Honda Center underwent a makeover last night - one that Ducks fans have grown accustomed to over the last five years. Every seat in the building is covered with an orange rally towel for fans attending the game tonight, and the atmosphere figures to be electric as the Ducks and Flames square off in the series opener.
John Gibson is expected to get the start in goal for the Ducks after coming off a career-setting regular season. Gibson went 25-16-9 with six shutouts, a 2.22 GAA and .924 SV% in 52 games and established career highs in wins, shutouts and appearances. This marks his third trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after making his postseason debut in 2014. The 23-year-old netminder is 2-4 in six career playoffs games along with a 2.84 GAA and .912 SV%.
Opposite of Gibson will be veteran goaltender Brian Elliott. The 32-year-old goaltender has appeared in 37 career postseason games (15-19 record) with a 2.49 GAA and .911 SV%.
Anaheim won four of the five games against Calgary in the regular season, including a home-and-home sweep on April 2 and 4, and has had well-documented success on home ice over the years. Nevertheless, Andrew Cogliano says what happens during the regular season doesn't apply now.
"All that stuff means nothing at this point," he said. "They're a good team. We had some success against them, but our last two meetings were very tight and could've gone either way. The regular season is done. It's a completely different game in terms of playoff hockey. We'll get a good idea after the first period of how the series will go."
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf will be looked upon to lead by example. Earlier today, he commended his team's composure as the regular season went on.
"The biggest thing has always been staying level-headed, staying in the moment and staying in the game," he told reporters today. "Early in the year our group got distracted - whether it be a bad call, big hit, goal against, those kinds of things. We didn't respond that well. Throughout the second half of the season, we made it a focal point to make sure we stay calm and play the way we want to."
Though Anaheim's skate was optional, the lines used during practice yesterday will likely carry over into the game tonight. That means rookies Ondrej Kase and Brandon Montour could be making their postseason debuts.
"As we all know, the intensity level that was displayed in the games last night, and the emotions in the buildings, this is all a new experience for some players," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. "For other players, it will be a re-visitation of where they've been before. Hopefully those players can pass some of the words of encouragement and the settling down of nerves onto our younger players."
Carlyle, no stranger to postseason hockey, wanted to make one thing clear to his players young and old: "You've earned the right to be here."
Potential Line Combinations
Video: The Ducks preview Game 1 against the Calgary Flames