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TRANSITION GAME LONNIE WHITE

You Can Expect Another Close Contest Tonight

May 12, 2003|LONNIE WHITE

Before the season began, the only way you figured to have a Mighty Ducks vs. Minnesota matchup in the Western Conference finals would be with a video game.

But after knocking off heavy favorites Detroit, Dallas, Colorado and Vancouver over the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Ducks and Wild are the last two teams standing in the West and based on Game 1, they're going to have one heck of a competitive series.

Thanks to Jean-Sebastien Giguere's 39 saves and Petr Sykora's late heroics, the Ducks won, 1-0, in double overtime Saturday. But falling behind in a series is nothing new to Minnesota, which has rallied from 3-1 deficits against the Avalanche and Canucks in the playoffs.

A breakdown of Game 2:

MINNESOTA'S MOVE -- In many ways, the Wild outplayed the Ducks on Saturday but could not figure out how to score. Giguere was extremely tough on Sergei Zholtok, who certainly had more than his share of scoring chances in the first period, along with his linemates Cliff Ronning and Richard Park.

Marian Gaborik, the Wild's most dangerous scorer, also had his problems with Giguere, but he has to shoot the puck more instead of waiting for the perfect shot.

Gaborik seemed to get the idea the more he played in Game 1. He had only one shot on goal in regulation but three in overtime.

The Wild was able to get bodies in front of the net but not enough to throw Giguere off his game. Look for Minnesota to try to do the same thing tonight while getting more lateral puck movement before shooting.

In Game 1, most of Minnesota's shots came from direct angles, which will not beat Giguere when he's on top of his game.

Minnesota has to do a better job in the faceoff circle after winning only 36% of the draws in Game 1. Even Wes Waltz, a hero for the Wild in the first two rounds, struggled in winning only 12 of 31 faceoffs.

The more Minnesota has the puck, especially in the Duck zone, the better chance it has to score against Giguere.

DUCKS' MOVE -- After being one of the least-penalized teams in the playoffs, the Ducks gave the Wild too many man-advantage opportunities with ill-advised penalties.

They can't afford to do that again tonight because Minnesota entered the series with the best power play among the playoff teams.

Defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh made several poor decisions with the puck in Game 1 with cross-ice passes. Minnesota is too quick to make mistakes like that. The Ducks also have to make sure that they carry the puck better because of the Wild's ability to poke-check and create turnovers.

Coach Mike Babcock has been able to get balanced production from three lines throughout the postseason and the Ducks' ability to mix-and-match combinations has become a strength. But somehow, the Ducks have to get more scoring chances from captain Paul Kariya, who had a relatively quiet game on Saturday.

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