The Ducks’ depth at center was a key factor in their first-round sweep of Winnipeg, with Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Rickard Rakell and Tomas Fleischmann contributing in various ways. Fleischmann will be replaced by Nate Thompson on Thursday, when the Ducks and Calgary Flames open their second-round playoff series, and Flames Coach Bob Hartley praised the Ducks’ centers when asked what Kesler has added since the Ducks acquired him in a trade with Vancouver.
“He’s a big body, a great centerman,” Hartley said after his team’s morning skate at Honda Center. “They’re probably one of the deepest teams at center. Kesler was a big part of the Ducks’ success against Winnipeg. He’s a great acquisition and definitely built for Western Conference playoff hockey.”
Forward Joe Colborne said Getzlaf and right wing Corey Perry will present the Flames with different problems than Vancouver’s Sedin twins posed in Calgary’s first-round triumph.
“They’re if not the best line in the league, they’re one of them,” Colborne said. “They’re going to get their chances. They’re going to control the puck and with those guys, you have to be patient. They’re going to cycle [the puck], they’re going to try and take pucks to the net. You have to be willing to kind of play them hard and play them as tough as you can, and when you finally do get the puck back, try and keep it away from them, because once they get a hold of that puck, they don’t give it away too easily.”
Colborne also expressed admiration for Getzlaf and said they worked out together for a while when Getzlaf played junior hockey in Calgary.
“I have so much respect for Getzlaf. I think he’s incredible and is if not the top, one of the top two or three centers in the league. He’s right up there,” Colborne said. “He’s got the experience, he’s got the size, he’s got the whole package. And he’s not afraid to be physical and take pucks to the net. Him and Perry together are real dangerous and that second line is playing real well, too. It’s going to be a tough task, but we have some pretty good depth ourselves and we’re excited for the challenge.”
The words “respect” and “Kesler” didn’t come up in the same sentence, but not because Colborne intended to insult him. Kesler is the kind of player teammates love but opponents hate to play against. “He’s a top player in this league as well, and we have to be physical on him,” Colborne said. “He’s one of the top two-way centers for a reason. He’s done a lot of good things, too, and watching that series [against Winnipeg] and doing our scouting report, they were one of the best lines if not the best line on the ice. It’s going to be a big challenge for us to make sure that if we can, shut those guys down. We need to figure out a way to get Kesler’s line under control, too.”
Kesler and Perry were jeered throughout the Ducks’ two games in Winnipeg, but said they drew energy from fans’ dislike. Might it make sense for Calgary fans to give those two players the silent treatment?
“I don’t think they’re going to be getting the silent treatment, judging from our building,” Colborne said, smiling. “That’s the fun of playoffs. As players, we love seeing that. We love the fans getting into it and being passionate. That’s what makes it fun.”