By Kyle Shohara
Morning Skate Photos
It’ll be orange all over Honda Center tonight as Anaheim’s long-awaited Second Round series begins with Game 1 against the Calgary Flames. Eight days have passed since the Ducks eliminated the Winnipeg Jets in Game 4 of the First Round, and it’s been nearly two weeks (12 days) since the club skated on home ice. With New Kids on the Block performing Saturday night at Honda Center, Game 2 of this series will take place Sunday.
The starting goaltenders tonight will be Frederik Andersen for the Ducks and Jonas Hiller for the Flames. Hiller, of course, began his NHL career in Anaheim during the 2007-08 campaign and spent seven seasons here before signing with Calgary as a free agent last summer. Hiller played 326 regular season games in a Ducks uniform, compiling a record of 162-110-32 with 21 shutouts, a 2.51 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. He also played in 26 Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Ducks, going 12-12 with three shutouts, a 2.29 GAA and a .937 SV%.
Hiller found himself playing behind Andersen and rookie John Gibson in the postseason last year, and ended up starting six of a possible 13 games. But that’s all part of the business, he says.
“Sometimes things separate or go different ways,” Hiller said. “I had a great seven years in Anaheim and they gave me a chance to be the No. 1, so that's something I will always be thankful for. But I don't need extra motivation to prove them wrong. I think at the end, there were decisions made.”
Nate Thompson took line rushes this morning with Emerson Etem and Tim Jackman, and while all signs point to him making his Ducks postseason debut tonight, the veteran center continues to play his cards close to the vest. “I felt pretty good, so it’s going to come down to Bruce’s decision,” he says, with a hint of a smile, “so we’ll see. It’ll be a game-time [decision].
Boudreau in his pregame press conference confirmed Thompson’s return to the lineup. “Nate, being a natural centerman, penalty killer and faceoff guy, is a vital guy on our team,” Boudreau said. “It’s natural that he would go back in when needed.”
Boudreau used rookie Chris Wagner in Thompson’s spot for Games 1 and 2 before he, too, went down with an upper-body injury, and then used veteran forward Tomas Fleischmann for Games 3 and 4. Fleischmann hadn’t played the center position in four years, but Boudreau offered high praise for his ability to adapt and become an immediate contributor.
Along with Thompson’s on-ice attributes comes postseason experience. He’s skated in 22 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, including 18 in 2011 when his Tampa Bay Lightning squad came within a game of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final if not for a heartbreaking 1-0 victory by the Boston Bruins.
“Playoff hockey is the best hockey,” Thompson said. “I’m excited. Playing in the playoffs is a special thing because everything is on the line every shift.”
LONG REST NOT A CONCERN
Only time will tell if an eight-day break between series will have a negative effect on the Ducks, but Boudreau says he feels his team is champing at the bit. “As a coach, you have concerns all the time about different things, but I think we’re ready,” he said. “They want to beat up on someone else other than themselves. You just hope their mindset and pace of play in the last game don’t take a game to get going again. I don’t think it will, but that’s what coaches worry about.”
The Ducks have played eight games (yes, eight) in the entire month of April. “Bruce did a great job preparing us, but not putting us through too much where we’d be tired heading into this series,” said defenseman Cam Fowler. “We feel we’ve had a good balance. Hopefully we can see the results out there on the ice.”
ON THE FLAMES
What the Flames lack in size they make up for in tremendous overall team speed, according to Boudreau, when asked about the main difference between the Jets and Flames. But a similar trait between both clubs is a mobile defense that isn’t afraid to join the rush. “They play similar games in that their defense is really active,” Boudreau said. “The more dynamic of the scorers offensively are probably on Calgary than they were on Winnipeg, even if they are younger guys,” those including 21-year-old Johnny Gaudreau and 20-year-old Sean Monahan.
Boudreau also pointed out the elevated level of play of both the Jets and Flames down the stretch as they won their way into postseason contention, led by veteran coaches Paul Maurice and Bob Hartley, respectively. Hartley led the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup championship in 2001. “One has won a Stanley Cup and one went to the [Conference] Final,” said Boudreau, referring to Maurice’s 2009 postseason run with Carolina.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