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Nick Ritchie set to return for Ducks against Flames

Forward back from suspension, will add muscle to Anaheim lineup for Game 2 on Saturday

by Dan Arritt / Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks anticipate their Western Conference First Round series against the Calgary Flames will become more physical, and they'll welcome back one of the NHL's biggest hitters when forward Nick Ritchie returns from a two-game suspension for Game 2 at Honda Center on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-W).

Ritchie was suspended for roughing Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival on April 6. Ritchie missed the regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday and the 3-2 victory by the Ducks in Game 1 of this series on Thursday.

Ritchie was eighth in the NHL in hits during the regular season with 247, and his 14 goals were the most among the top 12 players in the League in hits.

"In a physical series, we think that he has the ability to grind, has the ability to go to the net, he can be a physical presence," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said after practice Friday. "We feel fortunate that he's coming back into the lineup."

Before his suspension, Ritchie had been playing left wing on a line with center Antoine Vermette and right wing Corey Perry. Ondrej Kase filled that role the past two games. Kase was recalled from San Diego on April 5 to fill in for Nate Thompson, who missed the game against Chicago with an upper-body injury.

Kase, at 6-foot, 180 pounds, is a much different player than Ritchie, who is 6-2, 232.

"[Ritchie] is a big, strong guy," Carlyle said. "There's no hiding the fact when you have that type of power forward, young player, energetic, will be on the body. … If he doesn't stay on the body, he's not effective, simple as that."

Video: ANA@VAN: Ritchie deflects Manson's shot into twine

Ritchie, 21, said the Ducks want to "ramp it up even more" in Game 2 at home, where the Ducks have won the past 28 games against the Flames.

"I'm looking forward to contributing and getting back in there," Ritchie said.

Ritchie said the key is playing hard but under control, something the Ducks accomplished in Game 1.

"There's a lot of emotion with these two teams," he said. "We got the first taste of it and we handled it really well in the first game, and that's something that needed to happen."

The Ducks finished second in the NHL with 2,146 hits during the regular season; the Flames were 26th (1,550). Calgary outhit Anaheim 33-30 in Game 1.

"That's the way we play," Ritchie said. "We get in on the forecheck. We grind teams down and take the puck to the net and hope good things happen."

Carlyle also provided an update on defenseman Cam Fowler, who sustained a knee injury against the Flames in their final regular-season game April 4. Carlyle said a medical assessment Tuesday showed "things are moving along rapidly." Fowler was estimated to be out 2-6 weeks.

"We think, and we're crossing our fingers and toes, that he will be skating within the next week," Carlyle said. "That's being optimistic, and that's the way we always are with injuries to players."

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