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Forcing the Issue Is a Must

June 02, 2003|LONNIE WHITE

Rob Niedermayer did not score a goal in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, nor did he pick up any assists, but that doesn't mean he didn't have a huge impact in the Mighty Ducks' 3-2 overtime victory over New Jersey.

When he's on top of his game, Niedermayer is a nonstop force all over the ice. At 6 feet 2, 205 pounds, Niedermayer uses his combination of size and speed to be a not-too-gentle force in everything he does. He pushes and bangs with anyone in his way, including his brother, Scott, a veteran defenseman for the Devils.

Because the Ducks do not have many physical power players in their lineup, they need Niedermayer to be a wrecking ball against New Jersey to help create more skating room for his teammates. Niedermayer did that in Game 3 and that's why Duck Coach Mike Babcock didn't hesitate to use him with a variety of linemates, including Paul Kariya, Adam Oates, Steve Rucchin and Mike Leclerc.

Niedermayer ended up playing more than 26 minutes in a whopping 38 shifts Saturday. Look for more of the same tonight as the Ducks look to even the best-of-seven series at the Arrowhead Pond.

A breakdown of Game 4:

NEW JERSEY'S MOVE -- As well as the Ducks played Saturday, the Devils have to feel pretty good about their effort because they still had a chance to win in overtime.

Goaltender Martin Brodeur gave up a horrible goal to Sandis Ozolinsh in the second period of Game 3 and his reaction time was a little slow on Ruslan Salei's game-winning goal in overtime. Part of Brodeur's problem was that the Ducks made him deal with more bodies and shots than he did in Games 1 and 2. It's now up to Coach Pat Burns to make the right adjustments to slow down the Ducks.

New Jersey has to get better balance on defense. Too many times in Game 3, the Devils' second defender on the play was either too hesitant or committed too fast, which left holes for the Ducks to work with. Look for the Devils to get back to their defensive ways and work harder to keep better track of the Ducks, especially in transition. The Devils are an ordinary team when they try to open things up.

DUCKS' MOVE -- Coach Mike Babcock got his players to increase their intensity level for Game 3 and will need them to step it up even more tonight. The Ducks are still having trouble adjusting to the Devils' attack speed once they leave the neutral zone. Defensemen such as Kurt Sauer, Niclas Havelid, Salei and Ozolinsh can't afford to let up on any play because New Jersey's quick-closing forwards are always looking to capitalize on mistakes.

The Duck defensemen also have to stay involved on offense. By jumping into plays and being active with the puck, Keith Carney, Ozolinsh and Salei accounted for nine of the Ducks' 33 shots on goal Saturday. They need to do that again tonight to help the Duck forwards, who have struggled to get quality scoring chances without help from their blueliners.

Babcock doesn't give much ice time to his fourth-line players but when he does, it's important that they provide quality minutes. Dan Bylsma, Marc Chouinard and Jason Krog did that in Game 3, despite playing less than a combined 21 minutes of five-on-five hockey. They were on the ice for both of the Duck goals in the second period, playing against their Devil fourth-line counterparts.

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