By Kyle Shohara
CHICAGO – Good afternoon from the Windy City, where tonight the Ducks and Blackhawks square off in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. With yesterday serving as a travel day, both teams have had little time to recover from what ended up being the longest game in the history of Honda Center. In total, 116 minutes were played spanning nearly six full periods before Marcus Kruger punched in a loose puck from just outside the crease to end what had also become the longest game in Blackhawks history.
Though undoubtedly disappointed with the outcome of Game 2, the Ducks have since moved on. Their ability to rebound following tough losses has been a quality of theirs all season, and their mentality hasn’t changed. Their focus has always been – and always will be – on themselves.
“It’s all about us,” said Corey Perry. “It’s not worrying about what they’re doing. It’s going out and doing the things we have to do; things that made us successful and got us here. We know how they play here, and they don’t change a lot of things. The crowd gets into it. Those are things we can use to our advantage, as well. We’ve used it in the first two series, and hopefully we can do it again.”
What has gotten them to the Western Conference Final, Perry says, is a dedication to sticking to their game plan. Getting pucks deep and hitting Chicago’s top-four defensemen at every opportunity remains a priority. The minutes played in Game 2 were staggering. Duncan Keith (49:51), Brent Seabrook (47:46), Niklas Hjalmarsson (47:35) and Johnny Oduya (46:06) logged the lion’s share of the club’s minutes on the backend, while depth defenseman Kyle Cumiskey (18:34) and 40-year-old Kimmo Timonen (16:45) brought up the rear.
Francois Beauchemin (46:29), Hampus Lindholm (44:07) and Cam Fowler (40:21) led Anaheim in ice time two nights ago, but the 23-year-old Fowler says he doesn’t expect the Ducks to show any signs of fatigue tonight.
“We tried to get a lot of fluids in us and treat it like we played two games in a row, because that’s exactly what we did,” said Fowler. “We had a good skate out there this morning. It’s another good opportunity for us. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The Ducks have proven they can win on the road in the most hostile of environments. Last month, they were met with perhaps the loudest crowd in the playoffs and came out of Winnipeg with two victories and a series sweep. Then, in the second round, the Ducks were met with 19,000-plus fans known collectively as the ‘C’ of Red. Anaheim split the two games in Calgary and went on to win the series in five.
Tonight they face a Blackhawks squad still undefeated on home ice, having won all five contests at a place known as the Madhouse on Madison. Home to the Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls, United Center is the largest arena (in sheer size) in the United States and has a capacity of 19,000 for hockey (not including standing room only tickets). And for those attending tonight’s game, make sure to be in your seats for a one-of-a-kind National Anthem experience.
“We have a pretty simple formula,” said Fowler, on the team’s success on the road. “Sometimes when you get into buildings like this, especially in the playoffs, you have to try to slow things down as best you can. As boring as it is, that seems to be a formula that works in the playoffs. The main thing is trying to get through the first five minutes without giving the crowd or [the Blackhawks] a big spark of energy. That’s something we’ve done pretty well throughout the playoffs, and something we’re definitely going to need to continue. This is a very tough building to play in.”
“When you go out there in this building, they tend to come out hard and have that electricity in the building,” said Ryan Getzlaf. “It’s a matter of just playing. We have to weather the storm the same way we did the last two series, and play forward.”EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Patrick Maroon-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Andrew Cogliano-Nate Thompson-Kyle Palmieri
Emerson Etem-Rickard Rakell-Jiri Sekac
Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler-Simon Despres
Clayton Stoner-Sami Vatanen