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Mighty Ducks ready for finals

Battle for Stanley Cup will start tonight

Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Paul Kariya is tired of hearing that his first trip to the Stanley Cup finals is going to be a boring, low-scoring affair.

How could it not being exciting? A perennial winner -- the New Jersey Devils -- against his upstart Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

The flashy forward has waited nine years for this moment, while wading through many losses as a longtime member of the Ducks.

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"A great save or great goal is the same,"Anaheim's captain said Monday. "It's the Stanley Cup finals and I'm sure everyone will betuning in."

Normally at this time of the year, Kariya and the Ducks would be among the viewers. The Devils are used to being in the finals -- this is their third appearance in four years. Anaheim finished in last place in the Pacific Division in each of the previous three seasons.

But on Tuesday night, the Mighty Ducks will live up to their name and take the ice for their first game in the Stanley Cup finals. Until this year, they had only won one playoff series. Now they are trying to join the 1995 Devils as clubs who've won four Game 1s on the road in the same year.

They already are the first to take 2-0 leads on the road in three straight playoff series, accomplishing that with sweeps over No. 2 Detroit and No. 6 Minnesota in the Western Conference. Only top-seeded Dallas managed to beat Anaheim at all in this year's playoffs, stretching the seventh-seeded Ducks to six games.

"It's been really important to get off to a good start in all the series," Kariya said. "We played well on the road all year long, and we feel confident if we execute our game plan that we have an opportunity to win each and every game."

Jean-Sebastien Giguere has really given them that chance by stopping 476 of 496 shots in the first 14 games of his playoff career. Jiggy has gone from obscurity to the couch next to Jay Leno, virtually overnight.

New Jersey's Martin Brodeur has been exceptional as well, posting a 1.62 goals-against average and a 12-5 playoff mark. The Devils are 8-1 at home; the Ducks are 6-1 on the road.

Anaheim's quick win over Minnesota in the Western Conference finals has given the Mighty Ducks much-needed rest and the chance to soak up more exposure like Giguere's venture into late-night television.

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"I think it will help," Devils captain Scott Stevens said of the Ducks' time off. "At this time of year, when there is so much at stake, that doesn't really come into play."

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