By Kyle Shohara
With Game 1 of the Western Conference Final just a sleep away, the Ducks got in one last day of practice before the big dance. It was another spirited session that fell just shy of 60 minutes in length, and included Ducks winger Corey Perry, who skated for the second consecutive day.
Absent from practice was 22-year-old center Rickard Rakell, who is “feeling under the weather,” according to Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who says he expects the young Swede to be in the lineup for Game 1. Rakell became the youngest player in franchise history to score a playoff overtime goal with his game-winner in Game 3 of the First Round vs. Winnipeg. In his place was rookie Chris Wagner.
Not since their championship run in 2007 have the Ducks advanced to the Conference Finals, and Perry was only in his second season in the NHL. Now, nearly 10 years later, Perry (who turned 30 today), says it’s “huge” for the team and organization to get back here.
“It doesn’t matter when it is, as long as it happens,” said Perry. “For us to get over that hump we’ve been looking to get over, and finally reach the [Conference Finals] … there are only four teams left, and that’s the exciting part.”
Boudreau used the adjective determined to describe the collective mindset of his players as many of them make their Western Conference Final debuts tomorrow. This determination, he says, wasn’t as prevalent or noticeable in season’s past.
“I don’t want to take anything away from last year’s team or the years before, but it seems like they’re a more determined group right now,” said Boudreau. “We’ve practiced a lot, and they’ve been hard practices, but these guys haven’t complained about it. They’ve embraced the practices.”
With extended breaks between each series thus far, these high intensity skates have been standard operating procedure for the Ducks.
“That’s pretty much the norm for what we’ve been doing,” said defenseman Cam Fowler. “Especially since the playoffs started, we’ve had a good formula we’ve been going by. Today was another part of that.
“The big reason why we’ve had success is because how we’ve been practicing has carried over into the games," said Fowler. "That’s really important, especially when you have six or seven days off. It might be easy to sit back and relax for a second, but the good thing about our group is we continue to push each other in practice.”LINE COMBINATIONS
Patrick Maroon-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Andrew Cogliano-Nate Thompson-Kyle Palmieri-Tim Jackman
Emerson Etem-Tomas Fleischmann-Chris Wagner-Jiri Sekac
Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler-Simon Despres
Clayton Stoner-Sami Vatanen