By Kyle Shohara
NASHVILLE – After a travel day yesterday, the Ducks hit the ice this afternoon for their pregame skate at Bridgestone Arena knowing the game later tonight is one they can’t let slip away. Struggles in Game 1 and penalty troubles in Game 2 resulted in 3-2 losses that put them in a deep hole, with the series now shifting to the place known as “Smashville” for Games 3 and 4.
The Ducks can ill afford to repeat the performances that took place in Anaheim on Friday and Sunday, so they got back to work with a chip on their shoulder and a heightened sense of urgency. Shortly after the skate, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau made the short walk down the hallway from the locker room to the press conference room, where he addressed the gathering of media waiting for his arrival.
“It’s all business,” Boudreau said, on the approach to tonight’s game. “The guys are angry at themselves for not playing up to their potential. They’re anxious for the game tonight. We know what the environment is going to be like. It’s going to be crazy. We’re going to have to overcome. Other teams have had to overcome, so why can’t we?”
Interestingly enough, there have been three teams over the past 10 NHL seasons to come back from 2-0 deficits and go on to win the Stanley Cup. Carolina did so in 2006, Boston in 2011 and Los Angeles in 2014. Each club lost Games 1 and 2 in the first round, with Carolina and Boston doing so at home.
Boudreau confirmed tonight’s starter to be Frederik Andersen. First off the ice this afternoon, the 26-year-old last played in the regular season finale on April 10 at Washington, a 2-0 victory for Anaheim. John Gibson started the first two games, and Boudreau said if it was the other way around – if Andersen lost the first two games no matter how well he played – he would still switch it up.
Andersen enters tonight’s game with a 14-7 record in postseason play, including an 11-5 mark over three rounds last year.
It also appears veteran center Shawn Horcoff draws into the lineup. The former captain of the Edmonton Oilers went as far as Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, and today took line rushes with Nate Thompson and Ryan Garbutt. “With him, he brings experience, especially when you’re in sort of a desperate situation,” Boudreau said.
“Tonight is a desperate game (for us),” said Horcoff, who has 11 goals and 29 points in 41 career playoff games. “We have to step it up, or we’re in trouble. I’m confident we can do that.”
Pekka Rinne was victorious in the first two games and will start for Nashville, whose lineup is likely to remain unchanged.
Much was said about Anaheim’s lack of discipline in Game 2, which resulted in five power plays for Nashville. Predators captain Shea Weber made the Ducks pay on one of them with his patented slap shot that ultimately ended up being the game winner. Boudreau knows his team has to keep its composure no matter how tempting retaliation might be.
“You want to match the physical play, but what you have to do is play between the whistles…not after the whistles,” said Boudreau. “I call it ‘initiate, but not retaliate.’ This is playoff hockey. Sometimes you have to take a punch to the head.”