The Ducks held an optional practice Tuesday as they prepared for the possible clincher in their first-round playoff series against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Defenseman Sami Vatanen, who missed the last two games because of an upper body injury, skated on Tuesday but his status remains day to day. Defenseman Cam Fowler, who suffered a knee injury on April 4, skated for the second straight day, spending 20 minutes on his own on the ice. However, his return remains uncertain.
Coach Randy Carlyle, who doesn’t reveal his starting goaltenders in advance of games, remained consistent on that score by not saying whether he would bring back John Gibson, who was yanked in the second period of Monday’s 5-4 overtime victory after giving up four goals on 16 shots, or start Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 16 shots in relief and earned the victory that gave the Ducks a 3-0 lead in the series. Gibson participated in Tuesday’s on-ice session but Bernier did not.
“Well, I’m going to pick one goalie,” Carlyle said, narrowing down the choices. “It’s going to be one of them. Have I made up my mind? Oh, yeah.”
He did say how important it was for Bernier to have had a solid performance in place of Gibson, who was victimized three times while the Flames were on power plays.
“He came in and calmed things down. His whole demeanor and the way he approached and played in the situation, he was a guy that settled everything down for us,” Carlyle said. “He made some big stops. He wasn’t rattled. He wasn’t scrambling. He didn’t do anything he hasn’t done for the last 20 games that he played for us. He just came in and played his game …. He did a heck of a job coming in and settling our group down.”
Bernier said after Monday’s game that he kept his poise by staying in the moment. “I’m just going shot by shot,” he said. “I could feel obviously that we were gaining momentum. They scored on a power play [Sam Bennett, to make it 4-1] and they were buzzing. The building was loud. We just chipped away. I think we found our game mid-second and we just kept pushing, pushing and we found a way to win.
“It’s playoffs. You’ve just got to keep working, keep doing the right thing, and we found a way. It’s tough to explain, but we know we have a good team and we came in between the third period and the OT and said, it’s up there, it’s up for grabbing, and we found a way.”
Whoever starts in goal will face a tough battle against a team that’s fighting to prolong its season, Carlyle said. “You always have to put yourself in the opposition’s position and you know you’re going to get their best,” Carlyle said. “Their pride, their own building, the fans — all of that is going to be on display, as it was [Monday] night in the first half of the hockey game.
“I would expect tomorrow night we’re going to see their best game of the series.”
If the Flames win, Game 5 will be played Friday at Honda Center, where Calgary has a 29-game losing streak in regular season and playoff games dating back to 2006.
The Ducks also announced they had signed left wing Giovanni Fiore to a three-year entry level contract. The 20-year-old had 52 goals and 90 points last season with Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.