OTTAWA (AP) -In hockey circles, Brian Burke's comment regarding Samuel Pahlsson is the highest form of compliment for a European-born player.
``He thinks he's from Red Deer,'' the Anaheim Ducks general manager said Friday, referring to his team's top checking forward. Burke could've easily used Moose Jaw or Flin Flon to make his point that the Swedish-born Pahlsson plays with the edge of a Canadian prairie farm kid.
Pahlsson might never have been to Red Deer or be able to find the central Alberta town on a map, but he certainly gets the drift.
``Yeah, I've heard it a lot of times,'' Pahlsson said after practice. ``I guess it's a good thing. I kind of know what he means.''
It means that the fifth-year NHL veteran has arrived as a key contributor for a Ducks team that's two wins from its first Stanley Cup. Anaheim is up 2-0 on the Senators in the best-of-seven finals series which resumes at Ottawa on Saturday.
First and foremost, Pahlsson and linemates Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen are doing their job in shutting down the Senators' top line. In two games, Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza have been limited to a combined 11 shots and two assists - a considerable drop-off for a trio that had produced 23 of Ottawa's 48 goals through the first three playoff rounds.
The offense has been a pleasant surprise. After Moen scored the winning goal in Anaheim's 3-2 victory in Game 1, Pahlsson produced the lone goal in a 1-0 win on Wednesday.
Ducks scoring forward Andy McDonald is impressed.
``It's making everybody's job a lot easier,'' McDonald said. ``They've elevated their game in the playoffs. They're realizing they can score, too.''
Pahlsson's production is particularly eye-popping. Two of his three goals this postseason have been game-winners, and his 11 points in 18 games match the number he had in his previous 37 playoff appearances.
He's already a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL's top defensive forward in the regular season. Now there's talk of Pahlsson emerging as a playoff MVP contender.
``I wouldn't think about it,'' Pahlsson said. ``It's all about winning two more games for us, and nothing else matters.''
Pahlsson is a well-spoken but relatively quiet player, who acknowledged he'd rather shy away from the spotlight.
``Parts of it is fun. But some parts you could live without, too, I guess,'' he said. ``It's not every time that you want to go out and (answer) all the questions and everything.''
Pahlsson then laughed when it was pointed out he wouldn't be getting all this attention if not for the way he's performing.
``Well, that's one way to look at it,'' Pahlsson said. ``I'll take the questions.''
It's up to the Senators to find some answers.
Alfredsson is very familiar with Pahlsson. The two played together in helping Sweden win the 2006 Olympic title. But Alfredsson has no trouble setting aside native ties when it comes to playing in the Cup finals.
``Right now he's not very close to me,'' he said. ``They're playing well. ... But I think we're doing a lot of things that makes life easier on them.''
The Senators captain was referring to his line's sudden penchant for creating neutral-zone turnovers, the result of attempting to carry the puck into the Anaheim zone rather than dumping it deep.
It was Heatley's turnover that led to Pahlsson's goal in Game 2.
Pahlsson's performance has led to numerous compliments besides Burke's.
Moen sees a bit of Esa Tikkanen - the former Edmonton Oilers star - in his linemate.
Then there's Ducks forward Teemu Selanne, who's come to refer to Pahlsson as his ``favorite Swede.''
That's something considering Selanne is from Finland, and the two countries consider themselves rivals.
Didn't stop Selanne from making a wisecrack.
``He's pretty good for a Swede,'' Selanne told The Orange County Register. ``But I think he wants to be a Finn.''
Not so fast, Pahlsson said.
``Yeah, he mixed that up a little bit,'' Pahlsson said with a wink. ``It's all the Finns that want to be Swedes. Everyone knows that.''
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