Sunday, March 21, 2004

GameDay: @ Anaheim (26-31-10-8, 70) 8:00 EST

Tonight is the fourth and final matchup between the Wings and Ducks. Previous decisions include a 7-2 trouncing of Anaheim December 3 in the Joe, in Sergei Fedorov's first game against his former club. In the game, Pavel Datsyuk had 2 goals, 2 assists, and Manny Legace got the start. There were five goals in the second period, four of which were from the Wings. January 3, the Wings beat Anaheim 3-1 in the Joe. Manny Legace got the start, and the Wings scored two third-period goals to notch the win. Most recently, the clubs skated to a 2-2 tie in Arrowhead Pond. Manny Legace got the start, and Vaclav Prospal tied the game at 19:00 of the third period. The Wings are 8-1-2 in their last eleven decisions. They are coming off a hard-fought 4-2 win over the hungry Los Angeles Kings last night. In the game, two goals from Jason Williams and solid play by Curtis Joseph led the Wings to victory. It moved the Wings to first place in the league at 99 points, with Tampa Bay trailing with 97 points but with one less game remaining. The Wings are looking to lock up the Western Conference title, with the Central Division clinched after the Wings' 1-1 tie at Phoenix Thursday. But it will ultimately come down to the away-home series versus the Avs, March 25 and March 27. The Avs have been floundering a bit as of late, and are 5-4-1-0 in their last ten decisions with 93 points. That series is an eight-point swing, with a maximum of four points going to either Denver or Detroit. Coach Dave Lewis is right when he says "this road trip will define our season," because the Wings may have a trip out West in the first round of the playoffs. The Mighty Ducks have been pretty much .500 all season, as they have a 26-31-10-8 record and are 4-5-1-0 in their last ten decisions. While they aren't officially eliminated from the playoff picture, they are 11 points back from eighth seed St Louis and only have 7 games remaining. So it would basically take 7 wins and Edmonton, Los Angeles, and St Louis taking a goose-egg win count for the rest of the season. The Ducks will play hungry tonight, not only because Coach Mike Babcock will get them fired up but because Sergei Fedorov will be playing for his pride. Fedorov has never missed the playoffs, as the Wings have had 14 consecutive playoff appearances with this season included. That streak runs back to his first season with the Wings, when we lost 4-3 to St Louis in the 1991 Norris Division semifinals. Fedorov leads the Ducks with 59 points (27 G, 32 A), but could end the season minus for the first time in his career (-5 this season, +271 on his career). Those numbers are way down from his last season with the Wings, in which he had 83 points (36 G, 47 A), and was +15. He might not have picked the Ducks for more money, but he sure has picked no playoffs and less offensive output, with no support from his teammates Ducks Coach Mike Babcock is certainly wise when he says "Our chances of catching Detroit are pretty slim -but we have a game left with them. And if we can get some help from some other teams here in Southern California, you never know." Manny Legace is expected to get the start tonight, since Cujo played last night. Derian Hatcher isn't expected to play tonight, still sore with a bruised left shoulder.


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