Flyers wary of mind games

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:56 PM ET


 Ken Hitchcock was not about to take the bait.

 Several hours after his Philadelphia Flyers had completed their workout at the team's practice facility in Voorhees, N.J., word trickled to the veteran coach that centre Joe Nieuwendyk likely will not be available for the Maple Leafs entering Game 2 tonight at the Wachovia Center.

 At least that's what the Leafs are claiming, anyway.

 No one appreciates Nieuwendyk's value more than Hitchcock, who five years ago was behind the bench in Dallas when Nieuwendyk won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in helping lead the Stars to the Stanley Cup.

 But Hitchcock also is aware of the mind games those in the NHL's coaching fraternity play come the post-season, especially when it comes to injuries.

 In other words, he'll likely wait until the opening faceoff to be convinced that Nieuwendyk will not be able to go.

 "We also heard that (Mats) Sundin might not play," Hitchcock said last night. "So we don't even worry about that."

 Hitchcock speculated that a hit on Nieuwendyk late in Game 1 might have shaken up the the veteran centre.

 "We were surprised that he was not out there in the last minute to take faceoffs," he said.

 Earlier in the day, Hitchcock had discussed the resiliency of a Leafs team that often seems to bond together whenever injuries or other adversity hits.

 "They have guys like Ron Francis who have stepped up," Hitchcock said. "You need a special group of guys to overcome those types of things and Toronto has done that successfully in the past."


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