By Kyle Shohara
To get adjusted to Game 1’s early start time, the Ducks held a rare noon practice today inside Honda Center. They’ll do the same tomorrow and Saturday before kicking off the Western Conference Final on Sunday.
Not on the ice, however, was the NHL’s leading postseason scorer, Corey Perry, who suffered an apparent leg injury on a collision with Calgary’s Matt Stajan in the second period of Game 5 last Sunday. Although he also missed Tuesday’s practice (the team was off yesterday), Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau says he expects the rugged winger to be in the lineup for Game 1.
“We had six days off, so there’s no use rushing him,” said Boudreau. “I’m pretty sure he’ll be on the ice tomorrow. I have no indication he’s not playing [Sunday].”
Filling his spot on right wing today was veteran forward Tomas Fleischmann. Others groups included Matt Beleskey with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg, Andrew Cogliano with Nate Thompson, Kyle Palmieri and Chris Wagner, and Emerson Etem and Jiri Sekac with Rickard Rakell and Tim Jackman.
'IT’S ABOUT US'
Those were the words Boudreau used to answer repeated questions regarding matchups, lineups and strategy all pertaining to the Blackhawks. Boudreau says all the talk and focus has been on themselves, and how they can play, rather than having to adjust to how the Blackhawks play.
“When we play the right way and do the right things, we’re confident we’re capable of beating any team we play,” said Boudreau. “Yeah, we know all about their reputation and everything, but we’re focused on how good we can be. We want to get better each series.”
“It’s a little bit of a different beast, being in the Western Conference Final against a team used to being there, but at the same time, we’re trying to focus on our game as much as we can,” said defenseman Cam Fowler. “When we do that, we’re at our best. We have to work on the things that make us a tough team to play against.”
CENTER OF ATTENTION
Ryan Kesler will undoubtedly be assigned the task of shutting down at least one of the two Blackhawks superstars – center (and team captain) Jonathan Toews and right wing Patrick Kane – and it’s a challenge the 30-year-old Livonia, Michigan native will gladly accept.
Since joining the Ducks last June, Kesler’s leadership and on-ice performance has reached new heights in these playoffs. Not only is he averaging a point per game thus far (nine points in nine games), but he’s matching up against the opposition’s top lines and finding tremendous success in the faceoff dot.
Clicking at a 63.7 percent success rate, Kesler trails only Jay Beagle of the freshly-eliminated Washington Capitals in faceoff win percentage among postseason leaders, going 137-for-215. Kesler ranks third overall in total faceoff wins, and no other player has won more faceoffs in their team's first nine games than the former Selke Trophy winner.
Earlier today, Kesler, who reached Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final with Vancouver, spoke of the importance of having every player in the locker room raising his game to the next level. “You have to better than the guy across from you,” Kesler said, matter-of-factly. “If you do that, your team is most likely going to succeed. That’s what everybody in this locker room has to do. They have to be better than the guy across from them. If we do that, I like our chances.
“I’ve faced [Chicago] three or four times in the playoffs, so I think you just draw from past experience on what was successful against them and how to break them down,” he said. “I’ll share my experience with the coaches and the players.”
From his first games as a Duck until now, Kesler has always said there’s something special about this team.
“Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve known how to win,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re down two or three goals going into the third. We seem to battle back and find a way. ”