By Kyle Shohara
On yet another blustery afternoon in Anaheim, the Ducks took part in a rigorous practice to stay sharp for Game 1 of the upcoming second round. Who they’ll play will be determined tonight during the Kings-Sharks Game 7 in San Jose (7 p.m. PT).
The Ducks say they’ll be watching tonight’s game from a fan’s perspective instead of through the eyes of an analyst. “I’ll be watching more as a fan than anything,” said captain Ryan Getzlaf. “There aren’t a lot of hockey games that I watch and dissect. There’s nothing these teams are going to throw at us that’s going to surprise us at this point.”
The second round figures to be exciting and surreal for Long Beach native Emerson Etem, no matter which team the Ducks face. His good friend, Matt Nieto, is a winger for the Sharks, and Etem attended Kings games throughout his youth. The 21-year-old was drafted by Anaheim in the first round in 2010 when the event was held at Staples Center.
“We have a little bit of bad blood between the two teams,” he said. “Either way, it’s going to be an exciting series. If we play San Jose, then I’ll play my good buddy Matt Nieto. That’ll be a fun test. LA is just an all-around playoff team. You see it every year. I’m ready for the test.”
Etem says he’ll be taking in tonight’s game as a fan, but will keep an eye out on the standout players. “If you critique it too much, or look too much into it, it becomes too much,” he said. “I’m definitely going to be watching for who’s producing, and just make sure we’re ready to go no matter what.”
The normally outgoing Ben Lovejoy has been all business since the postseason began. Sporting a salt-and-pepper beard and a serious game face, Lovejoy says he can’t wait to get the second round started. “Personally, I was hoping the series would end last game [Game 6] because I hate having this week of practice,” he said. “We had a really hard practice yesterday. No matter who we’re going to be playing, they’re going to be coming in with a successful Game 7 mentality, and we need to be ready for that.”
Of the Kings and Sharks, Lovejoy said, “They’re both elite teams. The Kings bring a defensive mentality with great goaltending. The core of their team has recently won a Stanley Cup. The Sharks bring a lineup very similar to ours: high-end skill, high-end speed. They’re a very difficult team to play against, and both pose very difficult matchups.”
Head coach Bruce Boudreau offered his thoughts on what makes the Sharks and Kings so dangerous. “The Sharks’ forward depth and the speed they come at you with…there’s just no weak link in any of their forward lines,” he said. “LA has different kinds of strengths. They’re bigger and stronger on the boards. They’ve got a history of knowing what it takes to win. They both have star power.”
Boudreau says the banged-up players are “getting healthier,” but decided to keep a couple guys off the ice for an extra day for precautionary reasons. “Getzy [Ryan Getzlaf] said he felt fine, and that’s a big improvement,” Boudreau said. “Mathieu Perreault said he felt fine this morning, but we’ll just keep him off the ice until tomorrow. And the same with Matt Beleskey.”