|NHL: Detroit Red Wings open season against Anaheim Ducks|
|Wednesday, 03 October 2007 04:08|
Familiar Foes Face-off
The Anaheim Ducks are eagerly awaiting the return of No. 1 goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere. In his absence, they appear to have a pair of capable replacements.
Fresh off splitting their first two games in England, the Ducks continue their stretch of games away from home Wednesday night when they face the Detroit Red Wings in a rematch of last season's Western Conference finals.
Anaheim began defense of its first Stanley Cup championship Saturday with a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings as the NHL opened its season outside North America for the fourth time.
The Ducks rebounded Sunday with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Kings as Corey Perry scored a pair of goals in support of Jonas Hiller, who made 22 saves in his NHL debut.
"We competed hard in both hockey games, so we've got some wear and tear in our bodies," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "But our mental focus was good."
Hiller got the nod on Sunday after regular backup Ilya Bryzgalov gave up three goals on 23 shots in Saturday's loss.
Although Bryzgalov took the loss Saturday, he has proven to be a more than solid backup the past two seasons. Bryzgalov is 24-21-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average in 61 games with Anaheim.
Giguere missed the first two games while he continues to recover from sports hernia surgery. He hopes to be ready to play either Wednesday, Friday at Columbus or Saturday at Pittsburgh.
The Ducks already have logged a lot of travel and won't raise their Stanley Cup banner at home until Oct. 10 against Boston.
"It's their home opener, so it's gonna be pretty difficult," Ducks captain Chris Pronger said. "We're pretty well adjusted now (to London time). And now you have to readjust the other way."
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Detroit -205 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Detroit -205 (View NHL Bet Percentages).
Giguere isn't the only key player missing from Anaheim's lineup. Defenseman Scott Niedermayer and right wing Teemu Selanne are still undecided on their playing futures, and checking forward Samuel Pahlsson is also recovering from sports hernia surgery.
Defenseman Mathieu Schneider, who spent the past 3 1/2 seasons with Detroit, is still out with a broken ankle and won't face his former team.
Detroit won its sixth straight division title in 2006-07, tying Buffalo with a league-best 113 points.
After defeating Calgary and San Jose in six games in each of the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Red Wings were eliminated in six games by Anaheim in the conference finals.
The Red Wings are again loaded with talent and anything less than a Western Conference title would be a disappointment for a team that has finished with at least 100 points in eight of the last nine seasons.
Nicklas Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman for the fifth time in six seasons, finishing with 13 goals, 62 points and a plus-40 rating.
"It feels great that we're able to come up with a competitive team every year," Lidstrom said. "Last season, people on the outside looking in didn't think we were going to be that good. But we were a confident group, and we had a good regular season and went deep into the playoffs. This year, we feel the same way."
Forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg made the jump into the NHL's elite last season, posting 87 and 68 points, respectively. Zetterberg's 33 goals came in only 63 games, making a 40-goal season reachable.
Although Detroit lost Schneider, it replaced him with Brian Rafalski, who had a career-high 55 points last season with New Jersey.
Detroit will again rely on 41-year-old goaltender Dominik Hasek, who won 38 games and finished second in the NHL last year with a .913 save percentage. He was just as good in the playoffs, recording a 1.79 GAA.
Returning for his 24th season is defenseman Chris Chelios, the oldest player in the NHL at 45.
Detroit has won eight straight regular-season home games against Anaheim since a 2-1 loss on March 19, 2002.
by: Gary Roberts - theSpread.com - Email Us
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