By Kyle Shohara
A second full practice is in the books, and line combinations for tomorrow’s series opener against the Nashville Predators seem to be solidifying.
For the second day in a row, David Perron skated alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Stewart, and Rickard Rakell centered a line with Jamie McGinn and Corey Perry. The “shutdown” line composed of Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg remained unchanged, as did the fourth line of Ryan Garbutt, Nate Thompson and Chris Wagner.
Even injured defenseman Kevin Bieksa, sidelined for the final nine games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, took line rushes with Cam Fowler. Sami Vatanen, who fell ill twice in the past three weeks, appears to be at full health and today skated alongside Simon Despres.
“I think most of them will be eligible to play,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, referring to Perron, Rakell and Bieksa. “We did some bumping.”
The extended break has certainly helped, giving injured players a chance to heal and regular skaters well-deserved rest before Game 1. The Ducks had played every other day since March 2.
Anaheim focused on defensive zone exits and breakouts during today’s 45-minute practice, with an emphasis on winning board battles. Often those battles could be the difference between exiting the zone safely or being hemmed in.
Now just a day away from officially embarking on their quest for the Stanley Cup, Perry says he and his teammates are ready to roll. “We’re anxious, excited and ready to get going,” said Perry. “We’ve had some good practices. Yesterday, there was a lot of skating, but today, we worked on a little bit of what they like to do and what we want to do against it.”
There will be a bit of a feeling-out process in the opening stages of the game. These two teams last met on Nov. 17 at Nashville, 62 games ago. Both clubs have tweaked their lineups since then, with notable acquisitions Perron, McGinn and Garbutt for Anaheim, and Ryan Johansen for Nashville.
“They’ve altered a little bit of the way they play, as we’ve altered a little bit of the way we play,” said Boudreau. “It’s like both teams are seeing each other for the first time. It’ll make for some interesting situations out there.”
Perry respects the skill Nashville has throughout its lineup, but knows it ultimately comes down to how he and his teammates execute. “They’re a solid team,” he said. “They don’t quit. They keep coming at you. They’ve added some people to make their team a little deeper. We have to be ready to counteract that. It’s all about us. That’s all we’re thinking about.”LINE COMBINATIONS
David Perron – Ryan Getzlaf – Chris Stewart
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Jamie McGinn – Rickard Rakell – Corey Perry
Ryan Garbutt – Nate Thompson – Chris Wagner
Nick Ritchie - Shawn Horcoff - Mike Santorelli
Cam Fowler – Kevin Bieksa
Hampus Lindholm – Josh Manson
Simon Despres – Sami Vatanen
Shea Theodore - Korbinian Holzer