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DUCK REPORT

Cup Veterans Taking Teammates to School

May 19, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Preparation involves many things.

With some time on their hands, the Mighty Ducks have started by developing the proper mind-set.

There is time to put winning the Western Conference championship in perspective.

There is time to develop a strategy to handle family and friends, as well as near-strangers who are looking for tickets.

There is time to zero in on the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup.

For that, the Ducks have several tutors, from Rob Niedermayer and Adam Oates, who played on teams that were swept in the Cup finals, to Petr Sykora, who has won once and lost once.

Coach Mike Babcock has solicited opinions from those three, as well as from Sandis Ozolinsh, who won the Cup with Colorado, and Fredrik Olausson, who won it with Detroit.

"Having this time will help us," Babcock said. "It will give us a chance to realize what we have accomplished before we get down to business."

And what the Ducks have accomplished is minimal in some eyes.

"I have won the [conference] trophy before," Sykora said. "That doesn't mean anything to me. I won that and lost the Stanley Cup one year and that, to me, was a bad year. I am back in the final and have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. That is what is most important to me. Nobody remembers who finishes second."

The Ducks began soliciting advice from their players who have played in the Cup finals -- Niedermayer with Florida, which was swept by Colorado in 1996, and Oates was with Washington, which was swept by Detroit in 1997.

"We won the East in Pittsburgh and then had to fly right to Colorado and get ready to play," Niedermayer said. "We have time here to get ready. That's important."

Said Babcock: "Niedermayer and Oatsie were both swept. I think we can learn from both of their experience."

That would include family matters.

Increased interest has brought an increase in well-wishers.

"Everyone and their dog wants tickets," team captain Paul Kariya said. "It is nice to have the time off to take for this and get those things settled before we play the games."

Sykora has an easy way of dealing with those distractions.

"I don't answer my cell phone," he said. "My family knows that this is not the time of year to be calling me. They understand."

*

The Ducks' best incentive still hovers in the air. Before the Western Conference finals against Minnesota began, right wing Steve Thomas got up in the dressing room and gave a speech.

"He just said he has been in this league for 19 seasons and had never made it past the conference final," winger Dan Bylsma said. "He told us this was a rare opportunity and to make the most of it."

*

A Duck-New Jersey final would be a strange matchup for two Duck players.

Sykora played seven seasons with the Devils, who lead Ottawa, 3-1, in the Eastern Conference finals. Niedermayer's brother, Scott, is a defenseman for the Devils.

Still, neither Duck player felt this would make the finals special in any way.

"That won't enter my thinking at all," Sykora said. "I just want to win the Cup."

Niedermayer said his relationship with his brother won't be a factor either.

"It will be nice to see him," Niedermayer said. "But we have played against each other many times. It won't be special."

*

The Ducks do not have a player among the top 15 scorers in the playoffs.

Of course, only four of the top 15 are still playing, New Jersey's John Madden and Jamie Langenbrunner, Niedermayer and Ottawa's Marian Hossa.

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