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Round 1

Ducks vs. Flames playoff preview

Anaheim hopes coaching, postseason experience is advantage against Calgary

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

Anaheim Ducks (P1) vs. Calgary Flames (WC1)

Season series: Anaheim 4-1-0

Last playoff meeting: 2015 Western Conference Second Round; Ducks won series 4-1

All-time playoff series: Ducks lead 2-0 


[RELATED: Ducks-Flames coverage | Tkachuk is Flames' X-factor | Why Ducks will win Cup]


How they got here 

The Anaheim Ducks, who won the Pacific Division with a record of 46-23-13 (105 points), face the resurgent Calgary Flames, who clinched the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with a record of 45-33-4 (94 points).

The best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series begins at Honda Center on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Calgary is in the postseason for the second time in three seasons, first under coach Glen Gulutzan, who previously was coach of the Dallas Stars (2011-13) and an assistant in Vancouver (2013-16). The Flames face a Ducks team that has won the division five consecutive seasons but has not advanced past the conference final since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007.

Video: Ducks vs Flames First Round Preview


5 storylines

Impact of April 4: Will there be any repercussions from the final regular-season game between the Ducks and Flames? Emotions erupted after Flames defenseman Mark Giordano's knee-on-knee hit knocked Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler out of the game in Anaheim. Fowler sprained his right knee and will be out for 2-6 weeks.

Epic home streak: Almost lost in the controversy of the April 4 game between the Ducks and Flames was that the Anaheim's regular-season winning streak against Calgary at Honda Center was extended to 25 games. The Flames (0-20-5) haven't won in the regular season in Anaheim since Jan. 19, 2004. Calgary is going to have to find a way to break the curse. The Flames dropped all three games in Anaheim against the Ducks in the playoffs two years ago in the second round. In 2006, the Flames defeated the Ducks 5-2 in Game 3, at Anaheim on April 25 in the first round.

Depth perception: The Ducks hold the edge in terms of scoring at the top end. Four players scored more than 20 goals this season: Rickard Rakell (33), Patrick Eaves (32; 11 with Ducks, 21 with Stars), Jakob Silfverberg (23) and Ryan Kesler (22). Sean Monahan (27) and Mikael Backlund (22) were the only Flames with more than 20 goals. However, 12 Flames scored 10 or more goals compared to nine for the Ducks.

Matthew Tkachuk ready for prime time: The son of former NHL player Keith Tkachuk doesn't act like a rookie or play like one. After sparking London of the Ontario Hockey League to the 2016 Memorial Cup, the 19-year-old never looked out of place at the NHL level and never hit the rookie wall. Tkachuk's 48 points (13 goals, 35 assists) were fifth on the Flames.

Video: PHI@CGY: Tkachuk cashes in on Backlund's sharp feed

"This is going to be a new experience for him," Calgary general manager Brad Treliving said on "Hockey Night in Canada" on Saturday. "The one thing we know is the lights won't be too bright for him. This is a guy who rises in big game and big moments. He's not shy to be on the big stage."

Coaching contrast: One of the advantages held by the Ducks is in playoff coaching experience. It's vast. Gulutzan will be coaching in his first NHL playoff game -- the Stars did not qualify for the postseason in his two seasons in Dallas. For the Ducks, Randy Carlyle has coached in 69 NHL playoff games -- 62 with the Ducks and seven with the Toronto Maple Leafs -- and won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007. Few coaches are better at the matchup game than Carlyle.


By the numbers 

10: The number of game-winning goals by Rakell, who led the League despite missing the first 11 games of the season after an apendectomy. Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings, Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators and Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets were tied for second with nine each.

5: Number of 50-point scorers on the Ducks: Getzlaf (73), Kesler (58), Corey Perry (53), Patrick Eaves (51; 14 with the Ducks, 37 with the Stars) and Rakell (51). Eaves spent most of the season with the Stars before he was traded to the Ducks on Feb. 24.

11: The number of goals allowed by goaltender Brian Elliott, then of the St. Louis Blues, in the conference final against the San Jose Sharks last season. Elliott started the first three games of that series but did not play again until Game 6 after being replaced by Jake Allen in Game 3.


In the spotlight 

Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf, center -- There is a delightfully quirky aspect to Ducks-Flames games at Scotiabank Saddledome. A banner of Getzlaf, from his days with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, hangs from the rafters. With the division on the line Sunday, Getzlaf had three assists in a 4-3 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Kings. Getzlaf had 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in the final seven games of the season, and his 58 assists were third in the League.

Video: ANA@CGY: Holzer buries Getzlaf's sweet cross-ice pass

Flames: Brian Elliott, goalie -- The Flames have come a long way from two years ago when they opened the second round against the Ducks with goaltender Jonas Hiller, who quickly gave way to Karri Ramo. Elliott, who was acquired from the Blues at the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24 for two draft picks, is a big upgrade. And when Elliott got off to a slow start this season, backup Chad Johnson kept the Flames afloat until Elliott got comfortable. Elliott finished with 26 wins.

Video: CGY@ANA: Elliott slides across to shut down Rakell


Keys to victory

Ducks: Anaheim, which finished the season with a 14-game point streak (11-0-3), needs prompt success. A long, tough series works against the Ducks, who have been eliminated from the postseason each of the past four seasons at home in Game 7. The Ducks have been able to retool their roster in a subtle manner, but their defense will be tested with the absence of Fowler.

Flames: Calgary is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015, but its stay will be short-lived if it can't get past the demons of Honda Center. With the Ducks holding home-ice advantage, the questions about the Flames' inability to win in Anaheim will begin immediately. Calgary will need to win at least one game on the road in order to advance.

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