After serving his time in the form of a two-game suspension, Nick Ritchie is expected to make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut tonight in Game 2 of Anaheim's First Round series against the Calgary Flames. Ritchie is coming off his second NHL season with the Ducks. The 21-year-old left wing recorded 28 points (14g/14a) with a +4 rating and 62 penalty minutes in 77 games, setting career highs in goals, assists, points, plus/minus and games played. Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 232 pounds, Ritchie is an imposing presence on the ice and adds another physical element to a team known for bringing an even heavier game in the playoffs.
"Looking forward to contributing and getting back in there," said Ritchie. "We grind teams down and take the puck to the net. Our power play was great and we had some good cycle shifts [in Game 1]. We're going to build off of that."
Ritchie will likely return to his familiar spot on left wing alongside Antoine Vermette and Corey Perry, but Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle isn't afraid of putting him on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Eaves when needed. Carlyle says it's imperative Ritchie plays a physical brand of hockey.
"Ritch is a big, strong guy," said Carlyle. "He will be on the body. If he doesn't stay on the body, he's not effective. In a physical series, we think he has the ability to grind and go to the net. We're fortunate he's coming back into the lineup."
Ritchie's return figures to be the only change for the Ducks, who earlier today reassigned forward Ondrej Kase to the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League.
The pregame skate this morning was optional for Anaheim, but John Gibson is expected to get the start in net. Gibson showed some rust early on in Game 1, according to Carlyle, but got better as the game went on. His left-pad stop in the closing minute of regulation on Johnny Gaudreau preserved the one-goal lead and ultimately pushed the Ducks to a 3-2 victory.
No changes are expected for Calgary, based off reports, so Brian Elliott will likely get the start tonight. The 32-year-old netminder stopped 38-of-41 shots in Calgary's Game 1 loss.
With a parade to the penalty box in Game 1 from both teams, the key word defenseman Josh Manson emphasized earlier today was discipline. "There were a lot of penalties in the last game and they capitalized on the power play," he said. "At the end of the game, it kinda got away from us. That isn't the way you want to finish off a game."
Adds defenseman Hampus Lindholm, "Any game at home, you really want to make a statement. If they're going to come here and win, they're going to have to play a really good game. If we play the way we can, we can be successful."
Potential Line Combinations
Video: The Ducks look ahead to Game 2 against Calgary