By Kyle Shohara
Tonight, the Ducks are back in a familiar setting. It’s been five months since the team was in Chicago for Game 6 of the Western Conference Final – a game the Blackhawks won before eventually taking the series in seven. And while the scene is familiar, the Ducks enter tonight’s game under much different circumstances.
There is no getting around the fact the Ducks are pressing right now. With only six goals through seven games (1-5-1, 3 points), and a winless start to the road trip, a breakthrough is desperately needed. A victory tonight could be the push the Ducks need to get over the hump.
“As a group, we look at it as a new season tonight,” said Ryan Kesler. “It’s no secret we got off to a horrendous start, probably the worst start in the history for this organization. We turn the page today. Our goal is to win this game and score lots of goals. If we have to win a game 1-0, we’ll win it 1-0.
“We got back to having fun today. Guys were loose. The past week, there have been a lot of tense guys. Today is a new day. We’re going to climb out of this.”
They’ll face a Blackhawks squad without two-time Norris Trophy winner and 2015 Conn Smythe recipient Duncan Keith, who is out four-to-six weeks following surgery to repair a right knee meniscal tear on October 20. Keith is irreplaceable, yet the Blackhawks have won two in a row in his absence.
“You always get up for the Stanley Cup champions,” said Kesler. “We have a big challenge in front of us. We’re going to take it head on.”
Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane says he’s surprised – like everyone else – with the way Anaheim has come out of the gate, but knows the team has the talent and leadership to turn things around in an instant.
“You look at their roster, they have a great team with great leaders who have gotten them to far distances in the playoffs,” Kane said. “I’m sure they’ll be fine once they turn things around. Hopefully we can take care of business tonight and not let them get on a roll.”
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau took a philosophical approach to his press conference today, ushering words of encouragement and positivity to his players.
“Every day is a new day,” he said to Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register following the morning skate. “The sun is still coming up even if it's in Chicago in October/early November. You look for the positives in everything, and you're not sitting around being gloomy. Today, I talked to them about how great it is to be a hockey player. We're so lucky, so blessed to do this job that we love, rather than doing things that are forced upon you. We have to play with that. We have to play with that enthusiasm.”
Frederik Andersen is expected to get the start in net for Anaheim, with Corey Crawford getting the nod for Chicago.
Earlier today, the Ducks recalled Chris Wagner from San Diego of the American Hockey League. The 6-0, 195-pound forward skated on the fourth line with Patrick Maroon and Shawn Horcoff during the morning skate. Wagner is expected to play tonight.
The 24-year-old has two points (1g/1a) with a +2 rating and 16 penalty minutes in three games with the Gulls this season. He had a chuckle when asked about the line brawl that occurred in Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Bakersfield. Wagner received a 10-minute game misconduct for “continuing altercation,” as stated in the official scoresheet. “If you watch it, I got suckered pretty good,” he said. “I got back up and was thinking, don’t get hurt. It’s all a blur once it starts happening. We all got thrown out. That was a first for me. I’ve been in a few, and I’ve played with some tough guys. [Jay] Rosehill, Bodes [Troy Bodie]. Patty [Maroon] used to be a savage [in the AHL].”
Wagner could be the spark plug the Ducks need, especially when it comes to laying the body. Though he says he won’t go out of his way to make a hit, if the opportunity presents itself, he’s not thinking twice. “You don’t want to get caught because then you’d be in real trouble,” he said. “I’ll definitely take [the hit] and play a hard forecheck. I’m trying to bring something that maybe we don’t have right now. Maybe a win? We’ll see what happens.”