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Kariya toughs out rough Stevens hit

Published June 9, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Paul Kariya said he doesn't have a bump or a scratch. In fact, the Mighty Ducks captain said Sunday he felt "great" one day after taking a brutal shoulder-first check to the face from New Jersey's Scott Stevens.

Asked if it was the hardest he had been hit, Kariya said, "Probably, in the open ice."

Kariya missed 4:31 of the second period getting rid of the cobwebs. He returned to highlight his three-point game with the fourth goal in Anaheim's 5-2 victory in Game 6 at Arrowhead Pond.

"I know I wasn't playing my best hockey," said Kariya, who had one assist and six shots in five previous games. "It was nice to contribute."

Kariya said he watched the replay of the hit that kept him motionless on the ice for a short while and made him weak-kneed as he skated to the trainer's room.

"I didn't have a reaction to it," he said. "I haven't been replaying it though."

Kariya said he was surprised that after he got rid of the puck Stevens did not turn away.

"I thought I had more time when I made the pass," Kariya said. "I thought he was going to back up a little. He stepped up."

Ducks coach Mike Babcock reiterated he believes the hit came well after Kariya released the puck. Replays showed Kariya took two strides, but no penalty was called and the NHL deemed the hit clean.

"Scott Stevens was doing what he does," Babcock said. "He was doing his job. I thought the hit was late, but it makes no difference."

Anaheim left wing Rob Niedermayer believes Kariya made a statement that could affect Game 7.

"I thought when that happened we wouldn't see Paul the rest of the game or the next game," Niedermayer said. "It was a very big emotional lift for us and I think there will be some carryover."

NO MERCY: Stevens and coach Pat Burns had little sympathy for Kariya.

"He was probably winded and had to get his wind and came back," Stevens said of Kariya's trip to the trainer's room.

Said Burns: "He came back for a pretty nice goal. Obviously, he wasn't that hurt."

BRODEUR A KEY: Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said pulling himself out of Game 6 was "not that big of a deal." Still, allowing five goals on 22 shots, including three in the first period, was not the way he wanted to prep for Game 7.

"I thought I played okay, but what are you going to do?" said the goalie, who came out of the game with 11:23 left in the third period. "You can't overjudge yourself."

Brodeur said it was good backup and former Lightning Corey Schwab got to play because "who knows if he is ever going to get back here to the finals."

It also was the first game the Ducks had a clear offensive advantage.

"We scored eight goals, they scored eight goals the past two games," Brodeur said. "Let's move on."

RUCCHIN'S BIG NIGHT: Lost in the excitement of Kariya's dramatics was Anaheim's Steve Rucchin. The center had two goals and won 12 of 16 faceoffs, giving him 110 victories in 179 tries in his past eight games.

Rucchin missed most of the past two seasons with injuries, and last season dealt with the death of his older brother from cancer. "This more than makes up for it," he said of his struggles. "You can't dream of anything more; a chance to win the Stanley Cup in Game 7. It doesn't get much better than that."

Rucchin's game-opening goals couldn't have given the Ducks a better start, and they provided goalie Jean Sebastien Giguere a pressure-reducing cushion.

"He's a huge part of our team and a great leader," defenseman Niclas Havelid said. "This season it was like we got a new player because he wasn't hurt."

BROTHERLY LOVE: Niedermayer said he hasn't spoken to his brother, Scott, who plays defense for the Devils, since the series began. Who will make the first phone call when it's over?

"It depends on who wins," Rob said.

[Last modified June 9, 2003, 02:03:18]

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