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GAME: Edmonton Oilers (41-28-13) at Detroit Red Wings (58-16-8).
PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinals; Game 1.
TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EDT.
After finishing one of the most successful regular seasons in NHL history, the Detroit Red Wings hope to put their recent playoff woes behind them when they being a quarterfinal series against the Edmonton Oilers.
Detroit finished with 58 victories and 124 points to earn the Western Conference's top seed and win the Presidents' Trophy. Only four teams in league history have finished with more points in a single season, including the 1995-96 Red Wings, which had a franchise-record 131.
That team, however, failed to make it to the Stanley Cup finals, losing to Colorado in six games in the conference finals. The Red Wings have won five straight Central Division titles and the Presidents' Trophy in three of the last four seasons, but lost in the first round twice during that span.
Detroit was swept by Anaheim in 2003 and Los Angeles beat the Red Wings in six games in 2001.
"It doesn't hurt a team that's been winning as much as we have to understand how hard it is to win in the league, and if you don't bring your best game, you don't win," Detroit first-year coach Mike Babcock said.
This team may be better suited to go far in the playoffs than those other squads, with the right mix of veterans and young players.
"We all know what it's about here," Babcock said of the expectations to win the Stanley Cup.
Pavel Datsyuk, a 27-year-old center, led the Red Wings with 87 points while 37-year-old Brendan Shanahan had 40 goals. Captain Steve Yzerman had only 34 points in 61 games, but had an 11-game point streak near the end of the regular season.
Datsyuk, though, is expected to miss Friday's game because of an injured left thigh that has kept him out of the lineup since April 3. He practiced Thursday, but Babcock said he didn't appear to be ready to play in Game 1.
"He looked to me like he was going to take tomorrow off," Babcock said.
The eighth-seeded Oilers are making their first playoff appearance since 2002-03, and are looking forward to matching up against anybody but Dallas, even if it means facing the Red Wings.
The Stars eliminated Edmonton in each of its last five appearances in the postseason, including four straight from 1998-2001.
"We've played up and down to our opponents," Edmonton center Shawn Horcoff said. "We played great against the good teams and pretty average against the teams that are out of the playoffs, so I guess that kind of bodes well for us."
Edmonton won 41 games and finished with 95 points this season, its best totals since having 44 victories and 99 points in 1988, when it won the fourth of its five Stanley Cups.
The Oilers acquired goalie Dwayne Roloson from Minnesota on March 8 to shore up a weakness, and he made 19 straight starts until sitting out the regular-season finale. Roloson allowed two goals or less in five of his last six starts.
When the Red Wings lost to the Mighty Ducks in 2003, they were beaten by Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who gave up only six goals in the four-game sweep.
"I'm not going to lay it right on the shoulders of the goaltender," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said, "but I will say that most times when underdogs win playoff series they get exceptional performances from their goaltenders."
Edmonton played better away from home this season with a 21-13-7 road mark, and was 1-1 in Detroit.
The Red Wings and Oilers haven't met in the playoffs since 1988, when Edmonton beat Detroit 4-1 in the conference finals for the second straight season.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Oilers - 95 points; 8th seed. Red Wings - 124 points; 1st seed.
REGULAR SEASON TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Ryan Smyth, 36 goals; Ales Hemsky, 58 assists and 77 points; Jaroslav Spacek, 96 PIM. Red Wings - Shanahan, 40 goals; Nicklas Lidstrom, 64 assists; Datsyuk, 87 points; Chris Chelios, 108 PIM.
REGULAR SEASON SPECIAL TEAMS: Oilers - Power play: 18.1 percent (88 for 485), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (402 for 478), 8th. Red Wings - Power play: 22.1 percent (102 for 461), 1st. Penalty killing: 85.5 percent (394 for 461), 3rd.
GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Roloson (14-24-5, 2 SO, 2.73 GAA); Ty Conklin (8-5-1, 1, 2.80). Red Wings - Manny Legace (37-8-3, 7, 2.19); Chris Osgood (20-6-5, 2, 2.76).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: 2-2; Legace had a shutout along with a 1.44 goals-against average for the Red Wings in their two wins, while Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll had overtime goals for the Oilers in the other two contests.
|Apr 21 '06||EDM 2 at DET 3 - OT||K. Maltby|
|Apr 23 '06||EDM 4 at DET 2||B. Winchester|
|Apr 25 '06||DET 3 at EDM 4 - OT||J. Stoll|
|Apr 27 '06||DET 4 at EDM 2||N. Lidstrom|
|Apr 29 '06||EDM 3 at DET 2||S. Horcoff|
|May 01 '06||DET 3 at EDM 4||A. Hemsky|
Ticket Info: 313.471.7575
General Info: 313.471.6606