The series schedule is set and the players are champing at the bit to get this thing going. Only two more days will have to pass before the Ducks and Oilers open up their Second Round series inside Honda Center for Game 1.
The main storyline leading into this series is obviously on the matchup between Ducks center Ryan Kesler and Oilers captain Connor McDavid. And while Kesler, long viewed as one of the premiere two-way forwards in the game (he's a Selke finalist again this year), will have the task of neutralizing arguably the most dynamic player in the game, he made it clear this series is much more than a 1-on-1 battle.
"It's not about me versus McDavid," he said today. "It's about the Anaheim Ducks and the Edmonton Oilers. It's bigger than one matchup."
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf echoed Kesler's words. "McDavid is someone you have to pay attention to when he's on the ice, but much like [Johnny] Gaudreau last series, we don't want to direct too much of our attention at him," he said. "Respect the guys around him."
McDavid's linemate Leon Draisaitl did the most damage against the Ducks during the regular season, recording six goals and eight points in five games. Three of his six goals served as game-winners. Held off the scoresheet through the first four games of Edmonton's First Round series vs. San Jose, the 21-year-old earned three points in Games 5 and 6 combined, his lone goal opening the scoring in what ended up being a 3-1 series-clinching victory in San Jose.
"You always try to neutralize those type of players," said Kesler's linemate Jakob Silfverberg. "They're dynamic players because they can change the game. Edmonton is a good team with four lines that can make you pay if you don't play the right way."
Sami Vatanen and Kesler - both given maintenance days yesterday - were on the ice today for practice, but Hampus Lindholm was not. Lindholm was also given a maintenance day yesterday. Head coach Randy Carlyle said he expects Lindholm to skate tomorrow with the team. His injury, if one, remains unspecified.
Vatanen (upper-body injury) has not played since Game 1 of the First Round against Calgary, but remains optimistic. Carlyle has reiterated throughout the playoffs that it ultimately comes down to the player's decision in terms of playing, and Vatanen held true to those words.
"My goal is to come back when I know I can help the team win," he said. "Today was a good day. I can't wait for tomorrow."
Today also marked the second consecutive day of practice for Cam Fowler, who, at least to the naked eye, appears close to returning to the lineup. He was paired with Brandon Montour throughout practice today and also saw time on the No. 1 power-play unit composed of Getzlaf (second point man), Silfverberg, Kesler and Patrick Eaves.