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With Opponent Identified, New Questions Raised

Times Staff Writer

Martin Brodeur?

Scott Stevens?

For the record:
12:00 AM, May. 26, 2003 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday May 26, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 65 words Type of Material: Correction
Hockey -- In a Sports article Sunday, it was incorrectly reported that Mighty Duck Coach Mike Babcock said, “You could see by how we practiced that our guys are getting excited about this. There were experts around ... even those not holding a microphone and camera.” The quotation marks should have ended after the first sentence; the second sentence was a description by the reporter.

And just who gets Steve Rucchin and Keith Carney?

The pack descended and the questions came fast at Duck Coach Mike Babcock and his players Saturday.

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With New Jersey finally settled as the opponent in the Stanley Cup finals, the Ducks could get down to business ... on the ice and in the bright TV lights.

“You could see by how we practiced that our guys are getting excited about this,” Babcock said. “There were experts around ... even those not holding a microphone and camera.”

Petr Sykora played seven seasons with the Devils and could immediately identify the key.

“Whichever goalie plays better, that team will win,” Sykora said.

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A general theme in any series, but even more so in this one.

After two stellar seasons, the Ducks’ Jean-Sebastien Giguere has had a coming-out party in the playoffs. His 1.22 goals-against average and .960 save percentage lead all goalies in the playoffs, earning him league-wide notice.

Yet, he may not be the best goalie in this series. The numbers of Devil goalie Brodeur are close to Giguere’s -- 1.62 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. But Brodeur’s resume is lengthier; he has won two Stanley Cups.

“He has won at this time of the year and that makes him special,” Babcock said.

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The Ducks are wary of the Devils’ stick-to-it nature, particularly evident in Stevens, their hard-hitting defenseman and team captain.

“He is their team,” Sykora said.

And the Devils played like it in getting past Ottawa after blowing a 3-1 series lead. They won Game 7 on a late goal by Jeff Friesen.

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“If you were watching that game, you thought that Ottawa was in control late in the game,” Duck captain Paul Kariya said. “Then New Jersey creates a turnover, gets an opportunity and scores. They are a very resilient team.”

That has been a Duck trait this season as well.

The Ducks and New Jersey both won 24 one-goal games during the regular season, tops in the NHL.

The Ducks have won 10 one-goal games in the playoffs, the Devils five.

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“We’re very similar teams,” Sykora said. “We both play well defensively, we both have great goaltenders, we are both patient and wait for chances. We find a way to win.”

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Babcock deftly dodged whom Rucchin and Carney will be asked to muzzle in the series.

The two badgered Detroit center Sergei Fedorov in the first round and then handled Dallas center Mike Modano in the second round.

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They were usually matched against Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik in the Western Conference finals.

Which Devils will see Rucchin and Carney, well ... Babcock left that open.

“Jamie Langenbrunner has had some big goals and John Madden has played well and Jeff Friesen has three game-winning goals,” Babcock said.

Pressed on the matter, all Babcock said, “We know what we’re going to do.”

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Which would probably rule out Langenbrunner, Madden and Friesen.

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Sykora returned to practice after missing Friday with what the Ducks said was flu.

“His sniffles are much better today,” a Duck spokesman said.

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Sykora had his right wrist tightly bandaged during practice. The bandage was off by the time he started doing interviews.

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The Ducks are trying to become only the second team since the 1967 expansion to win the Cup while opening every series on the road. New Jersey pulled that off in 1995.

The Ducks have a 6-1 road record during the playoffs.

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“Any time you can win on the road during the playoffs, it is big,” Kariya said. “At the same time, with the way home ice has been in the playoffs this year, it can all turn around quickly.”

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The Ducks are talking with the city of Palm Desert about moving part of the team’s training camp there, Duck officials said.

The Ducks would spend five to 10 days in the desert after the initial cuts in training camp.

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The deal will hinge on whether Palm Desert can provide a quality ice rink.

Other cities are being explored as possible sites.


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