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Line Is Familiar to Sykora

May 26, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Duck winger Petr Sykora, who returns to New Jersey this week for the Stanley Cup finals, likens his current situation to the days when he skated on the Devils' vaunted A-Line with Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias.

Sykora, the Ducks' leading goal scorer during the regular season with 34, has been teamed with center Adam Oates since Jan. 9. The other wing has been alternated, with Paul Kariya being in the mix.

But the Sykora-Oates combo has been effective.

"I was on a line that played together for three years [in New Jersey] and we did a great job there," Sykora said late in the season. "I truly believe if I have that chance to stay with Oatsie on the same line, we can play even better than we are now."

Oates sat out 15 games because of a broken left hand. He returned in December and was linked for good with Sykora on Jan. 9 against Colorado. Sykora had two goals and Oates two assists in that game.

Sykora had 21 goals in the final 41 games after being teamed with Oates.

It was a perfect match. Oates ranks sixth all-time with 1,063 assists. Sykora wastes little time stick handling once he gets a pass. He finished tied for fourth with 299 shots on goal.

"I think through the whole year, the best thing I did was sit beside Oates on the airplane," Sykora said. "For me, it's an everyday experience just to talk to him, to listen to what he has to say.

"I think we both adjust to each other's game well. I can really follow his play. The more I was with him, I start to know what he was doing out there and where to be at certain times to get open for that shot. When I get open, I know the puck is going to be there."


The Ducks have not won a game in the Continental Airlines Arena since beating New Jersey, 4-2, on Feb. 11, 1996. Kariya scored the game-winner. The Ducks have lost six consecutive games since.


Duck Coach Mike Babcock has been successful in getting the matchups he wanted during the playoffs, even on the road.

That might be more difficult against the Devils in the Stanley Cup final, as it was New Jersey Coach Pat Burns who gave Babcock some pointers, in a way.

"They came into our place earlier this year and Pat did a good job getting the guys on the ice when he wanted to," Babcock said. "They beat us, 3-1. That was something we learned that night."

How well Babcock learned it will be determined over the next two weeks.

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