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Cam Fowler has Ducks energized for Game 5 against Predators

Defenseman's strong performance in Game 4 gives Anaheim emotional boost

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- When Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler sustained a right knee injury against the Calgary Flames and had to be helped off the Honda Center ice on April 4, it seemed as though it would be the lasting image of Fowler until the fall.

Not so.

The image was replaced by Fowler's stellar all-around performance in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday. The Ducks won 3-2 in overtime on a Corey Perry goal at 10:25, tying the best-of-7 series 2-2.

Game 5 is here on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

 

[RELATED: Complete Ducks vs. Predators series coverage]

 

If Game 4 was not Fowler's best playoff performance for the Ducks it belonged in the conversation, pleasing the pundits, the purists and the advanced statistics crowd. Fowler played 28:10, had four blocked shots -- both team highs -- had three shots on goal and set up Rickard Rakell's goal at 11:30 in the first period with a dynamic stretch pass.

"The game has changed dramatically in the favor of the skill set of players like Cam Fowler -- puck moving, skating, free-flowing or join the rush, puck recovery," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said on Friday. "All of that has probably been a huge, huge change from [the] traditional.

"You still need some meat on the back end, but if you notice the teams that are playing the up-tempo style, their D-men are involved in probably every rush."

The assist was Fowler's 27th in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, moving him into second place among Ducks defensemen. Francois Beauchemin, who left the Ducks and signed a free agent contract with the Colorado Avalanche following the 2015 season, is No. 1 with 29.

"We tried really hard [Thursday] to work on our gap control so that we didn't give their skilled forwards time to make plays, which we thought we did too much of in Game 3," Fowler said.

"It might have been just a loose puck off something like that, off a turnover. And everyone was going for a change and I was going to go set up behind the net and just keep control of the puck. But I saw [Rakell] standing there at the blue line. And that's a generally simple play for a D-man to make when you see a guy standing alone. 

"And he made the rest of the play with the shot. … That was a heck of a play by him."

Video: NHL Now: Jon Morosi on Ducks' young defensive corps

Fowler missed the first round against the Flames after sustaining the injury in a knee-on-knee collision with Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano with three games remaining in the regular season. He resumed skating during the Flames series and was back in the lineup April 26 for Game 1 against the Edmonton Oilers in the second round. 

Fowler was a minus-2 in his first game back and has not been a minus-2 since. This spring, he has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 11 playoff games.

It's easy to forget he was out for a little more than three weeks, missed the first round, and came back when the stakes were considerably higher, in the heat of the playoff battle.

The Ducks stayed away from the rink after Game 3 in Nashville and their renewed energy was evident in Game 4, especially with Fowler.

"[Thursday], specifically, was his 'A' game," Carlyle said. "The most important part, for me, was that Cam can't get frustrated. He has a high level of expectation of what he needs to do and what his contribution is with our group.

"We lean on him a lot. The power play is one area that he takes pride in and he takes it personally when it doesn't work. He can get frustrated in those situations. So it's up to us to manage that and understand.

"Coming off the knee injury -- he's never had to wear a brace before. All those things are hurdles he has to get over right now."

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