Thursday, June 5, 2003

Ducks face hostility in New Jersey

Anaheim would do well to return to earlier playoff form

The Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Talk about culture shock.

As the Anaheim Mighty Ducks traveled from the comfortable confines of the Pond to the inhospitable New Jersey swampland for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, they found themselves as far away from Fantasyland as possible.

In Anaheim, the colorful local fictional characters are Mickey, Goofy and Donald. In New Jersey, they're the Sopranos. If the Ducks didn't know they weren't in friendly and oh-so-sunny Southern California any longer, they knew it when they pulled into their rain-drenched team hotel and found it swarming with fans - not of hockey, but of several rap stars performing at nearby Giants Stadium.

It is in this setting that the Ducks will try today to do what truly would have been seen as a fantasy before the season started: close within a victory of winning the Stanley Cup.

Convinced that their twin 3-0 losses on New Jersey ice last week are nothing but a distant memory following two momentum-restoring overtime wins at home, the Ducks talked Wednesday of not wasting what could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

"You could coach or play in the league forever and you might not get back to here," said first-year coach Mike Babcock, who inherited a team that was coming off three straight last-place finishes.

But to win the Cup, the Ducks must win at least once at Continental Airlines Arena, where they are 0-8 since Feb. 11, 1996. They realize the task will be difficult, but that waiting until a Game 7, if it is necessary, probably would be far more difficult than winning Game 5.

"We're confident we can win some things here," goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "Obviously, if we want to win the thing, we need to win one here."

The Ducks were the best road club in the playoffs, winning six of seven, before a dismal debut in New Jersey.

There was one setback for the Devils on Wednesday. Center Joe Nieuwendyk, out since the Eastern Conference finals because of a hip-related injury, tried skating but quickly shut it down and almost certainly won't play in Game 5.

The Devils were hoping that even a less-than-100 percent Nieuwendyk could help on faceoffs, which the Ducks are winning at a 61 percent rate.

Stanley Cup Finals


Game 1: New Jersey 3, Anaheim 0

Game 2: New Jersey 3, Anaheim 0

Game 3: Anaheim 3, N.J. 2, OT

Game 4: Anaheim 1, N.J. 0, OT

Today: Anaheim at New Jersey, 8 p.m.

Saturday: New Jersey at Anaheim, 8 p.m.

Monday: Anaheim at New Jersey, 8 p.m., if necessary

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