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Thursday, May 25, 2006
Bryzgalov or Giguere? Carlyle mum on decision

By Scott Burnside
ESPN.com

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The starting goaltending assignment for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks as they hope to stave off elimination in the Western Conference finals, remains a mystery -- at least publicly.

"I told you yesterday, I guess you guys are a little hard between the ears," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle told reporters Thursday morning when he once again refused to announce whether Ilya Bryzgalov or veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere would get the nod. "So you'd better come to the warm-up."

Ilya Bryzgalov
Bryzgalov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Giguere

Carlyle's Ducks trail the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 in the series and must win tonight to force a fifth game in Anaheim on Saturday.

The Oilers have won seven straight games, including three straight against the Ducks, although Anaheim has outplayed Edmonton for long stretches in every game.

Rookie sensation Bryzgalov, who came on in relief of a struggling Giguere with the Ducks trailing Calgary 3-2 in the first round, has been slightly off in the Oilers series. He allowed a clear Chris Pronger point shot to beat him to open the scoring in a 3-1 loss in Game 2 and he looked shaky in giving up five goals on 22 shots in Game 3.

Carlyle said he will start the goalie he believes will give his team the best chance to win. He admitted the decision is unlike any other lineup decision a coach makes.

"I told you yesterday, I guess you guys are a little hard between the ears. So you'd better come to the warm-up."
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle on refusing to tell reporters which goalie would start tonight's Game 4

If you make the right choice and you win, "you're a genius," Carlyle said. If you lose, "you'll be criticized for it."

Neither goaltender knew who was drawing the starting assignment when the team left the arena after the morning skate Thursday.

"I don't know. It's a game decision. Coach will tell us before the game," Bryzgalov said. "It's not difficult, just prepare like you're going to play."

The laid-back Bryzgalov said there is little difference between being down 3-0 and when he faced elimination in the final two games against Calgary in the first round.

"It's the same. Game 7, if you lost, we are out of season. Same like every game right now, if we lose we will go to the rest.

"We're sure we can do it, we can win this series, because we dominate all three games," Bryzgalov added. "I think it's coming."

One of the intriguing elements, at least from the outside, is what message is sent both for Game 4 and beyond when the starter is revealed.

With Bryzgalov's remarkable playoff run (he leads all playoff goalies with a 1.46 goals-against average, .944 save percentage and three shutouts), he appears poised to be the Ducks' goalie of the future. Does Carlyle upset that dynamic by going to the veteran Giguere who, of course, was the team's playoff hero in 2003, when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy?

It's useful to remember that back in the spring of 2003, Tampa coach John Tortorella yanked Nikolai Khabibulin in Game 5 of their second-round series against the New Jersey Devils. John Grahame was sensational in a triple-overtime game the Bolts ultimately lost. The next season Khabibulin led Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup championship.

Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.