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Maroon has found a home on Ducks' top line

by Corey Masisak / NHL.com

CHICAGO -- Third forward on the Anaheim Ducks' top line should be one of the most coveted roles in the NHL.

Playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry almost guarantees a player the chance to rack up scoring chances. The Ducks have used a rotating group of players in that role since coach Bruce Boudreau arrived, but Patrick Maroon has locked down the job during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's tough playing with those guys," Maroon said. "When guys get up there, they get that nervousness about playing with two of the best players in the League. Sometimes people think it is all easy and fun. It's a hard spot to fill, because first off you're playing with the two best players and you've got to work hard. You've got to find a way to get chemistry with those two. I think we're starting to feel it a little bit here in the playoffs, so we just have to continue to do that."

Maroon spent the most time with Getzlaf and Perry during the regular season and nearly twice as much as the next-closest forward, but Matt Beleskey, Kyle Palmieri and Devante Smith-Pelly each played on the top line at different points.

Dustin Penner returned for a second tour of duty with the Ducks last season, and spent the most time with Getzlaf and Perry, reuniting the old "Kid Line" from the early part of their careers. He was traded before the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline, and a combination of Maroon, Smith-Pelly, Beleskey, Palmieri, and Teemu Selanne ended up playing with them.

Boudreau has given other players shorter stints with the Ducks' dynamic duo. He does always seem to come back to Maroon.

"Well, a) he's been playing really well, [and] b) sometimes during the season, there's moments of inconsistency," Boudreau said. "Sometimes he needs to go back into the fourth line, then he gets going again, we move him up. We knew all along the best fit was probably him. But 82 games is a long time. You got to sometimes bring 'em along."

Maroon has struggled with consistency throughout his career. He spent two full seasons and part of a third with the American Hockey League affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers before being traded to the Ducks. It was five full seasons in the AHL before Maroon became an NHL regular in 2013-14.

He had nine goals and 34 points in 71 games this season, but has five goals and eight points in 12 postseason games. Maroon scored the opening goal in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, a 2-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks that gave Anaheim a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Game 4 is at United Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"Obviously Bruce believes in me and gives me the confidence to play in that situation," Maroon said. "I think we're just big. We're a big line. When we are below the top of the circles, we fit as a line pretty well. With me and Perry down low, and me going in on the forecheck and hitting guys and creating space for [Getzlaf] to work his magic with his passing and me and Perry trying to find ways to score goals, I think it's been a really good fit.

"We don't want to play in the defensive zone. We're too big and strong down low to handle. When we're on top of our game and we're moving and we're throwing pucks at the net and we're doing all the dirty work I think our line is really successful."

Here are the projected lineups:

DUCKS

Patrick Maroon - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Matt Beleskey - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg

Andrew Cogliano - Nate Thompson - Kyle Palmieri

Jiri Sekac - Rickard Rakell - Emerson Etem

Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin

Cam Fowler - Simon Despres

Clayton Stoner - Sami Vatanen

Frederik Andersen

John Gibson

Scratched: Korbinian Holzer, James Wisniewski, Chris Wagner, Tomas Fleischmann, Tim Jackman, Jason LaBarbera

Injured: None

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Bryan BickellBrad RichardsPatrick Kane

Patrick SharpAntoine VermetteTeuvo Teravainen

Andrew DesjardinsMarcus KrugerAndrew Shaw

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Johnny OduyaKyle Cumiskey

Kimmo TimonenBrent Seabrook

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom, David Rundblad, Daniel Carcillo, Antti Raanta

Injured: Michal Rozsival (fractured ankle)

Status report: Boudreau said he is not planning to make any lineup changes.

Who's hot: Getzlaf has 12 points in his past eight games.

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