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Top-seeded Ducks know what's at stake against Stars

by Curtis Zupke

STARS (40-31-11) at DUCKS (54-20-8)


Last 10: Dallas 6-4-0; Anaheim 7-2-1

Season series: The Dallas Stars won two of the three games, the last a 2-0 victory on Feb.1, which was the first time Anaheim was shut out since March 27, 2013. The other two games were each 6-3 scores.

Big story: All eyes will be on the Ducks and coach Bruce Boudreau, who has a history of three first-round exits, all as the higher-seeded team. This might turn out to be a long series, but Anaheim needs to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win to allay panic.

Team Scope:

Ducks: Anaheim finished the regular season on a 9-2-1 run, but its starting goalie was up in the air until Boudreau selected rookie Frederik Andersen to go in Game 1.

Andersen will make his NHL postseason debut.

"I just think, right now, Andersen's played the best," Boudreau said Wednesday. "He gives us the best chance to win, so he'll be the one starting. It doesn't mean he'll be starting Game 2, but he's starting Game 1."

Anaheim finished the regular season with its best record in history and set season records for points (116), wins (54) and goals (263). The Ducks also had 26 comeback wins, the most in the NHL since 2005-06, but it won't matter if they can't get out of the Western Conference First Round.

Boudreau is aware of the importance of this series after losing to the Detroit Red Wings in the first round last season.

"I think we're ready," Boudreau said. "We're prepared. They've been playing all year for this, and we know we're playing a really good opponent that's beaten us twice already this year. But I think we'll make it a series."

Stars: Dallas clinched a playoff spot last Friday and took Monday off, so it should be refreshed to start the playoffs. The Stars are almost fully healthy for their first postseason appearance in six years.

Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said the run-up to Game 1 will probably be beneficial for his younger players.

"We've had a tough road to get here, and there hasn't been a lot of breathing room," Ruff said. "The playoffs are about getting the job done in a short period of time. So I think some of our young guys have used this stretch as a hardening process to get ready for the playoffs."

Each team has dynamic forwards with Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and Dallas' Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and the series is expecting to see a lot of scoring chances. Anaheim has had trouble with speedy teams and that could favor Dallas.

"We feel we can skate with them," Ruff said. "We feel that they've got a pair of guys here that have had a dynamic year and we have a pair that have had a dynamic year. I think the back end stacks up the same. I think the depth and speed of the forwards is the same. We play a fairly similar style."

Who's hot: Ducks forward Matt Beleskey has three goals and an assist in his past three games. Forward Patrick Maroon has five goals and seven assists in his past 12 games. Perry had six goals and four assists in his final eight regular-season games. … Benn has four goals and four assists in his past five games. Seguin had five goals and eight points in his final eight games.

Injury report: Ducks defenseman Mark Fistric (lower body) is on a conditioning stint in the American Hockey League. Forward Tim Jackman (hand) is out. … Stars forward Ray Whitney (lower body) is expected to be available. Defenseman Brenden Dillon (lower body) remains day to day.

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