BLACKHAWKS at DUCKS
TV: NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Game 1 of best-of-7 series
The Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks, two of the NHL's most successful teams in the past decade, will meet for the first time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they take the ice for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday at Honda Center.
Both teams are eager to get back to playoff hockey after long breaks. The Blackhawks have had nine days off since completing a second-round sweep of Minnesota Wild on May. 7. The Ducks haven't played since closing out the Calgary Flames in five games on May 10.
"It's great to have a rest, but the boys are anxious," said Anaheim right wing Corey Perry, who used the downtime to heal after sustaining an apparent leg injury in Game 5 but returning to score the series-winning goal in overtime. "I think everybody's ready to just get going again. I know the crowd [Sunday] is going to be exciting. We love playing there and we love being in front of our fans, and they do give us a boost."
The Ducks are used to long breaks. They had five days off between the end of the regular season and Game 1 of the first round, and eight days off between the first and second rounds. They've conducted thorough and energized practices, from conditioning drills early in the week to systems overview the past two days.
"It's been a long time coming," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "Obviously we've had breaks toward the end of the year [and] during each of the playoffs. It's much-needed. You have time to rest your body, but we've done two of the last three days, preparation, and now we're just waiting for [Sunday]."
Chicago arrived in Anaheim on Saturday after more than a week at home. The Blackhawks are ready for a game.
"It's a great opportunity for us to go up against a great team," forward Patrick Kane said. "I think it's a new challenge for us -- we've never faced [them] in the playoffs, so that's exciting for us too. I think after these 10 days, or whatever it's been, it's going to be exciting to play a game that means so much."
The series packs plenty of star power, particularly down the middle with centers Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler on Anaheim and Jonathan Toews on Chicago. Getzlaf and Toews, two-time Olympic teammates with Canada, might go against each other at some point.
"He works hard and he tries to throw that team on his back a lot of times, so we're going to have to go out there and outwork him," Getzlaf said. "He's a guy that works hard, goes to the net hard … he's a passionate kid. He plays hard all the time. The one thing with Toews -- he loves hockey. He loves the game. When he's out there, he's on a mission a lot of times."
The Blackhawks (five) and Ducks (four) have the most conference final appearances since 2003, so though they've never played each other in the playoffs, there is a lot of respect on both sides.
"They have some players on their team that have won not only Stanley Cups, but Olympics as well," Kane said. "It seems like a team that knows how to win … it's a dangerous team. By no means are they ever out of a game. We've got to be aware of those situations throughout the game."