment. The Capitals didn't even make the playoffs a year ago.

Now it's payoff time.

"This is the main reason the organization wanted to get him, was to have the game-breaker in the playoffs," center Jeff Halpern said. "We didn't get to see it last year.

"To know that when the game's on the line to have a guy like that, that can win a game for you, turn it around for you, this time of year that's so important," Halpern said.




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