Ducks will try to play their type of game against Blackhawks

Ducks will try to play their type of game against Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, center, celebrates with teammatesAntoine Vermette, left, and Patrick Sharp after a win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 3, 2015. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

It's there to see in the players' hardened gazes, obvious to be heard in the coach's short retorts.

Fortified from painful recent playoff history and motivated to write a satisfying ending this time, the Ducks have reached their moment of truth in what should be a rugged, impassioned Western Conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks.

When the puck drops at noon Sunday for Game 1 at Honda Center, Anaheim intends to keep a sharp eye on a franchise that has won two of the last five Stanley Cup titles and is appearing in its third consecutive conference final.

Most important to the home team that scored only one goal in each of its three regular-season meetings against the Blackhawks is the pursuit of continuing the postseason habit of imposing its will.


"They're a little faster team, little more skilled, so it's going to be an Olympic challenge," Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen said in comparing Chicago to previous playoff foes Winnipeg and Calgary, who were dismissed with just one loss, in overtime.


"We've played two teams and succeeded playing them our way. We're going to have to do that again."

Chicago shrugged off Nashville's home-ice advantage to defeat the Predators in the first round, then swept Minnesota — setting up a nine-day layoff.

The Blackhawks lost defenseman Michal Rozsival to a fractured ankle in the Minnesota finale, but are still gifted at the blue line with members who helped limit opponents to fewer goals than all but one other NHL team.

Defenseman Duncan Keith and his forward teammate Patrick Kane lead the league with a plus-10 postseason rating.

Kane has seven goals and 13 assists after returning for the playoffs from a shoulder injury, and Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville has separated him from usual linemate, center Jonathan Toews, who has four goals and 11 points.

"They're two dynamic players, no matter who they're playing with," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "Two guys you have to be aware of."

Anaheim and Chicago have combined for nine conference-final appearances since 2003, but have never met in the postseason.

"You have to watch what [the Blackhawks] do, their style," Fowler said. "Chicago brings about a lot of challenges that the last couple of [playoff opponents] didn't. But you can only watch so much video. You have to … focus on yourself."

That point has obviously been hammered home by Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau, who when asked about Toews this week said tersely, "Good player, but we have good centermen too, [and] that's all I'm saying about him."

After hanging their 2012-13 and 2013-14 Pacific Division banners without anyone watching following a first-round exit to Detroit and a second-round Game 7 home loss to the Kings, the Ducks' management and player core, led by playoff assists leader Ryan Getzlaf, are eight wins from putting up a more substantial banner.

"We're here to win," Getzlaf said.

They've played like it by winning their first six playoff games, then eliminating Calgary in overtime Sunday.

"We've had our buildup, again," Getzlaf said of the Ducks' third consecutive extended layoff. "We've had to approach it almost like a football team where you have Day 1, Day 2, Day 3. You work on different things every day in preparation for a team. … We're prepared again. That's the big thing. Everyone knows their role. Everyone knows what they're doing going into this series, and now we're just going to play."

Anaheim's power play is executing at a league-best 31%; the second line of Matt Beleskey (five-game goal streak), center Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg (eight assists) has combined for 12 goals and 25 postseason points; and right wing Corey Perry leads the league with 15 points.

Perry missed two practice days this week after being out briefly Sunday because of a second-period knee injury, but said he feels "great" now.

"I've got no excuses," Perry said. "Everybody is ready for this to get going. It's going to be exciting. There's a lot of firepower on both sides."

The series will pivot, several Ducks said, based on who wins the puck possession battle and who outthinks the other.

"You need to be sharp over 60 minutes," Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm said. "Play your game, focus, be prepared for different stuff, adapt to it. We need to step it up every round. When we play good against a speed team like this, we slow them down by getting the pucks down low and forcing them there with good gaps."

Boudreau added he expects a different Ducks line or player to take on a more prominent role in this series, but remained mum as to whom he's referring.

He told third-line center Rickard Rakell to stay home from Saturday's practice because Rakell was ill. Boudreau said Rakell will play if he's feeling better Sunday.

"When we play the right ways and do the right things, we're confident we can beat any team we play," Boudreau said.

"Our will is strong. There's no doubt. That's what's going to make this a great series."

Twitter: @latimespugmire

Times staff writers Helene Elliott and Lisa Dillman contributed to this report.