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Ducks rested, ready

Oilers provide challenge in Western Conference

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Call the Mighty Ducks well rested, or excited to play again. Just don't imply they might be off their game after a weeklong layoff.

''Rusty's not a word other than our nickname for [Ruslan] Salei. Rusty's not a word in our vocabulary," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said yesterday as the Ducks prepared to open the Western Conference finals against Edmonton.

''We obviously feel a lot better about our bumps and bruises after the 11 games we had to play in 21 days. That's a lot of hockey, both physically and mentally. It makes you feel a little bit better about preparing for the next one. Now the next one's here."

It will be tonight in Anaheim, where the surprising Ducks and Oilers open the best-of-seven series with the winner playing for the Stanley Cup against Buffalo or Carolina.

''The week was good for us. Getting a little rest right now is like putting money in the bank," said Teemu Selanne, who has 10 points in Anaheim's 11 playoff games.

''Now we have to be ready to go right off the bat. We know the urgency."

The Ducks, making their second appearance in the conference finals in three seasons, have the home-ice advantage despite being the No. 6 seed. The Oilers, in the conference finals for the first time in 14 years, are the eighth seed in the upside-down postseason.

''We want to go down to Anaheim and give ourselves another chance," Edmonton's Ryan Smyth said. ''It starts from your defense up, and we seem to play solid defensive hockey."

Anaheim swept Colorado in the second round, closing it out with a 4-1 victory May 11. The scrappy Oilers stormed back from a pair of opening losses against San Jose to win four straight, finishing the series with a 2-0 home victory Wednesday night.

The Oilers shocked Detroit, which had the NHL's best regular-season record, by ousting the Red Wings in six games in the first round. The Ducks advanced to the second round by outlasting third-seeded Calgary in seven games.

''The way both teams got here is through playing desperate hockey," Anaheim's Todd Fedoruk said.

Carlyle noted the teams' route to this series.

''I see similarities in the way that both teams have gotten to this point," he said. ''They've had to deal with adversity throughout the season. They were challenged to make the playoffs, as we were.

''They went into the first round and eliminated a higher seed. They played the next series and won in dominating fashion, as far as winning four in a row to close it out."

The Ducks-Oilers matchup features a couple of unlikely stars in goal.

Anaheim's Ilya Bryzgalov, a 25-year-old Russian who has supplanted 2003 playoffs MVP Jean-Sebastien Giguere, has allowed only seven goals in 214 shots during this postseason, good for a .967 save percentage and an 0.87 goals-against average that are tops in these playoffs.

Dwayne Roloson, the 36-year-old goalie who revived his career since the Oilers acquired him from Minnesota in a March 8 trade, has a .930 save percentage and 2.16 GAA this postseason. He was with the Wild when they lost to Giguere and Anaheim in the 2003 conference finals.

The Ducks and Oilers also are led by two of the league's best defensemen, Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer and Edmonton's Chris Pronger.

The Oilers have won 16 of the last 20 meetings with the Ducks, including a sweep this season when they came back to win all four games after they were tied or trailing after two periods.

''What happened in the regular season doesn't matter a whole lot," Niedermayer said. ''We're both different teams right now."

Game 2 is Sunday night in Anaheim before the series shifts to Edmonton -- where the Ducks haven't won since 1999 -- on Tuesday.

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