By Kyle Shohara
At long last, Anaheim’s highly anticipated First Round matchup vs. the Winnipeg Jets is upon us. Earlier today, the Ducks took the ice for their traditional pregame skate amidst a sea of orange inside Honda Center. On every seat in the house rests an orange playoff rally towel ready to be waved as the Ducks and Jets square off in what figures to be a bruising Game 1.
Patrick Maroon is never one to shy away from contact, and tonight he’s expected to play left wing on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Maroon skated with “the twins” in all three games vs. Winnipeg and came away with three assists. Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said he went back and watched film on those games and liked what he saw from the rugged left wing.
“I didn’t see any reason to think he would be the guy who wouldn’t be on that line, when we start, at least,” said Boudreau. “Everything we do is for Game 1. There could be a lot of changes for Game 2, but hopefully there aren’t too many. This is all for Game 1.”
The series opener will also feature Clayton Stoner alongside Sami Vatanen, a familiar pair throughout most of the regular season and one Boudreau favors. The Ducks coach says Stoner’s standout performance with Minnesota in the First Round last year (vs. Colorado) left a lasting impression.
“He might’ve been the best defenseman on the ice,” Boudreau said. “He rises to the occasion. He’s a physical player and we’re playing against a big, physical team. He seems like a natural fit to be a good player for us tonight.”
Defensemen James Wisniewski and Korbinian Holzer will be the odd men out tonight. Also expected to sit are Jiri Sekac and Tomas Fleischmann. Wisniewski, who made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut with Anaheim in 2009, was understandably disappointed with the news, but knows he could be called upon at a moment’s notice.
“You're never really expecting this, but it is what it is,” he said. “You have to be ready to play when you're called upon, be professional and help any way possible with work ethic. I hope to get in there. It's what I'm here to do.”
Ducks center Nate Thompson did not skate this morning, still out with an upper-body injury. Also absent from the skate was goalie John Gibson, so of course Anaheim’s expected starting goaltender is Frederik Andersen.
Expected to make his postseason debut on the fourth line is 23-year-old Chris Wagner, a player who Boudreau says will “rise to the occasion.” Though still very green at the NHL level (he has only nine career NHL games under his belt), Wagner brings a physical brand of hockey to the table, as evident by this huge hit on New Jersey Devils defenseman Jon Merrill on March 29.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Emerson Etem, on the mood in the locker room: “We’re ready to go. We had three really hard-working practice days to fit in all we needed to work on, and we did just that. The energy was good and the guys were getting their legs going. Our energy is there. We’re focused and ready to go.”
On the game plan: “We’re not too worried about what they’re doing. It’s about us. We need to play a simple game. There is going to be a lot of emotion from the great crowd we’re going to get. We just have to channel that and put it to use.”
On the home crowd: “It’s awesome. It was unfortunate we had to lose in the Second Round last year. But the way they came out and supported us, they deserve a lot better. We’re going to try our best. We’re going to take it game by game and series by series. We’re ready to go.”
Andrew Cogliano, on Game 1: “We’re at the point now where we just have to play. We have to get into action. We’ve prepared enough and done all that we’ve needed to do. At the end of the day, you just have to play the game and see what happens.”
On the fan support: “It’s exciting. The time is now to get going. The building has been great. It was great last year, and we’re expecting the same thing this year. It’s going to be a lot of fun. The intensity goes up and the energy goes up. The fans bring that.”
Boudreau, on what he hopes the players took away from the past two playoffs: “The experience. There is a difference between being emotionally ready and controlled emotion. Everybody wants to do really good in the playoffs, but sometimes you overdo it. Maybe a little bit of experience helps with that. That’s what we wanted to learn. We need to stay the course. We’ve come from behind in all the series. Hopefully we don’t get behind, but you never know. If it happens, we’re an experienced enough group. We realize we just need to keep going.”
On the Jets not having played in the postseason since 1996: “Everything is its own entity. Their players are taking it one game at a time. They know what they have to do. They’re very well-coached. Ondrej Pavelec has won the Calder Cup as a goalie, so he’s been through the pressure situations. Andrew Ladd has won two Stanley Cups. They’re not new to this. The franchise is new, but a lot of the players aren’t new to it.”EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
THE PLAYOFF SPOT
Fans coming to Game 1 are encouraged to get to Honda Center early throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs to enjoy all the fun with your fellow Ducks fans. The Playoff Spot and Standing ‘O’ will open 2 1/2 hours before each playoff home game!
The Playoff Spot, located in the portico on the south side of Honda Center, features a full bar, several TVs showing Stanley Cup Playoff games, music, giveaways and more. Standing ‘O’, open before, during and after each game, is offering brand-new menu items including a Chicken and Waffle Sandwich, a Bourbon Peach Pizza and Spicy Margaritas, all in a fan-focused atmosphere.
Join us for the fun!
Patrick Maroon-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Kesler-Kyle Palmieri
Andrew Cogliano-Rickard Rakell-Jakob Silfverberg
Emerson Etem-Chris Wagner-Tim Jackman
Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler-Simon Despres
Clayton Stoner-Sami Vatanen