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Round 2

Cam Fowler close to returning for Ducks in second round

Injured defenseman might play Game 1 against Oilers; Sami Vatanen unlikely

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler went through another full practice and is optimistic he will be ready for Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

Another injured Ducks defenseman, Hampus Lindholm, expressed similar optimism after practice Tuesday. 

Game 1 of the best-of-7 series is at Honda Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Fowler missed the last two games of the regular season and the first-round sweep of the Calgary Flames after injuring his knee April 4. Lindholm was not involved in a full practice for a couple of days with an undisclosed ailment following that Stanley Cup Playoff series. A third injured Ducks defenseman, Sami Vatanen (upper body), appears less likely than Fowler and Lindholm to be ready for the start of this series.

 

[RELATED: Complete Ducks vs. Oilers series coverage]

 

Fowler was paired with rookie defenseman Brandon Montour at practice, and Lindholm was with Josh Manson. One hint Vatanen may not be ready was that he was often paired in drills with Clayton Stoner, who hasn't played since Nov. 15.

Fowler was injured in a knee-on-knee collision with Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, and the recovery time was said to be 2-6 weeks. Fowler said he is continuing to trend in the right direction and there were no restrictions on him.

So, if it were up to him, would it be a "Yes" for Game 1?

"Based on how my body is feeling, yeah, it would be," Fowler said. "I feel strong, feel like I put myself through all sorts of game situations. The best you can do without actually playing and happy with how it's responding. 

"… If there were even any questions, I wouldn't be where I am right now."

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said the decision is up to the player once he is cleared by the medical staff.

"You ask the individual: 'Are you ready to play?'" Carlyle said. "And I mean, ready to play. I'm not talking about two minutes and see you later, or five minutes and one period or two periods. We mean a commitment to play 60 minutes, and that's the question we ask."

The Ducks were able to defeat the Flames without Fowler and Vatanen, who played in Game 1. The Oilers are a different challenge, with NHL scoring leader Connor McDavid and linemates Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon, who started his NHL career with Anaheim.

Fowler (24:50), Lindholm (22:26) and Vatanen (21:39) led the Ducks in ice time in the regular season. The absence of any of them for an extended period could be costly against the Oilers.

"You want to have your top guys, for sure," Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "We were able to do a job, get it done, and have guys step up and play bigger roles. Throughout the course of the playoffs, there's going to be injuries. Every team is going to have injuries.

"Sometimes one or two key injuries ruins a team's playoff chances. … If you are able to weather the storm for some guys, and get them back, those are the teams that make it far."

Bieksa said he thought there were similarities between the Ducks and Oilers.

"They roll their six [defensemen] pretty good too, just from watching a few games," he said. "I think you have to in the West and in the playoffs because you need to spread the minutes around. You have to trust every pairing out against every line. It'll be a deep series for sure."

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