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Vrbata continues string of Coyotes' playoff injuries

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Injuries are a fact of life in the NHL playoffs. For the Phoenix Coyotes, they appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Radim Vrbata's upper-body injury on the first shift of Game 1 – courtesy of an Andrew Shaw shot along the boards – was the sour note in a 3-2 overtime win over the Blackhawks on Thursday night. Vrbata was not available to the media Friday and is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury; his status for Game 2 is questionable at best.

Shaw said he thought Vrbata injured his shoulder on the play. The Coyotes weren't interested in getting any more specific than the obvious.

"A few years ago we had to get into quarters (of body parts)," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Now we're into halves,"

The Coyotes were able to survive one game without their leading scorer, but Vrbata accounted for almost one out of every six Phoenix goals during the regular season (35 of 216). After overcoming a late-season allergic reaction to penicillin, Vrbata had five goals during Phoenix's season-ending, five-game winning streak and hit the postseason on a roll.

But 40 seconds into the playoffs, he skated off, hunched over, and disappeared into the dressing room.

Mikkel Boedker would take the right wing spot on the first line if Vrbata is out. He also ramped up his scoring late in the season (two goals, two assists in the last four games) and was praised by his teammates for a strong Game 1. "He came up (to the No. 1 line) and did a great job," center Martin Hanzal said. "He was really flying."

The series takes a two-day break between Game 2 (Saturday) and Game 3 in Chicago (Tuesday) giving Vrbata five days of recovery time if he can't go right away. But if he misses significant time, he would join the litany of key postseason injuries that have played a key role in the Coyotes' 25-year drought in winning a playoff series:

* Up 3-2 against Anaheim in 1997, Jeremy Roenick's knee blew out in Game 6 in a knee-on-knee hit with Ted Drury. The Coyotes lost in seven games.

* A year later, up 2-1 against Detroit, both Teppo Numminen and Nikolai Khabibulin went down with groin injuries and the Red Wings rallied to win in six.

* Roenick missed six playoff games in 1999 with a broken jaw courtesy of Dallas' Derian Hatcher. He returned wearing a football helmet in Game 7, but the Coyotes lost to St. Louis in overtime.

* More recently, up 2-1 against Detroit in 2010, captain Shane Doan plowed into the boards, separating his shoulder. He didn't play again, and the Coyotes lost Game 7 at home.

Now the Coyotes have another series lead -- and have to weather another key injury.

Author: Jerry Brown | Correspondent

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