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Physical play of Josh Manson helping Ducks in playoffs

Defenseman looking for more hits against Predators in Game 2 of Western Conference Final

by Lisa Dillman @RealLisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson was talking about the short-term and long-term impact of his punishing hits.

"That's the stuff we've got to do," Manson said on Saturday. "It takes a toll on guys. Whether they bounce up right away or not, it hurts them. They could be feeling it the next day and the next time they go into the corner they could be thinking about it."

The hits from Game 1 might pay off as early as Game 2 against the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Final at Honda Center on Sunday. If not then, perhaps later in the defining moments of the series because there's a cumulative effect when it comes to Manson's hits.

 

[RELATED: Complete Ducks vs. Predators series coverage]

 

In Game 1, the Predators won 3-2 in overtime. Some of the Ducks started slowly, a byproduct of their grueling seven-game second round against the Edmonton Oilers, but not Manson. He had two hits in the offensive zone and another in the defensive zone before the game was five minutes old, and tied teammate Nick Ritchie with a game-high five.

"I don't know if there's a guy that comes to the rink day in, day out and puts it on the line as much as he does," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "He's a true professional. Still young, cutting his teeth and [learning] the nuances of how to play every player.

"He's a physical defenseman and a big man that can skate. We think we're very fortunate to have him on our blue line. You'd have to classify him as our most physical player."

Manson, 25, appeared in one playoff game with the Ducks before this season. He adapted to the increased physical nature of the playoffs in the first round against the Calgary Flames and seemed to come of age in the second round.

"I felt good in the Edmonton series," Manson said. "I started to find my game. You start to figure out the team a little bit more and settle into the game. Each series gets faster and faster, so your game has to keep building. I was trying to build last night off the Edmonton series."

Video: EDM@ANA, Gm7: Talbot flashes leather to rob Manson

Manson saved his best for Game 7 against the Oilers. In the Ducks' 2-1 win at Honda Center on Wednesday, he had 11 hits, a Ducks playoff record, in 20:38.

"The guys told me after the second period that I had seven hits," Manson said. "It was something that came along with the game.

"I've said it before, there are some games where it just happens and it comes to you and you don't have to really go looking for it. I think it was one of those games."

Said defenseman Korbinian Holzer: "He's like the big tower back there, strong defensively, tough to play against. He flies a little bit under the radar for what he does, but I think people are noticing him more and more. He's the type of guy you go to war with."

Manson's progress has been guided by assistant coach Trent Yawney, who has been there for almost every moment of Manson's professional career.

In fact, Yawney was on hand before Manson took his first steps. Yawney was a Chicago Blackhawks teammate and roommate of Josh's father, Dave Manson, when Josh was born in 1991. Dave played in 1,103 NHL games.

"I remember when they brought him home," Yawney said. "Little did you know, 20-some years later, you'd be standing behind the bench and coaching the kid."

Manson played nine games for Yawney with Norfolk of the American Hockey League in 2013-14 and had one goal and 26 penalty minutes. The next season, when Yawney left for Anaheim, Manson had 12 points (three goals, nine assists) and 47 penalty minutes. His one playoff game with the Ducks was in 2016, Game 1 in the Western Conference First Round against the Predators in which he suffered an upper-body injury.

This spring, he has two assists in 12 games, has 43 hits and is averaging 20:27.

"He's come a long way in a short period of time," Yawney said. "A classic late bloomer. When I had him in Norfolk, after college, to where he is now there's been a steady, steady progression. Kudos to him … not easy when you have [Edmonton Oilers forward] Connor McDavid coming at you, Mach 2."

Carlyle was an assistant in Winnipeg when Dave Manson played for the Jets. It's clear Carlyle is enjoying coaching Generation Next.

"That's amazing about this game when you have ties to families and people you played with, you saw their children being born and now they're playing in the League," Carlyle said.

Players like Manson can't help but have a high hockey IQ from a lifelong exposure to the game.

"They've been around it," Carlyle said. "I can remember, [St. Louis Blues forward] Alex Steen, for example, was best friends with my oldest son Craig, and they were playing ball hockey in the hallways of Winnipeg Arena with mini-sticks.

"Hockey is still true to their hearts."

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