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5 Keys: Flames at Ducks, Game 1

Calgary has lost 27 straight games at Honda Center; Anaheim looks to fill void left by defenseman Cam Fowler's injury

by Dan Arritt / Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks will try for their 28th consecutive victory against the Calgary Flames at Honda Center in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, PRIME).

The Ducks went 11-0-3 over the final four weeks of the regular season to clinch their fifth consecutive Pacific Division title after trailing the San Jose Sharks by nine points on March 14.

Calgary went 13-1-1 from Feb. 15 to March 19 to help secure the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, reaching the postseason for the second time in the past eight seasons.

Here are 5 keys for Game 1:


1. The streak

The Flames have lost the past 25 regular-season games and five playoff games at Honda Center. They haven't won here in nearly 11 years.

"We not living on anything we've done in the past," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.

Though each side has downplayed the streak, it's a storyline that will continue to grow as long as it continues. Stealing home-ice advantage is the biggest motivating factor for Calgary, and four of five NHL teams accomplished that goal on Wednesday.

If the Flames can find a way to take a lead into the second intermission, they should be in good shape. They were 33-0-1 this season when leading entering the third period for an NHL-leading .971 winning percentage in that situation.

Video: CGY@ANA: Eaves finishes Getzlaf's crafty faceoff shot


2. Controlling emotions

The Ducks and Flames were the two most penalized teams in the League during the regular season. Their last game on April 4 erupted with immense emotion after Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler injured his knee on an open-ice hit by Flames defenseman Mark Giordano.

The sides combined for 106 penalty minutes after Fowler was injured early in the third period, including two 10-minute misconduct and three game misconduct penalties. Players and coaches said the team that can avoid penalties after the whistle should have an edge. 

"Their whole team plays hard and they play physical and they're all really skilled," Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk said. "We have to try and counter that with our team speed and skill and not back down from them, and play them physical as well, but be smart."

Video: ANA@CGY: Frolik finds twine with nifty deflection


3. Filling in for Cam Fowler

Fowler's absence for at least the first four games of the series will place increased responsibilities on the Ducks' remaining defensemen. 

Carlyle is hoping Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm can fill some of the void left by Fowler, Anaheim's top-scoring defenseman, particularly on special teams. The Ducks also will lean on rookies Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore more than they expected a month ago.

Kevin Bieksa, who at 35 is Anaheim's oldest top-six defenseman by 10 years, might face the biggest challenge from speedy young Flames forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Tkachuk.

"We want to push the pace," Giordano said.

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


4. Faceoff favorite

The Ducks were the League's top faceoff team during the regular season (54.7 percent). Among the NHL players who took at least 1,000 draws, Anaheim forward Antoine Vermette had the second-best win percentage (62.3) and teammate Ryan Kesler was sixth (57.4).

The Ducks have been creative on the faceoff recently, twice shooting the puck directly at the opposing goalie off the drop while another player moved into position to score off a rebound.

The ability to score off set plays is even more crucial in tightly defended playoff games.


5. Goaltender matchup

The Ducks enter the playoffs with not one hot goalie, but two. John Gibson missed 15 games during February and March with lower-body injuries, and backup Jonathan Bernier went 11-2-2 in his absence. 

Gibson returned to make three starts in April and saved 97 of 101 shots. He finished fourth in the NHL in save percentage (.924) and goals-against average (2.22).

Flames goalie Brian Elliott finished tied for 29th in save percentage (.910) and 22nd in GAA (2.55). In his past eight games, his save percentage was .908 and his GAA was 2.87.

Video: CHI@ANA: Gibson collects 37 saves to shut out Hawks


Flames projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau -- Sean Monahan -- Micheal Ferland

Matthew Tkachuk -- Mikael Backlund -- Michael Frolik

Kris Versteeg -- Sam Bennett -- Alex Chiasson

Lance Bouma -- Matt Stajan -- Troy Brouwer

Mark Giordano -- Dougie Hamilton

TJ Brodie - Michael Stone

Matt Bartkowski -- Deryk Engelland

Brian Elliott

Jon Gillies

Scratched: Curtis Lazar, Freddie Hamilton, Rasmus Andersson, Dennis Wideman

Injured: Chad Johnson (lower body)


Ducks projected lineup

Rickard Rakell -- Ryan Getzlaf -- Patrick Eaves

Andrew Cogliano -- Ryan Kesler -- Jakob Silfverberg

Ondrej Kase -- Antoine Vermette -- Corey Perry

Chris Wagner -- Nate Thompson -- Logan Shaw

Hampus Lindholm -- Brandon Montour

Sami Vatanen -- Kevin Bieksa

Shea Theodore -- Josh Manson

John Gibson

Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: Jared Boll, Clayton Stoner, Korbinian Holzer, Nick Ritchie 

Injured: Cam Fowler (lower body)


Status report

Johnson returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury on his first save against the Ducks on April 4, but Gillies will back up Elliott in Game 1, Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said.


Who's hot

Gaudreau has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in his past 11 games, and four points (one goal, three assists) in five games against the Ducks this season. ... Monahan has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his past 11 games. ... Versteeg has six points (two goals, four assists) in a four-game point streak. ... Getzlaf has seven points (one goal, six assists) in a five-game point streak, 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) in his past 18 games and six assists in five games against the Flames this season. ... Eaves has four points (four goals, one assist) in a five-game point streak. ... Kesler has eight points (two goals, six assists) in his past nine games, and nine points (four goals, five assists) in five games against Calgary this season.

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