By Kyle Shohara
If the Ducks need any extra motivation when they skate at Honda Center, all they have to do is look down. Installed underneath the sheet of ice just inside each blueline is a banner that reads STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS in big, bold font, with the logo of the Stanley Cup to its left. The majority of the team has skated on this ice before, but only a few have been able to go the distance.
Captain Ryan Getzlaf and alternate captains Francois Beauchemin and Corey Perry hoisted the Cup in 2007, when the Ducks rolled to a 6-2 victory vs. Ottawa in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Honda Center. Ryan Kesler endured the heartbreak of a Game 7 loss in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final vs. Boston, a loss that still stings to this day. Nate Thompson and his Tampa Bay Lightning teammates were a game away from facing Kesler and the Canucks in the Final, but a Nathan Horton goal at 12:27 of the third period served as Game 7’s only tally. Many of the current Ducks felt the emotions of being a win away from advancing to the Third Round last year, only to have it snatched away in Game 7 vs. Los Angeles.
“It’s hard to describe [the atmosphere], but this is why we play the game,” said Kesler. “The long season is over, and now every game means something. We’re all excited in here.” Kesler was unstoppable during that 2011 playoff run, recording seven goals and 19 points in 25 games with the Canucks, all postseason career bests. Kesler ranked third among playoff leaders in hits (78) and led the Canucks in playoff faceoff percentage (54.1) and team forwards in average time on ice (22:34).
His quest to win a championship brought him to Anaheim last summer in a trade that saw the Ducks also acquire a 2015 third-round selection in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and first-round and third-round picks in the 2014 NHL Draft.
“My goal is to win a championship with this team,” Kesler said today. “Everybody in this room has the same goal. We’re going to get to it. Today was the first day.
“We need to take it one step at a time. We can’t look at the big picture because it’s going to be a dog fight to get out of the first round. It always is. Every team is hungry. It’s going to be a battle.”
Perry says the sight of his gear still hanging inside the locker room is all it takes for him to get jazzed up. “There are 14 other teams that have already packed up their equipment and gone home. It’s a different season,” he said. “You have to be the best team in each game and work your way through.”
Perry offered his initial thoughts on the Jets, a team that won 10 of its final 14 games of the season (10-3-1) to earn a spot in the postseason. “They’re quick, big and physical. They’re a heck of a hockey team,” he said. “They worked really hard to get into the playoffs. It’s going to be a tough series. Both teams are looking forward to getting it going.”
INJURY UPDATES, LINE COMBINATIONS
Goaltender John Gibson and Thompson did not practice with the team this morning. Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during practice last Friday, which resulted in the team recalling Jason LaBarbera from Norfolk of the American Hockey League. Thompson suffered an upper-body injury in the third period of Anaheim’s regular season finale at Arizona.
“All I’m going to say about [Gibson] and Nate is that they’re day to day with upper-body injuries,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “That’s the real answer you’re going to get at this stage.”
Line combinations used during practice:
Patrick Maroon-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Kesler-Kyle Palmieri
Andrew Cogliano/Tomas Fleischmann-Rickard Rakell-Jakob Silfverberg
Jiri Sekac/Emerson Etem-Chris Wagner-Tim Jackman