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STANLEY CUP FINALS / NEW JERSEY VS. MIGHTY DUCKS |
TRANSITION GAME

This Devil Put in Deep Friesen

June 04, 2003|LONNIE WHITE

In less than a week, New Jersey winger Jeff Friesen has gone from Mr. Automatic to Mr. No-Show and he can blame his former Duck teammates.

In Games 1 and 2 at the Meadowlands, the Ducks gave Friesen way too much respect and he took advantage with three goals, leading the Devils to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. But by making sure that Friesen had a Duck in his face all over the ice, Coach Mike Babcock's team flipped the switch on the Devils' leading goal scorer of the playoffs in Games 3 and 4 at Anaheim.

Friesen, who was booed every time he touched the puck at the Arrowhead Pond, was a non-factor as the Ducks bounced back with consecutive overtime victories to even the series at 2-2. For the Devils to regain control of the Stanley Cup finals, they will need Friesen to get back into the flow of things when the series returns to New Jersey for Game 5.

Just don't expect the Ducks to make things as easy for him as they did in the first two games.

A breakdown of Game 5:

NEW JERSEY'S MOVE -- To be effective, the Devils have to play with passion and that usually starts on the defensive end. In Game 4, the Devils played effective defense but their top scoring threats failed to win enough one-on-one battles in the Duck zone. Coach Pat Burns' most effective line was the physical fourth line, led by tough-guy rookie Michael Rupp.

Burns shouldn't be reluctant to play center Pascal Rheaume and winger Grant Marshall with Rupp against any of the Duck lines. Their rough style gave the Ducks problems Monday, especially smaller players such as Stanislav Chistov and Jason Krog.

It's still uncertain whether the Devils will have veteran Joe Nieuwendyk back in the lineup. The playoff-tested center sat out the first four games because of an undisclosed injury. New Jersey needs him now and not just because Nieuwendyk is a 500-goal scorer.

The Devils miss him because of his leadership on and off the ice. He was named "Players' Player" by his teammates this season and is known for stepping up in the playoffs. He scored a league-high 11 postseason goals for Dallas when the Stars won the Cup in 1998-99.

DUCKS' MOVE -- There's really not enough you can say about the play of defenseman Keith Carney. In the Ducks' two overtime victories, Carney pretty much lived on the ice in the third and extra periods. He's like a safety blanket for goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere with his ability to squelch scoring chances before they develop.

Often overlooked, though, is Carney's offense. Although he has not registered a point in the series, Carney has an even plus-minus rating because of the smart plays he makes with the puck. Only five other Ducks have more shots on goal in the series than Carney, who has seven, even though he doesn't skate on the power play.

Captain Paul Kariya is still scoreless in the series and has only six shots on goal. Although he picked up his play for Games 3 and 4, the Ducks need him to find a way to score. Kariya's simply not anticipating plays well and that has hampered his timing. The more aggressive Kariya is, the better he plays.

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