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Giguere finds release on ice while coping with infant son's health problem

The Quebecer missed the last two games of the regular season and started the playoffs on the end of the bench as Ilya Bryzgalov manned the crease. With family affairs sorted out as best could be, Giguere has been a star for the Anaheim Ducks, who begin the NHL Western Conference final against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

"I think that when people go through hurdles in life and things happen outside of the game, then they get an opportunity to go back to work, I think work becomes a little bit of a haven," coach Randy Carlyle said Thursday.

"Once you can satisfy in your own mind that everything's okay at home, the ability to go back to work is really a relief for the individual.

"I think that was the case with Giguere. He was through a situation that took some time to resolve. He got the opportunity to come back and practise for a couple of days. He didn't play right away. He probably felt that he was more deserved of playing right away, but we had a goaltender that won three in a row, and as a coach you have to make those decisions.

"When we lost the (first-round) game in Minnesota, he grabbed the net from then on he's given us A-quality goaltending and has given us a chance in every game. That's all you can really ask from him. It's a tribute to the individual to go through the personal family situation and then to come back and be ready to play at a high level. He's to be commended for that."


MARCHANT READY: Todd Marchant, who hasn't appeared in the playoffs due to injury, has been cleared by doctors to return to Anaheim's lineup, and coach Randy Carlyle is expected to use the scrappy forward.

"As far as the addition of him, we've pushed Todd Marchant as far as the conditioning aspect of it because it's not easy for any player to miss the amount of time he's missed and not participate in the first two rounds of the playoffs, then expect him to come back in and to be at 110 per cent, because that's what you're asking of your players.

"We're realistic about where he's at in his first game. We think with the addition of him into our lineup, it gives us more strength. People talked, were critical of us that we were a three-line hockey club. Well, we're not a three-line hockey club. We're a hockey club that feels we can utilize all our players to their strengths.

"That will be the key - if we can put people in situations that they're not overwhelmed by and that they're comfortable handling. I think that will be the most important thing. I think Todd Marchant is ready to give us what he's got."


TOUGH TASK: Red Wings centre Henrik Zetterberg tried to be as diplomatic as he could be so he threw in a maybe when he answered the question.

"Which Anaheim defenceman is harder to get around, Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer?" he was asked after a Thursday practice in preparation for the opening game of the NHL's Western Conference final Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET).

"I don't know," Zetterberg replied. "You know, Pronger is of course a bigger guy, but I think Niedermayer is a better skater.

"It's maybe tougher to go around Niedermayer because he's such a good skater but, on the other hand, Pronger is a big guy so he's got a long reach."

Zetterberg has a team-high four playoff goals, but he was talking about checking more than anything Thursday.

"We've been giving up too many scoring chances," he said. "That has to improve."

After missing the last 19 games of the regular season, he says he feels he's just rounding into top shape.

"The first couple of games were tough - not physically but timing-wise," he said. "I feel good now."


GETTING AHEAD: Chris Pronger's 2006-2007 salary was US$6.25 million - not bad for a guy who's first job was as a dishwasher at Royal Pizza Palace in Dryden, Ont.


WARDROBE ADJUSTMENT: Mike Babcock says he never wears the same tie twice for NHL games, but he might break his tradition when he goes behind the Red Wings bench for the opener of the Western Conference final Friday night.

Detroit's coach is leaning towards going back to the McGill University tie he wore April 28, when his players rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat San Jose in pivotal Game 5 of the second round. Babcock was captain of the Redmen varsity hockey team during the 1980s. Earl Zukerman, communications officer for the school's teams, says he received a text message from Babcock saying the maroon McGill tie will reappear Friday.


FEELS YOUNG: Chris Chelios makes Mike Babcock feel young. The 45-year-old American defenceman is 15 months older than the Canadian head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. They were major junior hockey opponents on Saskatchewan teams in the early 1980s.

"The first time I ever saw Cheli, I was 17 and he was 18, or I was 16 and he was 17, and he was playing at Moose Jaw and I was playing for Saskatoon," Babcock recalls. "I was playing against him.

"He was a lot better than me. He got to play hockey. I had to do something else."

Babcock proceeded to heap accolades on the oldest player in the NHL.

"His hunger to win and his hunger to compete is phenomenal," he said. "Cheli will do anything you want as long as it leads to winning.

"He's a great leader and he's a great man. We've been real fortunate, or I have, to get to know is family a little bit, to see how proud he is of his boys, to have them around. They've on the father-son trip.

"I think Cheli is a great contributor to our team, but I think he's a huge contributor to the community."


FACING HIS IDOL: Red Wings centre Valtteri Filppula works for Ducks star Teemu Selanne during the summer.

Filppula, 23, has been an instructor for the last three years at a hockey school operated by Selanne, 37, in Katinkulta, Finland. The NHL rookie was 12 when he first met Selanne. He got an autograph he's always prized.

"It's great to see how he's getting better and better," Selanne says of Filppula. "I really think he's a really good all-around player now.

"When you have all the tools, the skills and skating ability, they're all the things that you need. Just adding the confidence, which you need in this league, you're going to be great. I'm expecting he's going to be a really, really important player for them down in the future. He's the first Finnish guy who has played (for Detroit), so it's something new here."


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