WINNIPEG – The Anaheim Ducks are playing the villain's role Monday, but they are just as excited to be part of a special moment in this city's history as the Winnipeg Jets are.
Having a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series certainly helps the Ducks appreciate the moment a little bit, but Game 3 on Monday (9 p.m. ET: NHLN-US, NBCSN [JIP], SN, TVA Sports, PRIME) will not be taken for granted, especially stepping into what will be an extremely hostile MTS Centre.
Still, the return of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to this city after a 19-year absence is special and the Ducks are looking forward to it.
"It's going to be awesome," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "This is what playoffs is all about when you get all the fans against you, all the fans chanting. It's a good time."
The significance of the game, aside from the fact the Ducks have an opportunity to take a commanding 3-0 series lead, is not lost on coach Bruce Boudreau. He was also behind the bench of the Washington Capitals when they returned to the playoffs after an absence of three seasons in 2008, but this is on a whole other level, and he knows it.
"I'm pretty focused in on our team," Boudreau said. "But I read the morning papers, I watch TV, we know it's a pretty big deal in Winnipeg for the first time in 19 years to have an NHL playoff game here. We also know how rabid the fans are about their hockey and how they love their hockey.
"I don't think that goes unnoticed, but in the whole scheme of things we're more focused on what we're doing. We're happy for the city, we're happy for everything as far as the growth of the game and what hockey in Winnipeg has done. But we're more focused on what we have to accomplish today."
The Ducks know the Jets will make a ferocious push to start the game, fueled not only by the 15,016 fans in the building but also the desperation of the situation.
The white t-shirts the Jets have been selling for their traditional whiteout say "A Storm is Coming" and the Ducks just hope to survive it off the start.
"We know they're going to be fired up, the crowd's going to be into it. They've been waiting a long time for this opportunity. It's going to be loud. We're going to know that," Ducks right wing Corey Perry said. "They're going come out just the way they did in the first couple of games, came out hard in Game 1 and Game 2. We've just got to weather the storm and use our emotions to our advantage."
Here are the projected lineups:
Patrick Maroon - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Kesler - Kyle Palmieri
Andrew Cogliano - Rickard Rakell - Jakob Silfverberg
Emerson Etem - Tomas Fleischmann - Tim Jackman
Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler - Simon Despres
Clayton Stoner - Sami Vatanen
Scratched: Korbinian Holzer, Jiri Sekac, James Wisniewski
Injured: John Gibson (upper body), Nate Thompson (upper body), Chris Wagner (upper body)
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik
Drew Stafford - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Mathieu Perreault - Adam Lowry - Lee Stempniak
Jiri Tlusty - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Adam Pardy - Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Scratched: Ben Chiarot, Andrew Copp, Keaton Ellerby, TJ Galiardi, Matt Halischuk, Jay Harrison, Eric O'Dell, Anthony Peluso
Injured: Grant Clitsome (upper body), Paul Postma (lower body)
Status report: With Wagner out, chances appear good that Fleischmann will play for the first time in the series. Boudreau said Fleischmann already played center for him in Washington and that he would be capable of doing the job. "He played three months for me in the middle in Washington. He anchored the second line, which was [Alexander] Semin and Brooks Laich at the time, and he did very well. So that's an option. We've got a couple of options there."
Who's hot: Maroon is the only Ducks player who scored a point in each of the first two games of the series…Andersen has stopped 53 of the 56 shots he's faced.