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With series tied, brink of elimination awaits Wings or Ducks on Sunday

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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With series tied, brink of elimination awaits Wings or Ducks on Sunday

The Canadian Press
By:

Stick it to the Anaheim Ducks upping the ante on defence. "That's how we got to this point - playing solid defence," Lidstrom said after setting down his bags and leaning into a bank of microphones a stone's throw from the plane.

Check, check, check.

With the series tied 2-2 and with the Red Wings retaining home-ice advantage, there's no need to panic and sacrifice defensive diligence for daring scoring forays, says Lidstrom. Stay the course could be his motto.

"Except for Game 3, the games have been real close," said Lidstrom. "It's an emotional rollercoaster.

"You feel really good about yourself when you win and then you lose a game and you got to be ready for the next one. That's what we've faced throughout the playoffs and this series hasn't been any different. The intensity picks up the deeper you get into a playoff series."

Big defenceman Chris Pronger returns for the Ducks after sitting out Game 4 for his hit on Tomas Holmstrom in Game 3, and that is bound to lift his team, which knotted the series with a 5-3 home win without him Thursday.

"Anytime you get a chance to get a player like Chris back it's a huge lift," Anaheim forward Todd Marchant said earlier. "I think we proved to ourselves again that we can play with this team, that we are able to score goals on Dominik Hasek.

"We are able to get a good forecheck going and score goals on the power play. All these things that maybe people on the outside were questioning after (Detroit's 5-0 win in) Game 3, we proved to ourselves in Game 4. Now we have to go out and prove it to ourselves in Game 5.

"It comes down to a three-game series. We have to win two. It starts in that first period Sunday afternoon."

The Red Wings aren't kicking themselves about not capitalizing on Pronger's absence.

"Maybe a little bit but you have to take the ups and downs," said Lidstrom. "You regroup and get ready to battle again.

"I don't think we're going to play any differently against him. We've got to play like we have been playing against him - finish our checks on him and try to tire him out."

Henrik Zetterberg was one of the best Red Wings on the ice in Game 4, and he returned content with the split in California.

"Overall, it was good to win one game," he said. "It felt bad to lose the second one, but, you know, a few hours after I think we were happy to get the one win.

"The depth on our team really showed on this trip."

Like his teammates, Zetterberg wanted to get home and get into his kitchen.

"I'm going to stay home and have a real nice home-cooked meal and relax," he said.

Once the throng of Red Wave adherents begins cheering Sunday, any momentum gained the Ducks from their Game 4 win will quickly dissipate.

"I really don't think once the puck drops there is much of a carryover in the playoffs," said Anaheim defenceman Sean O'Donnell.

The teams have developed a healthy mutual respect.

"We know we are in for a tough battle," said Ducks forward Rob Niedermayer. "Detroit has been playing great all series long.

"The big thing for us is we can't keep giving their power play so many chances. That's going to be a big factor."

Game 4 was much like Game 1 in this series: the team that played best lost.

"We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit (in Game 4), but now we've got the opportunity to get rested and back at it," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock.

His team has improved throughout the playoffs, he added.

"Resiliency," he replied when asked to pinpoint the improvement. "There have been questions all along.

"People tell you you're going to get physically run out (of the rink). That just hasn't happened. Every guy is finding a way to contribute and it's been a different guy every night."

One of these two outstanding teams is about to be pushed to the brink of elimination.

Detroit rarely loses on home ice. The Red Wings are 6-2 in The Joe in the post-season after losing only four of 41 regular-season games in regulation time while going 29-4-8. As far as Babcock is concerned, it truly is home sweet home.

"Absolutely," said Babcock. "It's great to be home. Just seeing your family is a fantastic thing."

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With series tied, brink of elimination awaits Wings or Ducks on Sunday