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Wings ready for rough and tumble Ducks

by Matthew O'Day / Detroit Red Wings
Sunday's games promises to be a physical contest, especially in front of the creases when guys like Tomas Holmstrom and Chris Pronger mix things up.
DETROIT – When the Anaheim Ducks flock to the Joe Louis Arena on Sunday, they will take on the Red Wings at full strength for the first time this season.

Veteran forward Teemu Selanne is back in action.

Selanne, who scored six points (two goals, four assists) against Detroit in the 2007 Western Conference finals, sat out the first half of the season while contemplating retirement.

The addition is significant for Anaheim, who has already added Scott Neidermayer and Doug Weight in an effort to replicate the success, which drove them to the Stanley Cup last year. Niedermayer, like Selanne, decided to return midway through the season, while Weight was acquired in a trade with St. Louis.

Said Kris Draper, Selanne is “a guy that can certainly score. For last year in the playoff run, he scored some big goals for them. I’m sure as a team they are excited to have him back, and he’s just another weapon that they’ve added.”

But Draper and his teammates have more to worry about.

The Red Wings, currently perched atop the Western Conference, are looking to build upon their first half success and make a final push for the Presidents’ Trophy as the playoffs draw closer.

And if they’re looking to make a statement, this game would be a perfect time – the contest was moved to 3:30 p.m. ET as NBC looks to showcase two of the NHL’s top teams on a national level.

To Chris Chelios, it was an easy decision.

“You want the marquee teams, the marquee players out there,” the Red Wings’ defenseman said. “Both teams have loaded rosters and hopefully with all of the hype that they’ve built, it will be a great game.”

Fellow defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom agrees.

“That’s as close to a playoff game that you can get,” he said.

While the Ducks have struggled a bit on their current road trip – during which they will be away from Anaheim for their first eight post-All Star contests – they still possess some top end defensive
talent (Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Mathieu Schneider), long-time Red Wings nemesis Jean-Sebastien Giguere in goal.

Lidstrom understands the challenge.

“I think they’re very similar,” Lidstrom said. “They have good goaltending. They’re playing real
Todd Bertuzzi is one of the new Ducks this season, joining Doug Weight and former Wings defenseman Mathieu Schneider.
well defensively as a team, which makes them tough to get scoring changes against. I think we’re the same way.”

Anaheim’s known for their physical play, which certainly played a part during last year’s playoff series with the Wings, and it came out again when Detroit defeated the Ducks 2-1 in Anaheim on Jan 23. The game featured 54 combined penalty minutes, including Dan Cleary’s scrap with a much taller Pronger.

Said Draper, “We know that they certainly have some physical players and they certainly have us size-wise. But we felt hit-for-hit; we stood right in there. I thought everybody on our bench was pumped for what Danny Cleary did by standing up for himself. That shows you the kind of character that Clears has. You sat down after that game and realized that you just beat a real good hockey club -- the defending Stanley Cup champs.”

So when households across North America tune into the potential playoff preview on Sunday, they should expect to be rewarded with a top-notch tilt.

“The Ducks have a heck of a team, and we seem to have quite a bit of a rivalry with them,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

And Babcock isn’t surprised about NBC’s selection of the game.

“To me,” he said, “I think any game that we’re playing is the marquee game of the week.”

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