Boston coach Mike Milbury isn't a big fan of having one of his players stick with an opponent's top scorer all over the ice. But the Bruins haven't faced many players like Mario Lemieux.
They will tonight in the opener of the Stanley Cup semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins."He is an exception to every rule," Milbury said, "so I may have to make an exception to my thinking."
The Penguins, the NHL's second highest-scoring team, have many more weapons than Lemieux. Mark Recchi and Kevin Stevens each had 40 regular-season goals and have been outstanding in the playoffs.
Their defense was bolstered by a March 4 trade that brought Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings from Hartford. And Tom Barrasso leads all playoff goalies with a 2.46 goals-against average.
But Lemieux may be enough of a threat to warrant special attention in the best-of-7 Wales Conference final that continues Friday in Boston.
Milbury saw the effectiveness of having one player shadow another when Edmonton's Esa Tikkanen held Boston playmaker Craig Janney scoreless in last year's Cup finals, won by the Oilers, 4-1.
"It's not the most difficult job in the world," Milbury said. "It's difficult in the case of Lemieux because of his reach and size. If he gets possession of the puck, it's virtually impossible to strip him of it."
Still, Milbury toyed with the idea of using Randy Burridge, seven inches shorter than the 6-foot-4 Lemieux, as a shadow.
"It sounded like an amusing idea, if nothing else," Milbury said, "if you had him kind of flailing at (Lemieux's) kneecaps to try to keep him away from the puck. If anybody that size could do it, it would be Randy because of his tenacity."
But he said he wouldn't have a player stick with Lemieux if Boston is in Pittsburgh's zone and Lemieux is at the opposite blue line, far from the play.
"I don't think you have to be so consumed with it you have to forfeit all of your offense while he's on the ice," Milbury said.
If Lemieux escapes from his shadow, he'll have to get by goalie Andy Moog. The Boston goaltender capped a brilliant seven-game Adams Division final against Montreal by turning aside 35 shots in a series-clinching 2-1 victory Monday night.
Lemieux also will have to deal with defenseman Ray Bourque, who is expected to play despite being cross-checked in the back of the neck by Shayne Corson with one minute left Monday night.