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Penguins Lemieux to play today in Buffalo

Sunday, October 14, 2001

By Dave Molinari, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Penguins, desperate for a lift after losing their first three games, got one yesterday, when Mario Lemieux confirmed that he'll be in uniform for their game against Buffalo this afternoon.

Lemieux sat out the past two games because of a strained hip muscle, but after making it through his third consecutive practice with no problem, said he will play against the Sabres.

"I was able to skate pretty good and pick up some speed," Lemieux said. "It's a little bit better."

Lemieux, who played nearly 24 minutes in the Penguins' season-opener Oct. 3 against Colorado, said he intends to assume his usual workload in the game, which will begin at 2:08 p.m.

The practice yesterday was the final hurdle for Lemieux, who had gotten medical clearance to return nearly 24 hours earlier.

"I saw the doctors [Friday], and they gave me the OK," Lemieux said. "It's not going to get any worse."

Lemieux, who had his injury wrapped yesterday and plans to do the same today, reiterated that deep-tissue massage no longer is part of his treatment for this problem.

"I'm getting away from all the deep stuff, letting it heal a little better," he said. "If you keep digging at it every day, it's hard [for the injury] to heal, so you have to give it a little rest, and I've been doing that the last couple of days, and it seem to be better."

Getting Lemieux back won't necessarily address all the Penguins' early-season problems, but should give his teammates an emotional boost.

"Hopefully, with Mario back, we'll find some confidence again," Coach Ivan Hlinka said.

Precedent suggests it can't hurt: The Penguins are 1-4 in the games Lemieux has missed since coming out of retirement last Dec. 27.

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