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Ducks say pressure isn't only on them

Heat is on Nashville, too, entering Game 7 on Wednesday

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks don't need the Nashville Predators to remind them where they are in this series.

The Ducks can summon Game 7 nightmares all by themselves.

But these are the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so Nashville forward James Neal did it anyway on the eve of Game 7, which is at Honda Center on Wednesday (10:p.m. ET: NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, FS-W, FS-TN). The Predators forced Game 7 by winning 3-1 on Monday.

The winner advances to the Western Conference Second Round to play the San Jose Sharks in a best-of-7 series that begins Friday.

"I think the pressure has been on them the whole series," Neal said. "Everyone picked them to win. We know what kind of team we have here in Nashville. We did everything all year to push ourselves to this point. Why not win one more game?"

Left unsaid, but certainly part of the equation, is that the Ducks have lost the past three Game 7s they have played, all at home, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Also left unsaid, but understood by Neal and others, is that Bruce Boudreau, the Anaheim coach, is 1-6 in Game 7 coaching the Ducks and Washington Capitals.

Neal didn't have to bring up those facts. The Ducks know them well. They have lived through the pain associated with them.

"I completely disagree with that," Anaheim forward Andrew Cogliano said of Neal's contention that all the pressure is on the Ducks for Game 7. "We were down 2-0 [in this series]. To say that there is no pressure on them, I don't agree with that. 

"Like any Game 7, there is pressure on both teams. We were down 2-0 and we fought our way back and we're in a Game 7 for the series."

Last season, Anaheim held a 3-2 series lead against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final. They lost the next two games and the Blackhawks went on to the win the Stanley Cup. In 2014, the Ducks had the Los Angeles Kings on the brink of elimination heading into Game 6. Anaheim lost twice and Los Angeles went on to win the Cup. In 2013, the Ducks led the Red Wings 3-2 in the first round, but Detroit sent top-seeded Anaheim home.

Four Ducks --- Cogliano, forwards Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf and defenseman Cam Fowler --- have been through all three Game 7 losses. For Cogliano and Fowler, the past was inescapable Tuesday as they stood in the locker room after a four-hour flight from Nashville, but they chose instead to focus on other parts of the Ducks' recent history.

For one, Anaheim opened the season 1-7-2, which seemingly put it out of contention in the loaded Pacific Division, before climbing back, first to respectability and then to the division crown. And, more recently, the Ducks trailed 2-0 in this series before rallying.

"If you told us after the first couple of games that we could be in a Game 7 in our building, we would take it," Fowler said. "It's been an extremely hard-fought series and both teams have laid it out on the line. But this is one of the reasons we worked so hard to try to get this home-ice advantage, so we're looking forward to a good opportunity for us tomorrow."

What they do with that opportunity will likely define the future of the franchise and these players.

Sure, that might be the pressure that Neal was trying to bring into the equation, but it is no different than what these Ducks have faced before.

Cogliano has seen it all in the past three years. 

Last season, the Blackhawks scored four unanswered goals in the first 34 minutes on the way to a 5-3 victory in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.

Two years ago, the Kings opened Game 7 of the second round with five straight goals in the first 35 minutes on the way to a 6-2 win. 

Three years ago, the underdog Red Wings scored three times in the first 34 minutes and held on to beat Anaheim 3-2.

Is there a lesson learned in those losses for the Ducks? Can they apply it Wednesday to counteract the pressure they will feel?

Yes, Cogliano said.

"Safe is going to get you nowhere," he said. "I think being safe … timid or hoping for something is going to get you absolutely where it has gotten us and that is where we lost the last couple of years. We have to be willing to outcompete them.

"Coming out and hoping for something or waiting for something to happen; you lose. I think a lot of guys have understood that over the last couple of years."

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