Ducks right wing Corey Perry — the man crawling off the ice Sunday in the second period of Game 5 against Calgary and later returning to score the series-clincher in overtime — was back at it Friday for the first time since all that high-level drama.
There he was at the team's practice facility, Anaheim ICE, with his usual linemates, captain and center Ryan Getzlaf and left wing Patrick Maroon. With his return and Sunday's Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks looming, Ducks fans could resume normal breathing patterns or quit fretting, at least momentarily.
And there is another reason to celebrate. Perry's 30th birthday is Saturday, closely following Getzlaf, who turned 30 on May 10. Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano had joked about getting Getzlaf a rocking chair. What's on Getzlaf's shopping list?
"Nothing," Getzlaf said. "The same thing he got me."
Said Perry: "He doesn't need anything. We'll leave it at that."
Someone suggested that Getzlaf just give Perry the puck.
"That's all he really wants," Getzlaf said.
Perry: "As long as we get some wins, I'll be happy."
The health of the NHL's leading playoff scorer is no small thing considering the magnitude of the moment, the Ducks entering the Western Conference finals for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
And although all the right things were being said about Perry's injured right leg this week, during the playoffs teams slip into super-secret stealth mode about the most mundane matters. Regarding the injury, Perry stayed on message, which really wasn't much of one. He said it was "getting better every day" and couldn't offer much more.
"It was great to get on the ice again," he said.
As grim as Perry's second-period collision with Flames center Matt Stajan looked — and Perry appeared to grab his right knee — the Ducks couldn't dwell on Perry's brief absence from the bench. Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau focused on making line adjustments. Left wing Matt Beleskey thought his teammate might be able to come back. But no one knew for sure.
"I was very concerned to see Pears down in that much pain," said Beleskey, who has scored once in each of the last five playoff games. "We know what type of guy he is and the way he can come back, and he did it in perfect Corey Perry type fashion, scoring the overtime winner."
Perry sat out most of December this season because of an injured knee.
"I know Pears, he's a tough kid," Getzlaf said. "I think a lot of times with him when his knee gets hit, he gets more scared than anything. When you go through knee injuries and those things throughout a season, it doesn't take much to jolt your memory back to what happened before.
"Luckily enough, he got hit where he did and he was fine."
The long break between rounds allowed Perry to rest, rehab and heal, and it appears he will get in two practice sessions before the series starts Sunday at noon at Honda Center.
It also afforded Boudreau the opportunity to tinker with the fourth line. One potential option would be the first playoff appearance of youngster Jiri Sekac, who worked with center Rickard Rakell and forward Emerson Etem on Friday.
Sekac, who was acquired from Montreal less than a week before the trade deadline in exchange for Devante Smith-Pelly, would give the lineup more speed against Chicago.
Boudreau is weighing the possibility even though Sekac has not played in more than a month; not since April 8 against Dallas.
"I'm just trying to get some combinations together … It is something that we're really considering even though he hasn't played," Boudreau said of Sekac.