WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

May 10, 2007 - 10:18 AM #No. 1 Detroit vs. No. 2 Anaheim# ---------------------------------

By Scott Erskine PA SportsTicker Hockey Editor

As coach of the Anaheim Ducks in 2003, Mike Babcock led his team to a four-game sweep of the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference quarterfinals. Now guiding the Red Wings, Babcock is not likely to win so quickly this time around.

In his first season behind the bench in the NHL, Babcock watched his Ducks avenge two previous postseason losses to the Red Wings en route to the franchise's first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, where they came within one victory of the championship. But even though Anaheim swept Detroit in that series, it was anything but easy as each game - including two in overtime - was decided by just one goal.

In fact, both of Detroit's previous playoff triumphs over Anaheim (1997 conference semifinals, 1999 quarterfinals) also were four-game sweeps, with the first having three contests determined in extra sessions.

Babcock's top-seeded Red Wings enter this series with impressive six-game wins over Calgary and San Jose.

Against the Flames, they squandered a two-games-to-none lead before winning the final two contests. In their meeting with the Sharks, the Red Wings trailed by a game before reeling off three straight victories in which they outscored San Jose, 9-3.

Second-seeded Anaheim figures to be even stiffer competition, as it eliminated both Minnesota and Vancouver in five games. However, after posting a 5-1 win in Game One of the conference quarterfinals against the Canucks, the Ducks participated in four straight one-goal affairs, with two going to double overtime - including the clincher.

The season series between Detroit and Anaheim was even at two victories apiece, with both clubs winning their home games. Six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek played all four contests for the Red Wings and posted the seventh of his eight shutouts in 2006-07 on March 26.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the 2003 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and Ilya Bryzgalov each went 1-1-0 for the Ducks, with Giguere allowing a total of two goals. Bryzgalov also performed well, yielding just four tallies.

Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf was the only player from either team with more than two goals in the series, scoring three while adding an assist. Tomas Holmstrom netted a pair of tallies and set up two others for Detroit.

This series features all three finalists for the 2007 Norris Trophy. Anaheim's candidates are Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, who are looking to become two-time winners, while Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom is vying for his second straight award and fifth overall.

DETROIT RED WINGS -----------------

WHAT'S RIGHT: The Red Wings have reached the conference finals for the fourth time in 10 seasons. On each of the previous three occasions, they went on to win the Stanley Cup. ... Holmstrom has shown no ill effects from a recent eye injury. Having missed the first three games of the conference semifinals after suffering the injury in Game Six of the quarterfinals against Calgary, Holmstrom returned to notch two goals and an assist in the final three contests vs. San Jose. ... Mikael Samuelsson is heating up at just the right time. Without a goal in Detroit's first 10 postseason games, the Swede has scored three in the last two contests, including both in the clinching triumph over San Jose. ... Lidstrom is tied with Pronger for the league lead in scoring among defensemen with 11 points. ... Detroit has been hot of late with the man advantage, going 5-for-19 over its last four games. ... After entering this postseason with just three goals in 42 career playoff contests, Pavel Datsyuk leads the team with five tallies in 12 games.

WHAT'S WRONG: Todd Bertuzzi has been anything but the force the Red Wings thought they were getting at the trade deadline. After notching a goal and two assists in four games against Calgary, the power forward managed just one assist in six contests vs. San Jose. ... Even though it did not miss a beat in Game Six against the Sharks, the Red Wings' defense corps will sorely miss Mathieu Schneider, who suffered a broken wrist the previous game. ... The Red Wings' sixth-ranked power play faces a tall task against the Ducks, who have the top penalty-killing unit in the postseason. ... While boasting a 5-1 record at home, Detroit is just 3-3 away from Joe Louis Arena.

WHAT'S BEEN SAID: "They have two, well, maybe three, a really good back end. Great speed in (Andy) McDonald, his unit with (Teemu) Selanne and (Chris) Kunitz. A great shutdown unit with (Samuel) Pahlsson, (Rob) Niedermayer and (Travis) Moen, and their kids - (Dustin) Penner, (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry. They are a real good team. Everyone talks about they play three lines, but they will get (Todd) Marchant back, who scored big goals in the playoffs. They will be deep and tough, and they have Giggy (Jean-Sebastien Giguere)in the net. He's a proven goaltender in the playoffs." - coach Mike Babcock

INJURIES: D Jiri Fischer (heart); RW Tomas Kopecky (collarbone); D Niklas Kronwall (hip); D Mathieu Schneider (wrist)

ANAHEIM DUCKS -------------

WHAT'S RIGHT: Anaheim is becoming quite familiar with the conference finals, having earned a berth for the second straight year and third time in four seasons. ... Pronger knows what it takes to beat the Red Wings in the playoffs. The former Hart Trophy winner helped eighth-seeded Edmonton upset top-seeded Detroit in the conference quarterfinals last year. ... The Ducks' penalty-killing unit has been superb this postseason, allowing just three goals in 56 shorthanded situations - one in 29 instances against the Canucks in the conference semifinals. ... Giguere is nearly unbeatable in playoff overtime, sporting a 10-1 record when games go beyond regulation, including a 2-1 mark this postseason. ... Anaheim has received good offensive production from its blue line as Pronger, Niedermayer and Francois Beauchemin have combined for seven goals, including four on the power play.

WHAT'S WRONG: After beating one of the best goaltenders in the league in Roberto Luongo, the Ducks face another in Hasek, who owns the second-best career goals-against average (1.97) in the playoffs among netminders with at least 100 appearances. ... While Giguere has been extremely solid thus far this postseason, Babcock likely knows any and all of his weaknesses and surely will divulge them to his club. Bryzgalov also is no stranger to the Red Wings' coach, putting the Ducks at a distinct disadvantage. ... Despite having the best penalty kill, the Ducks need to cut down on opportunities allowed. Anaheim ranks third with 56 shorthanded situations, and against Detroit's skilled power-play unit, could run into serious trouble if it doesn't stay out of the penalty box.

WHAT'S BEEN SAID: "I don't think that you could ever say that we're completely satisfied with our whole team game. I think there's been parts of our game as a group that we went for stretches where we've been very ineffective. We turned the puck over far too many times, and I guess the hugest area of concern for us right now would probably be our penalties. I don't think that we could continue to take the penalties at the rate that we have in the first two series to continue to have success here as we go forward." - coach Randy Carlyle

INJURIES: D Ric Jackman (back); C Todd Marchant (groin)

HEAD-TO-HEAD PLAYOFF HISTORY ----------------------------

1997 Western Conference semifinals - Detroit, 4-0 1999 Western Conference quarterfinals - Detroit, 4-0 2003 Western Conference quarterfinals - Anaheim, 4-0






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