Another day of practice has come and gone for the Ducks, who could have a handful of rookies in the lineup come Thursday. Brandon Montour and Ondrej Kase made their respective NHL debuts earlier this season and have yet to experience anything quite like the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But there are also young guys like Chris Wagner and Shea Theodore, a bit more experienced than Montour and Kase but still relatively inexperienced in the postseason.
If the Ducks are to make a deep run, they will need players young and old to rise up and elevate their game to another level. It's an all-hands-on-deck type of commitment that is going to be required for 16 wins in the postseason. With the injury to Cam Fowler (2-6 weeks recovery timeframe), Montour and Theodore could very well see extended time in these playoffs.
Today the young - and younger - shared their thoughts on what they expect tomorrow night and the days (and maybe the next two months) that follow.
"As a kid, you dream to play your first NHL game," said Montour, who turned 23 yesterday. "This is just that much more special to play your first playoff game. I'm looking forward to it."
Montour says he is soaking in as much advice and guidance from the veterans as he can, but when it comes down to it, he says, it's a matter of going out and playing his game. "You want to play the same way," he has learned. "The intensity picks up a little bit, but, for the most part, it's just another hockey game. It's pretty surreal and crazy to be a part of this team. Hopefully we can keep going positively."
Wagner has four games of playoff experience, split evenly over two separate postseasons. The 25-year-old forward made his playoff debut in Game 1 of the first round against the Winnipeg Jets in 2015 and also played in Game 2. The following year he played in Games 1 and 2 against the Nashville Predators. Though limited in experience, Wagner says he's learned to just stick with what has gotten him here. "Just go out there and play hard," he said. "The tempo is going to be much faster than a regular-season game. Every shift means something. Just try to contribute in a positive way. You're still really excited and trying to calm the nerves a little bit, but once you get out there it's a hockey game."
Head coach Randy Carlyle offered up a few words of wisdom to his young players on the eve of Game 1. "Enjoy the experience," he said. "It's going to be fun. These are exciting times. Don't get caught up in the emotions. Just go out and play your game. Do what you do. Raise the level of your intensity so you're not trying to catch the game, you're playing in the game. Don't watch. Be involved."
Video: The young Ducks talk playoff expectations