LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Anaheim Ducks could be without three more injured regulars when they attempt to even their second-round series against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 on Saturday.
The Ducks might be dropping like flies, yet their depth and balance have been among their greatest strengths during the best season in franchise history.
If Mathieu Perreault, Matt Beleskey and goalie Frederik Andersen are all unable to play at Staples Center, the top-seeded Ducks have a sizable reserve of little-known talent ready to step into the spotlight against the playoff-tested Kings.
It’s not an ideal situation, but the Ducks feel they’re equipped to handle it.
“We have three guys on our team that are probably irreplaceable,” Ducks defenceman Ben Lovejoy said. “Other than that, we have a lot of guys that can step in and contribute.”
Anaheim has the star power of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne, but the Ducks are also fueled by lesser-known veterans like Andrew Cogliano, Daniel Winnik, Perreault and Lovejoy.
Casual hockey fans who go to bed before the West Coast NHL games might not know much about the homegrown Anaheim talents of Patrick Maroon, Sami Vatanen or John Gibson, but they’re likely to find out all about them if the Ducks keep moving forward against Los Angeles.
“Throughout the year, we’ve just had that depth in scoring,” Getzlaf said. “Years past, there was always a drop-off after the (top line). … Now, we can get goals and defence from everywhere.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau was coy about possible lineup changes for Game 4, again declining to name a starting goalie. Jonas Hiller played the final 9:58 of Anaheim’s 3-2 victory in Game 3 after Andersen injured his right leg, and the Ducks will recall Gibson—the most impressive goaltending prospect in hockey—from the AHL after he won three games for Anaheim late in the regular season.
While Boudreau decides on a lineup, the Ducks will stick to their plan to treat every playoff road game as a business trip—even when that trip is only 30 miles on a bus.
The Ducks are spending a few days at a downtown Los Angeles hotel during the “road” portion of the series, hoping two more days of room-service food and team meetings in empty conference rooms will keep them focused for Game 4.
“The playoff experience is fun to be a part of,” Getzlaf said. “And even when we’re just up the road like this, we try to make it as much like a normal road experience as possible. We’re creatures of habit.”
The Ducks realize the importance of maintaining the proper urgency against the post-season-tested Kings, who have won 31 playoff games in the last three years.
The Kings felt they played well at home, but they fell behind in the first period and couldn’t catch up. Los Angeles hadn’t trailed after a first period at any point during its six-game playoff winning streak, and the Kings struggled to crack the Anaheim defence in front of Andersen and Hiller.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that home ice hasn’t been much of an advantage in these local rivals’ first playoff series, but the Kings expect more from themselves at Staples Center in the post-season.
“It should be (an advantage). We’re comfortable here,” said Mike Richards, who scored with 30 seconds left in Game 3. “It’s nice playing in front of your home fans.
“I’m not sure what happened, why we didn’t execute as well as we could have. We’ve got to win games at home if you’re going to have success in the playoffs. They played well tonight, give them credit. We probably didn’t play as well as we needed to, and they are right back in it now.”