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Ducks Look to Forge New Path This Time Around

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara / AnaheimDucks.com

The message from the players and their coach this morning was simple. Be ready for puck drop.

It might sound cliché, but it couldn't be truer. The Ducks have given up the opening goal in Game 7 in each of the last four years, and we know all how those ended. In fact, three of those came within the first five minutes and all four have been scored before the halfway point of the first period. According to the NHL, the team that scores first in Game 7 is 124-42 all-time (.747), including a 5-0 mark in 2016.

Head coach Randy Carlyle likened it to a sprinter and the importance of getting out to a good start. "Your team can't be second out of the blocks," as he put it. "That's exactly how we approach it. It's imperative we get our game right off the bat."

The winner of this game will advance to the Western Conference Final and host the Nashville Predators later this week. A series many predicted would go the distance has reached its end, but not without a historic comeback and a wildly lopsided affair mixed in.

The Oilers have given the Ducks all they could handle, and kudos to them for staving off elimination with a 7-1 victory on Sunday night at Rogers Place. But the Ducks also erased a formidable 0-2 series deficit with three wins of their own, including an incredible comeback that ended with Corey Perry's game-winning double-overtime goal in Game 5.

Although this isn't an instant classic just yet, it's been a series featuring two clubs giving it their all for a chance to enter the NHL's version of the Final Four.

So how are the Ducks approaching Game 7 this time around? "It's business as usual, but we know what is at stake," said Perry. "Everybody knows it's a Game 7. We've had a couple good conversations over the last few days. You just embrace it and have fun with it.

"It's about us in here. We know what they can do and we know all of their habits. It's do or die. This is when guys rise up to the occasion."

John Gibson, guilty of letting in three very questionable goals in Game 6, will need to rise up in the biggest possible way tonight. He will likely get the start for the Ducks in what will ultimately be a defining game for this franchise. Cam Talbot will get the start for Edmonton, hoping to lead the club to its first berth in the Western Conference Final since 2006.

Carlyle emphasized the importance of having a full team effort in situations like these, and referenced Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final when veteran forward Max Talbot scored both of Pittsburgh's goals to lead the club to its third championship. It's performances such as that, from unlikely sources, that "resonate" through the room, Carlyle says. The team's leading goal scorers in the playoffs - Ryan Getzlaf (eight goals), Jakob Silfverberg (seven goals) and Rickard Rakell (six goals) - can't do it by themselves.

Nate Thompson could be a guy that comes through tonight, if he plays. He didn't practice yesterday, but Carlyle says he's good to go. Thompson, a grizzled veteran of 51 career playoff games, has proven he can elevate his game in the postseason. Kevin Bieksa appears ready to play, though Carlyle says he will need medical clearance later this afternoon before that can happen.

"In Game 7, you want to do so much," said Cam Fowler. "You want to help your team in any way you can, and sometimes you end up doing too much or you do things you're not accustomed to doing in the season. You have to walk that fine line of competing, like we're all going to do, but also staying within yourself and keeping things simple. I definitely feel like I'm more prepared this time around than the first few."

Potential Line Combinations

Anaheim
Rakell-Getzlaf-Perry
Cogliano-Kesler-Silfverberg
Ritchie-Vermette-Wagner
Kerdiles-Thompson-Kase/Boll

Fowler-Vatanen/Bieksa
Lindholm-Montour
Vatanen/Theodore-Manson

Gibson
Bernier

Edmonton
Maroon-McDavid-Caggiula
Lucic-Draisaitl-Slepyshev
Pouliot-Nugent-Hopkins-Eberle
Desharnais-Letestu-Kassian

Nurse-Larsson
Russell-Benning
Klefbom-Gryba

Talbot
Brossoit

Video: The Ducks look ahead to a do-or-die Game 7

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