By Kyle Shohara
AnaheimDucks.com Photo Gallery
After shaking hands with the Winnipeg Jets following a 5-2 victory in Game 4 at MTS Centre (and sweeping the series), the Ducks returned to the locker room and reveled in their First Round triumph for about 20 minutes.
At least that was the case according to head coach Bruce Boudreau. Since then, it’s been all about preparing for the Second Round against either the Calgary Flames or Vancouver Canucks. The Flames currently lead that series 3-2 after a Canucks victory in last night’s Game 5.
The Ducks used yesterday as a travel day back to Orange County, so today they convened at Honda Center for a light practice that involved some 4-on-4 pickup-style hockey. It was a loose and lighthearted session that served as good fun and a way to keep the players engaged.
“We just didn’t want to start all over again,” said Boudreau in his post-practice interview. “We just wanted to make sure they kept their legs going. We start preparing a little bit more tomorrow, and then come next week, Monday through whenever we play, we’ll get right into it pretty hard.”
There is no official indication yet of when the Ducks will next play, but in all likelihood it will not be until the other First Round series are complete.
Nate Thompson went through a full practice today and has a little more time to heal up from his upper-body injury now that the Ducks won’t play again until sometime next week. Thompson did not appear in any of the four games vs. Winnipeg, and was forced to watch from the press box, which he says wasn’t pretty for those around him.
“As fun as it was to watch us win, it’s also painful at the same time,” Thompson said. “I’m not a good watcher. I don’t think I sat down the whole four games. I was standing and pacing. I was a nervous wreck. It was fun to watch, but I’d like to be playing. I think my legs and back were sore after every game.”
DEPTH PAYING DIVIDENDS
When Thompson went down with his injury in the regular season finale, the Ducks recalled rookie Chris Wagner to fill the fourth line center position to begin the postseason. But after Wagner went down with an upper-body injury in Game 2, the Ducks all of a sudden found themselves short two centers. But fear not, as veteran Tomas Fleischmann, who had been a healthy scratch in Games 1 and 2, stepped in and did an admirable job in a somewhat unfamiliar position. Fleischmann earned the secondary assist on Ryan Kesler’s eventual game-winning goal 6:41 into the third period of Game 4 on a rush he started.
“I was impressed with him in both games,” said Boudreau. “I thought he played really well for a guy who hadn’t played center in about four years.”
“He’s been to the playoffs before, and he’s won a Calder Cup. He has that experience,” said Thompson. “We’ve done it all year. We’ve had guys step in when guys get hurt. That’s the good thing about our team. We have guys that can step in and play big roles and get the job done.”
DESPRES STEPPING UP
Boudreau admitted he didn’t know much about defenseman Simon Despres when the Ducks acquired him from Pittsburgh for Ben Lovejoy on the March 2 NHL Trade Deadline Day. Despres, 23, is a former first-round draft pick (30th overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft, and the one-for-one deal for Lovejoy left many pundits scratching their heads as to why the Penguins made the move. It has paid off for the Ducks in a big way, as the mobile 6-4 defenseman has played his way into the top-four.
“I was thinking we were getting a raw, fairly green guy,” Boudreau said. “I thought, mistakenly so, that when we got him and I looked at our charts, he’d be a really good seventh [defenseman]. But he came right in and had composure, was physical and did all the right things. He did it again in this series.”
Despres says he’s most comfortable playing the right side despite being a left-handed shot, and his chemistry with Cam Fowler is undeniable. Despres had two assists and averaged 18:07 time on ice in the four games vs. Winnipeg, and nearly had a goal in Game 4 had it not been for a remarkable save by Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. His rebound was then buried by Kesler in the goal mentioned earlier.
So far so good for the soft-spoken Despres, who only had six games of postseason experience prior to Anaheim’s First Round series vs. Winnipeg. “I was wondering at the end of the season whether he was coming down to Earth a little bit,” Boudreau says, “but he was really good against a team we really needed him to be good against.”