By Kyle Shohara
CALGARY – A ‘C’ of red will greet the Ducks tonight in a pivotal Game 3 against the Calgary Flames. The Ducks experienced a similar atmosphere in their first round series vs. Winnipeg when a whiteout blanketed the inside of MTS Centre. But whereas MTS Centre held 15,000 fans, more than 19,000 are expected to congregate inside Scotiabank Saddledome.
No lineup changes are expected for the Ducks, who enter tonight’s action with a 2-0 series lead and a blemish-free 6-0 record in these playoffs. Frederik Andersen has been the man between the pipes since the postseason began, and his six consecutive postseason victories tied a franchise record. Andersen co-leads the NHL in wins, and his goals-against average in this series is 0.50.
Not having to tinker with his lineup has been an “ideal situation,” in the words of head coach Bruce Boudreau, who reflected on the injuries throughout the regular season. “We’ve been lucky,” he said. “We’ve gone through enough adversity during the course of the year, so hopefully we don’t have to do it too much in the playoffs.”
LOUD CROWD, NO PROBLEM
The Ducks were able to channel the energy given off by the Winnipeg faithful into two wins in an arena many consider the loudest in the NHL. And tonight, they’ll look to silence another raucous Canadian fanbase which fueled the Flames to three home wins in their first round series vs. Vancouver. “The fans are going to scream every time we hit them and every time they hit us, so we need to go with that energy like we did in Winnipeg,” said birthday boy Rickard Rakell, who turned 22 today. “We’re going to enjoy the moment and use it to gain momentum for ourselves. We like it when they boo us. We’re just excited for tonight.”
Ryan Kesler was public enemy No. 1 in Winnipeg and he’ll be the greeted with a barrage of boos tonight, a dislike that runs deep from his 10 years in Vancouver. The 30-year-old thrived in the two games at Winnipeg, scoring a late game-tying goal in Game 3 and tacking on two more in Game 4, including the eventual game-winning tally. Kesler assisted on Matt Beleskey’s goal in the first period of Anaheim’s 3-0 victory vs. Calgary in Game 2, and has six points in six games. His knack for delivering in clutch moments, especially in the playoffs, and his ability to match up against the opposition’s top line has taken some of the burden off of Ryan Getzlaf. “It makes the opposition think of our matchups,” said Boudreau. “I can always put Ryan on in our defensive zone because he’s a good faceoff guy, like Getzy, or I can put them both on. It gives you options. It’s not every day you get two elite players who play that position.”
As for Kesler’s reputation for being a grumpy guy, Boudreau says it’s all part of what makes him a game changer. “He gets along great with his teammates,” said Boudreau. “You guys don’t see the laughter he brings, but he’s a very serious hockey player. When he looks grumpy, it’s more because he’s frustrated at himself than anything else."
Whether they’re trailing late in regulation or have an opportunity to bury a team (like they did in Games 3 and 4 in Winnipeg), the Ducks have proven they can win in any situation. This sense of confidence has also given the Ducks an edginess not seen in previous postseason runs. The usually mild-mannered Andersen was quoted as saying, “You've got a team on its heels and we have our foot right on the throat where we want it,” prior to Game 3 of the first round. He then followed it up by saying the Flames didn’t deserve their lone goal in Game 1 last week. This confidence shouldn’t be mistaken for cockiness, as young Rakell points out. “We have this feeling we can do it, that we should be able to do it,” Rakell said. “But at the same time, we’re not getting overly confident. We respect their team, and we know we still have to play our best to win every game.”
Veterans like Getzlaf, Kesler and Francois Beauchemin are using their past experience and leadership to help keep the team on an even-keel no matter the situation. Rakell says he and the rest of the team is following their lead. “It’s pretty amazing how they take another step in the playoffs,” Rakell said. “They’re huge for us every night. That’s something you feed off.”EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Patrick Maroon-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Andrew Cogliano-Rickard Rakell-Kyle Palmieri
Emerson Etem-Nate Thompson-Tim Jackman
Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler-Simon Despres
Clayton Stoner-Sami Vatanen