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GAME: Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference finals; Game 1.
TIME: Friday, 9 p.m. EDT.
The Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks have been two of the surprise teams of the Stanley Cup playoffs, reaching the Western Conference finals behind goaltenders who didn't figure prominently in either team's plans at the start of the season.
Yet, Edmonton's Dwayne Roloson and Anaheim's Ilya Bryzgalov are key reasons why their respective teams are one series win away from the Stanley Cup finals when they face off in Game 1 at Arrowhead Pond.
Anaheim is back in the conference finals for the second time in three seasons. In 2003, the Ducks relied heavily on goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who led them to within one victory of winning the Stanley Cup and claimed playoff MVP honors.
Giguere suffered a lower-body injury before Anaheim's playoff opener on April 21, and Bryzgalov has stepped in and performed brilliantly. The 25-year-old rookie lost the opener to Calgary, but has been in net for all contests of the Ducks' current six-game winning streak.
Bryzgalov became the first rookie to post three consecutive shutouts in the postseason since Toronto's Frank McCool in 1945. He blanked the Flames in Game 7 of the quarterfinals, then held Colorado scoreless in the first two contests of the Ducks' four-game sweep in the semifinals.
Bryzgalov has a 0.87 goals-against average and .967 save percentage in the playoffs.
Selanne leads the Ducks with 10 points in 11 postseason games, and has 39 goals and 72 points in 58 games against the Oilers.
Anaheim has dominated opponents during the win streak, outscoring Calgary and Colorado 21-5 while posting three shutouts, but the eight-day layoff following the sweep of the Avalanche may be a concern.
"I hope not," Selanne said. "It might take one or two periods, but after that it's going to be a big advantage to have healthy bodies and a lot of energy."
Edmonton gets only one day off before facing the Ducks.
After losing the first two games of their semifinal series with San Jose, the Oilers won four straight and eliminated the Sharks with a 2-0 victory Wednesday night. Roloson stopped 24 shots for his first playoff shutout in 27 postseason games.
Eighth-seeded Edmonton continued a surge that began with a first-round upset of top-seeded Detroit in six games. Roloson faced an average of 39.7 shots a game in that series and repeatedly denied Detroit's shooters.
Roloson then outperformed red-hot Sharks goalie Vesa Toskala to help send the Oilers to the conference finals for the first time in 14 years.
The season didn't start well for Roloson, whose playing time diminished in Minnesota. The 36-year-old veteran came over in a March 8 trade for a first-round draft pick, and now heads to the conference finals for the first time since 2003, when he also faced the Ducks.
"We want to go down to Anaheim and give ourselves another chance," Edmonton forward Ryan Smyth said. "It starts from your defense up, and we seem to play solid defensive hockey."
The Oilers have advanced with a potent and balanced attack, as four players have recorded at least 10 points in 12 playoff games.
Edmonton swept the season series from Anaheim this season, and has won 16 of the last 20 meetings between the teams since the start of the 2000-01 campaign.
Game 2 is Sunday night.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Oilers - 95 points; 8th seed; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-2, quarterfinals; beat San Jose Sharks 4-2, semifinals. Mighty Ducks - 98 points; 6th seed; beat Calgary Flames 4-3, quarterfinals; beat Colorado Avalanche 4-0, semifinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Fernando Pisani, 7 goals; Chris Pronger, 10 assists; Shawn Horcoff, 14 points; Georges Laraque, 17 PIM. Mighty Ducks - Lupul, 7 goals and 25 PIM; Todd Marchant, 6 assists; Selanne, 10 points.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Oilers - Power play: 20.9 percent (14 for 67). Penalty killing: 86.7 percent (65 for 75). Mighty Ducks - Power play: 12.7 percent (8 for 63). Penalty killing: 91.0 percent (61 for 67).
GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Roloson (8-4, 1 SO, 2.16 GAA); Jussi Markkanen (no appearances). Mighty Ducks - Bryzgalov (6-1, 3, 0.87); Giguere (2-2, 3.87).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Oilers, 4-0. In each game, the score was tied or Edmonton trailed after two periods before pulling out the win.
|May 19 '06||EDM 3 at ANA 1||A. Hemsky|
|May 21 '06||EDM 3 at ANA 1||F. Pisani|
|May 23 '06||ANA 4 at EDM 5||F. Pisani|
|May 25 '06||ANA 6 at EDM 3||R. Salei|
|May 27 '06||EDM 2 at ANA 1||R. Torres|
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