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Ducks cornerstone players face defining moment

by Curtis Zupke / NHL.com

ANAHEIM -- Ryan Getzlaf has embraced the big stage since early in his professional career.

He won the Stanley Cup at 22 as the Anaheim Ducks' second-line center in 2007. He helped Canada win gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and successfully defend it at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

But there has been a lull in Stanley Cup Playoff success, and how Getzlaf responds in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks at Honda Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) will be the latest chapter of his legacy and that of Anaheim's other cornerstone players.

Getzlaf is coming off probably his worst game of the playoffs, a 5-2 loss in Game 6. He was on the ice for three Chicago goals and lost 11 of 15 faceoffs. Afterward, he owned up to it.

"Anyone who read my quotes after the last game, I obviously wasn't happy with myself and the way that I carried myself throughout that game," Getzlaf said. "I've played in many big games. It's a matter of drawing back on things, and it's getting back to doing the things that we do well. That includes myself, going out there and just playing, not worrying so much about line matchups and where I am on the ice, those kind of things. It's just a matter of going out and playing and pushing things forward."

Longtime linemate Corey Perry has literally been alongside Getzlaf throughout his NHL career and said he knows how Getzlaf will respond when Anaheim attempts to get back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since that 2007 win.

"He's our leader, and when he takes a lot of blame, normally the next game is one of his better games, and that's what we're looking for," Perry said.

Getzlaf, Perry and defenseman Francois Beauchemin are the holdovers from the 2007 team; Beauchemin had a brief stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs in between.

Anaheim's makeup has changed since 2007, and the leadership has shifted from Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu to Getzlaf and Perry, who have led the Ducks statistically and figuratively through their longest playoff run since they lifted the Cup.

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau has been around the two long enough to offer that they are built for this type of game.

"Well, I can only guess and hope that the response is that this is why they've won a Stanley Cup in the past, two Olympic medals, a World Junior Championship; draw on those experiences and play the game of their lives," said Boudreau, Ducks coach since November 2011.

Getzlaf and Perry were asked Friday about writing a different ending to their story after losing Game 7 at home the past two seasons (Los Angeles Kings, 6-2, 2014; Detroit Red Wings, 3-2, 2013).

"It's happened too often the last couple of years," Perry said. "But you win [Saturday] night, and people start talking about something different. We're not focused on the past, we're focused on [Saturday] night, and starting something different. It's one game to go play for the Stanley Cup. It doesn't get any more exciting than that, and that's what we were talking about today: Go play your game. Do what you normally do."

Anaheim was notably nervous in its Game 7 failures the past two seasons. On Friday, the Ducks had a spirited practice and were loose at the podium. Center Ryan Kesler, a Michigan-born Ohio State alum, gave a reporter flak for wearing a Buckeyes cap. Getzlaf and defenseman Cam Fowler were asked about where they played out their Game 7 fantasies as kids.

"Back in Regina, there's a rink on every corner," Getzlaf said of his hometown. "It's almost like Starbucks. I played a lot of games as a kid. Most of them were probably out front of my house on the street."

Fowler said it played out in the all-concrete basement of his home in Farmington Hills, Mich.

"I'd say 10 seconds left, breakaway, Game 7," Fowler said. "If I missed, I'd do it over again until I scored."

The Ducks seem to be running out of do-overs for their Game 7 losses. They'd rather not spend the offseason talking about another one.

"It's not about X's and O's anymore," Perry said. "It's about out-competing, out-willing, wanting it more than them … you want to go out there and you want to prove yourself. Yeah, it hasn't gone the way we wanted it to in the last few Game 7s. But I think, you know, this is a different team. There's different pieces to the puzzle now. We've got to go out and we've got to prove that."

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