Red Wings don't view Ducks as patsies
Goalie Osgood calls Anaheim 'solid team' ahead of West semifinal opener
When a top NHL team faces a perceived inferior club, it's easy for players and coaches to say the right things but not necessarily believe them.
In case of the Detroit Red Wings, players really mean it when they say the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks present a formidable challenge once the Western Conference semifinal begins Friday at Joe Louis Arena (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
It doesn't matter that the defending Stanley Cup champion Wings finished 21 points ahead of the Ducks in the West. Nor is it important that Detroit took three of four games from Anaheim in the regular season.
Those numbers are rendered useless when these two teams meet in the playoffs.
The Wings and Ducks have squared off four times in the post-season, with the teams splitting the all-time series 2-2.
Their last matchup was decided in the 2007 West final, a series won by Anaheim in six games. The Ducks would go on to capture the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
"They've got a great first line; they've got [Teemu] Selanne," Wings goalie Chris Osgood told the Detroit Free Press. "We've played them a lot in the playoffs. Their D is good. They're a solid team, and have two goalies [Jonas Hiller and Jean-Sebastien-Giguere] that have played well all year."
Still, it's hard to imagine a team better than the Wings to this point in the playoffs. Led by a balanced offensive attack, and defensive stalwart Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit steamrolled over the Columbus Blue Jacket in four games during the first round.
The Wings also have the best post-season power play, scoring seven goals on 22 opportunities. They are also well rested, having last played April 23 when they completed a four-game sweep of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"I think we're playing what's the best team in the league in Detroit," defenceman Ryan Whitney told reporters. "I know San Jose had a better record, but I think everyone thinks Detroit's probably the best. They're reigning champs."
The Ducks are coming off a six-game upset series victory over the No. 1 Sharks on Monday night. The underachieving Sharks finished the regular season with a league-best 117 points to win the Presidents' Trophy, but had no answer for Hiller.
The Anaheim netminder continually frustrated San Jose shooters, highlighted by a 2-0 shutout victory in the opening game of the series.
"It doesn't matter who we're playing or what seed we are in the playoffs," said centre Ryan Getzlaf. "We consider ourselves a contender. We felt that way fright from the start. This is just the first round, and we'll move from here."
As always, the Ducks — consistently one of the more penalized teams in the NHL — will have to stay out of the penalty box if they hope to string together another huge upset.
In the first round against the Sharks, Anaheim allowed six goals in 24 chances and ranked ninth as a penalty-killing unit among the 16 playoff teams.
Draper not medically cleared
The Ducks won't have to face centre Kris Draper, who didn't receive medical clearance Thursday after having his upper-body injury re-evaluated.
"There was improvement from the last time I went," he said. "They're positive the healing is underway, but not to the extent where they were satisfied enough to clear me."
Draper, 37, has been ruled out of Games 1 and 2 in Detroit after missing the entire first-round series.
A veteran of 194 Stanley Cup playoff contests, he posted 17 points in the regular season — matching his total from the 2007-08 campaign — but turned in a career-worst minus-13 rating.
Also Thursday, Red Wings defenceman Brian Rafalski and forward Dan Cleary didn't practice. Rafalski got a rest day while Cleary was sick.
Detroit had six days off prior to the conference finals in 2002 and 2008 and prevailed both times against Colorado and Dallas respectively.