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Possibilities are endless as Ducks open NHL playoffs vs. Detroit

Ducks have home ice in first-round series, but Red Wings have momentum. Meanwhile, Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau won't tip his hand about goalies or defense pairings.

April 29, 2013|By Lisa Dillman, Los Angeles Times
  • Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy, right, checks Detroit Red Wings right wing Daniel Cleary into the boards.
Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy, right, checks Detroit Red Wings… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

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Ducks defenseman Sheldon Souray was exploring the beauty of the unknown, the pristine hockey slate on the eve of opening night in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

At this stage, no one can be wrong in the timeless playoff prediction game.

"I think I've played in four playoffs," Souray said Monday. "I've been the first seed a couple of times and lost out in the first round and been the eighth seed and went to the second round and lost to the eventual Cup champion both times."

Apparently, Souray's supervisor, Coach Bruce Boudreau, had a feeling about the magnetic pull between the Ducks and the Detroit Red Wings, frequent playoff opponents. The first-round series that begins Tuesday night at Honda Center will be their sixth playoff meeting.

"Bruce is probably the only guy who thinks he knows how it's going to go," Souray said. "He told us two weeks ago we were probably going to play Detroit, by his calculations.

"We've got a Nostradamus on our hands. That's the beauty of the playoffs. Anything can happen."

Try telling that to those in the prediction business.

"Have you listened to the media the last couple of days?" asked Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "We are not the favorite, trust me. It's the same story as the whole season. We're prepared for that."

Said Boudreau: "They're the hottest team coming in. It's very similar to what L.A. was doing last year. They're the guys with the experience that have been there before. Of course, people are going to think [the Red Wings] are going to win."

Game 2 is Thursday at Honda Center before the series shifts to Detroit.

If the Ducks, seeded No. 2 in the West, are led by close friends Corey Perry and Getzlaf (the "twins"), then the seventh-seeded Red Wings' offense flows from the creativity of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, two men dubbed "Eurotwins" many years ago by then-teammate Kris Draper.

"It's going to be a good series," Perry said. "We beat them there. They came in twice and beat us here. It's going to be up-tempo, fast skating, and it's going to be a big man's game out there."

Of course, it will go well beyond Twins vs. Eurotwins. Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard was 4-0-0 (including two shutouts) in his final four starts with a goals-against average of 0.75 and a .969 save percentage in that stretch.

Boudreau, in time-honored playoff tradition, would not disclose his starting goaltender. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the veteran, Jonas Hiller, will get the nod in Game 1 over the newcomer, Viktor Fasth.

The luxury of choice is familiar territory for Boudreau.

"I've had two guys," he said. "Like in Washington, we had [Michal] Neuvirth and [Semyon] Varlamov when they were rookies and they both played the same equal amount. You didn't know who you were going to start.

"The first year we had [Olaf] Kolzig and Cristobal Huet, very similar situation, and then we had [Jose] Theodore and Varlamov where I did switch and go to the first-year player after two games. Unfortunately, the teams I've coached, or fortunately, have had two good goalies and no real clear-cut [No. 1]."

Boudreau views the competition between Hiller and Fasth as a "good push" and more of a friendly one. That apparently wasn't always the case with Neuvirth and Varlamov, his rookies back in Washington.

"They both were highly touted players," he said. "And they both wanted to play. And I think there was an outside friendship, but they were mad when I played the other guy. It wasn't as nice-ity as it is I think here.

"They [Hiller and Fasth] haven't shown me, at any point, whether there's animosity toward the other. So I don't believe there is."

Playoff coyness goes beyond the choice of goalie for Game 1. Boudreau split the defense pair of Souray and Francois Beauchemin the last couple of days in practice.

"You never know what's going to happen tomorrow," Boudreau said. "I'm not going to speculate or say why I'm doing things when it comes to this stage. Whatever we do there's a reason. We're just not throwing names in a hat and pulling them out."

The availability of defenseman Luca Sbisa, who sat out the final six games of the season because of a lower-body injury, also could be a factor.

"Today at practice I went 100% and it felt great," Sbisa said. "If it feels good tomorrow, then I know I can go 100% without being worried about anything. Every time you have an injury close before playoffs, you just want to make sure it heals up good enough to play."

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