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Thursday, May 29, 2003
Effort will be Ducks' only change for Game 2

By Chris Stevenson
Special to ESPN.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It is a case of his team being so bad, the coach's job is actually easier.

That is the situation facing Mighty Ducks of Anaheim coach Mike Babcock heading into Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils.

The Ducks played their worst game of the playoffs -- and maybe their worst of the last few months -- in their 3-0 loss in Game 1.

Adjustments?

Pregame notes
  • Devils coach Pat Burns and Mighty Ducks coach Mike Babcock both said they won't be making any changes to their lineups for Game 2. Devils center Joe Nieuwendyk (lower body injury) and winger Turner Stevenson (groin) are still sidelined.

  • Paul Kariya and Steve Rucchin opted to take the morning off. "That's what we've done throughout the playoffs," said Babcock. "Certain guys have been given the option; other guys haven't."

  • Devils captain Scott Stevens will play in his 228th career playoff game tonight, breaking Larry Robinson's career mark for games played by a defenseman in the postseason. Stevens has played 192 consecutive playoff games, the third-longest streak in league history behind Robinson (227) and Glenn Anderson (214). Stevens missed one playoff game in his career -- April 10, 1988, as a member of the Washington Capitals against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Patrick Division semifinals.

  • Teams winning Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals have gone on to win the Stanley Cup in 26 of the past 31 seasons, although the loser of Game 2 has won the championship in two of the past three (New Jersey in 2000, Colorado in 2001). However, home teams that sweep Games 1 and 2 are 27-1 in the finals.
    -- ESPN.com
  • Changes?

    What is there to change for Babcock, who saw his club manage just 16 shots? It would be like rotating the tires on a rusted out old lemon that won't start.

    Why bother?

    The Ducks didn't work, so the coach does not have much with which to work.

    "I could change a whole bunch of stuff," said Babcock after the Ducks had a full practice Wednesday at the Continental Airlines Arena. "I'm not a big change guy that way. Until your team comes out and skates, how do you know if you could change? You haven't given your team a chance to evaluate that.

    "Guys who have been good for me all playoff long, why weren't they good (Tuesday) night? I don't want to overreact on that. It was one game. We would have liked to have been a lot better. We can't do anything about it now."

    Where do the Ducks start to turn things around?

    Just showing up would be a good start.

    The Ducks looked like a team that might have been overwhelmed by the circumstances. Ten days off, first exposure to the media crush at the finals, a Devils team that is relentlessly efficient ... all those elements were challenges, unknown challenges.

    The Ducks didn't handle them well. Now it is a matter of quickly pushing by them.

    "There's no question, the media isn't something we're used to as a team," said Ducks center Steve Rucchin. "We can kind of put that behind us and not worry about it. You know, you don't see too much stuff like this down in Anaheim. It's definitely something different."

    Said goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who gave up more goals in Game 1 than he did in the Ducks' sweep of the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference final: "You know, obviously, many of the guys were nervous ... which is very understandable. Now we know what it's like. We know it's the same game. There is no reason to be nervous. There is no reason to not go all out, so I'm sure we'll be better in the second game."

    The Ducks have to take away the Devils' speed tonight, a commodity which the Devils' opponents seem to underestimate.

    The Devils have a very quick group of forwards and they use that speed to counterattack at a dangerous pace. The Ducks were constantly reacting in Game 1.

    For them to be successful in Game 2, they need to initiate.

    "We've got to have more speed and manage the puck," said Babcock. "What I mean by that is every time you bobble the puck or make a bad pass, it slows things down. (Tuesday) night they executed, so they're on top. We didn't execute. So they're coming with speed, speed all the time. The rink gets tilted. We've got to manage the puck better."

    Babcock also said the Ducks also have to get more "greasy" -- which is one of his favorite expressions.

    "I don't know where that expression came from," said Babcock. "What I mean by that is you get 10 days off and you're still not involved. You want to be involved, but you're not. We never got any grease on us. We didn't compete in the way we normally do. The thing that we as a group want to be proud of every day as we leave the rink is how hard we work, how hard we competed. It was kind of disappointing to us (Tuesday) night."

    Some might say the Ducks can take heart in the fact they played their worst game of the playoffs and were only down 1-0 going into the third period. That would be a mistake.

    It wasn't that close.

    The Devils gave the Ducks no room to crank up their own pressure game.

    "There is not much secret involved here," said Rucchin. "We just have to go and play a lot harder and better. That's the bottom line. We weren't skating. We weren't working. That's fortunately a pretty easy thing to fix."

    The Ducks came out of Game 1 squeaky clean.

    There better be some grease on them after Game 2 or this will be looking like a clean sweep.

    Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.