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Ducks counting on defense to step up against Oilers

Injuries to Kevin Bieksa, Sami Vatanen have tested depth of Anaheim

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- The Anaheim Ducks are getting used to trying to survive the loss of an experienced defenseman in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They got past the Calgary Flames without their No. 1 defenseman, Cam Fowler, and another top-four defenseman, Sami Vatanen, who was limited to one game in the Western Conference First Round. Fowler is back, but the Ducks still are dealing with multiple injuries on defense against the Edmonton Oilers in the second round.

Veteran defenseman Kevin Bieksa sustained a lower-body injury in Game 1 and missed Game 2, but Ducks coach Randy Carlyle is hoping he can return late in the series. However, it could be a moot point unless things change quickly, considering the Oilers are leading the best-of-7 series 2-0 with Game 3 at Rogers Place on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Carlyle has been saying Bieksa is day to day, and he stuck to that Sunday.

Video: CGY@ANA: Bieksa cranks a slapper past Elliott

"If it's a two-week or three-week span, that's the way I look at it, he's more than day to day," Carlyle said. "Then if he's not past the two-week span, I look at it as day to day."

Game 6, if necessary, is May 7, and Game 7 would be May 10. And May 10 is exactly two weeks after Bieksa sustained the injury.

Vatanen (upper body) took part in the optional skate on Sunday. Carlyle said lineup decisions will be made after warmups.

"As a coach you're always considering making changes, putting your best people in place," Carlyle said. "It doesn't change for us, if it's the first game of the year or this game tonight.

"We're going to try to ice the best lineup we possibly have. We're not saving anybody. We don't save anybody when you play in the regular season, so why would we save anybody now?

Vatanen's return could help take some of the burden off Fowler, who played 26:33 in Game 1, his first game back since sustaining a knee injury on April 4, and 27:57 in Game 2.

Video: TOR@ANA: Vatanen one-times Getzlaf's incredible dish

Anaheim will continue to rely heavily on Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson and rookie Brandon Montour. With Bieksa out, defenseman Korbinian Holzer played 8:07 in Game 2.

Offensive-minded defenseman Shea Theodore, who had a breakout performance in the series against the Flames (two goals, three assists), has had trouble coping with the Oilers' speed in the first two games of the series.

On Saturday, the Ducks called up forwards Ondrej Kase and Nic Kerdiles from their American Hockey League affiliate in San Diego. Kase played in Game 1 against the Flames on April 13, making his NHL playoff debut.

"Kase is a skilled player," Carlyle said. "He was with us for the better part of the year. He's like the Energizer Bunny out there. He can make plays in small areas."

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