Thursday, April 22, 2004

Red Wings wary of Flames' duo

Iginla, Kiprusoff having career seasons

The Associated Press

DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings respect the Calgary Flames for at least two reasons: Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.

"Iginla is a powerful and talented forward who may be playing as well as anyone in the world," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "And Kiprusoff has been one of the NHL's most outstanding goaltenders all season."

The Red Wings host the Flames in the first game of the Western Conference semifinals today.

The NHL announced Wednesday that Iginla is one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league MVP, and Kiprusoff is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

The Red Wings, with a lineup full of likely Hall of Famers, had the league's best regular-season record and are favored to win their fourth Stanley Cup in eight seasons. They defeated Vancouver in the first round in seven games.

"It's going to be tough, for sure," Kiprusoff said. "They have a great team and great experience."

The Red Wings, who eliminated Nashville Saturday, won the first two games at home before the Predators tied the series at 2. Facing a second straight first-round knockout, Detroit outscored Nashville 6-1 in the final two games.

FLYERS-LEAFS: Adversaries Philadelphia and Toronto will renew their unpleasant rivalry tonight in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series.

"They're not a team that you have to work hard to build a hate for," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said Wednesday. "Enough said."

The Flyers beat the Maple Leafs last spring in a grueling first-round series that amounted to the equivalent of nine games - seven games and seven overtimes.

Quinn is expecting another tough series with the well-rested Flyers, who advanced by beating Stanley Cup champion New Jersey in five games in the first round of the playoffs.

"They are a competitive bunch and we'll have to be at our competitive best to have any hope of going by them," he said.

The Flyers haven't played since Saturday, but Toronto needed seven games to beat Ottawa, winning 4-1 Tuesday night.

Though four days of rest could be an advantage for the Flyers, it could work against them if they come out flat. The Leafs could be tired, or they might ride the momentum of their victory over the Senators into this series.

"They're already at a high level, because they don't have enough time to think about it," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're the ones who have to kickstart our own engine.

"I think they're going to continue on just like it's Game 8. We're the ones who have to catch up here. We're the ones who have to be challenged there."

Both teams have key injuries. The Flyers are without defenseman Eric Desjardins for the playoffs because of a forearm injury.

Kim Johnsson, the team's top remaining defenseman, could miss the series opener because he has a broken bone in his right hand.

Toronto was without Mats Sundin, the team's leading scorer, for the final three games against Ottawa because of an injury to his lower body. Also, former All-Star forward Owen Nolan remains sidelined with a knee injury.

AWARDS: New Jersey's Martin Brodeur is a finalist for the NHL MVP award and the Vezina Trophy for the league's top goalie for the second straight season. Brodeur, who won his first Vezina last year, led goaltenders in games (75), wins (38) and shutouts (11).

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