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Devils, Ducks battle set

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2003

ANAHEIM, Calif. Jiggy and Marty in the nets. Former teammates slamming each other into the boards. Brother against brother.

The Stanley Cup matchup with an intriguing array of subplots finally is set.

The upstart Anaheim Mighty Ducks are well-rested and eager to get started in their first Cup finals. They face the New Jersey Devils, who won the Cup in 1995 and 2000 and were in the finals in 2001.

''As soon as the game was over last night, you're real excited,'' Anaheim coach Mike Babcock said Saturday, referring to New Jersey's 3-2 win over Ottawa in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

By the time they open against the Devils in New Jersey on Tuesday, the Ducks will have been off for 10 days since they completed their Western Conference finals sweep of Minnesota.

''I could tell by the way we were today, our guys are excited and looking forward to playing,'' Babcock said after a spirited practice. ''It's kind of like the switch goes on again. It's been long, and yet, you can't just not do anything for 10 days. Our guys have worked hard to prepare and we're going to be ready.''

Goaltenders Jean-Sebastien Giguere of Anaheim, in his first postseason, and Martin Brodeur of New Jersey, a member of two Cup champions, have been the main reasons the Ducks and Devils have made it to the championship round.

''Brodeur is obviously a great goaltender a guy I looked up to when I was a kid,'' said Giguere, 26.

Still, he downplayed any goalie-vs.-goalie talk.

''There's no such thing. It's team against team,'' Giguere said. ''Whoever shows up best as a team is going to win. Obviously, a goalie's a part of the team, so you need the goalie to play well, along with your defensemen and your forwards. That's the only way you're successful.''

After the Devils' clinching win over Ottawa, Brodeur was asked about Giguere.

''I will answer a lot of questions from now until the end of the series about Giguere, but that's not new,'' he said. ''I played a final against Patrick Roy a few years ago and it was the same.

''Technically, he's as good as anybody out there and he's playing with a lot of confidence.''

Petr Sykora, who led the Ducks in scoring this season after coming to Anaheim from New Jersey last summer, said both goaltenders are playing extremely well.

''They are the biggest reasons why both teams are in the finals,'' he said. ''In my mind, whoever's going to be the better goalie in this series is going to win a Stanley Cup.

''I have great confidence in Jiggy. What he has done so far is amazing.''

Sykora was obtained last July in a trade that sent Jeff Friesen and Oleg Tverdovsky to the Devils. Friesen scored the Game 7 game-winner against Ottawa with 2:14 left Friday night.

''That was great for Jeff,'' Anaheim's Paul Kariya said. ''I was really happy for him. He had a great year for them, and it was nice to see him score the winning goal.''

Sykora isn't concerned about playing against his former teammates.

''I'm not worried about who I'm playing against,'' he said. ''I'm just worrying about my game, what I'm asked to do out there and try to do whatever I can to win.''

Then there's brother-against-brother: Anaheim forward Rob Niedermayer is the younger brother of New Jersey defenseman Scott Niedermayer.

''It's pretty special to get to play against your brother in the Cup finals,'' the Ducks center said. ''I talked to my mom and dad, and they haven't said who they'll be pulling for.

''I hope they're for me.''

The finals matches teams that are much alike.

''I think we play a very similar style,'' Sykora said. ''You start with a great goalie, have good defensemen who move the puck, and wait patiently for chances. Like last night, they hung in there, they kept playing great against Ottawa defensively, Marty made a couple of great saves and all of a sudden, boom.

''That's how we play, too. We've come up with some overtime wins in the playoffs, and some late goals to win. It's going to be interesting who can stay patient more. In my mind, they're the mentally toughest team in the league, and we're not that far behind. We've proved it through the playoffs.''



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