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Kesler, Ducks Eager to Get Game 3 Started

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

NASHVILLE -- Outside of the Ducks locker room, Ryan Kesler waited patiently, his back leaning against the wall and his hands resting comfortably behind his back.

It was a moment of solitude before a voice yelled out "Kesler!" - signaling a mad dash at the far end of the hallway. A large gathering of media converged upon the league's premier checking center, jostling for position much like the players on the ice will do later tonight.

Everyone wanted to hear Kesler's thoughts on Ryan Johansen's postgame comments following Anaheim's Game 2 victory on Sunday night at Honda Center. "I don't know what's going through his head over there," Johansen said to reporters that night. "Like, his family and his friends watching him play, I don't know how you cheer for a guy like that. It just doesn't make sense how he plays the game. I'm just trying to go out there and play hockey, and it sucks when you've got to pull a stick out of your groin every shift."

Those were strong words from the 24-year-old center, who will go mano-a-mano with the 32-year-old Kesler at least for three more games, including tonight at Bridgestone Arena.

"He's not my friend and he's not going to be my friend," Kesler said to Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register. "He can say whatever he wants. I'm not going to change my game. I'm here for one reason and one reason only, and that's to win some games here and ultimately win this series.

"It seemed like he was a bit rattled."

What does this all mean in the grand scheme of things? It means Kesler is doing his job. There are no easy shifts against him, especially if you happen to win a draw. Sean Monahan and Connor McDavid could agree after being hounded relentlessly by the heavily bearded shutdown center for four games and seven games in the first and second rounds, respectively.

"It's a hard job, but I enjoy it a lot," said Kesler. "I'm just going to play my game. [Johansen] likes to use his stick a little bit. I think he's taken two slashing penalties on my already."

It's going to be a raucous atmosphere tonight inside and outside Bridgestone Arena, similar to what you might experience at a college football game. Predators employees and arena staff members were busy folding bright yellow t-shirts over every seat in the house, while outside a beat-up car with a hastily painted Mighty Ducks logo on the hood awaits, under the beating sun, for fans to pummel with a sledgehammer, all in the name of charity.

"These are the games you want to be involved in," said Andrew Cogliano. "Tonight is one of those games you get up for. There is a great energy in the building, especially in playoffs. We should feed off it as well."

Potential Line Combinations







Video: The Ducks look ahead to Game 3 of the WCF

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