Greetings from Calgary, where you never know what kind of weather you’ll get — and what you do get can change quickly.
It has been relatively warm and there’s no snow, always a good thing.
The Ducks, who have lost two straight games, had an optional morning skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome in preparation for facing the Flames on Wednesday night. John Gibson was the first goaltender off the ice, the usual indication of which goalie will start. He was in net for the Ducks’ 6-3 victory over the Flames on Feb. 20 at Calgary. Karri Ramo was expected to start for Calgary and face the Ducks for the first time this season.
Injured defenseman Sami Vatanen and left wing Matt Beleskey will not play Wednesday, according to Coach Bruce Boudreau. He said Tuesday that one or both might return on Friday, when this trip concludes in St. Paul, Minn., but he said it was likely he’d wait to restore them to the lineup when the Ducks return home to face Nashville on Sunday.
Although coaches like to get their lines and defense pairs set in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, Boudreau has been unable to do that with Vatanen and Beleskey sidelined. He’d like to get things set as quickly as he can. Or as set as things ever get with Boudreau, who likes to tinker with his lines.
“Soon as we get healthy. I think we’re getting close now,” he said. “It’s always [set] at the start of the game. The course of the game will [influence] whether you switch one. If we’re not playing well and I see one guy not going on a line I’ll insert somebody else. But I think other than Matt Beleskey our forward lines are pretty set. I don’t know where we’re going to insert him yet. Same with Sami Vatanen.
“But I’d certainly like it to be done sooner than later. I don’t want to wait until the last two games. I’d like to be able to get into the last 10 games of the season with the team that you’re going to probably start the playoffs with.”
Defenseman Francois Beauchemin said it shouldn’t hurt the Ducks that they’re unable to set their lineup now.
“I think every team has a couple of injuries still at this time of year. Some have bigger ones than others,” he said. “We just have to go with the guys that are playing.
“Everybody knows the game plan. We all know what we have to do. It’s just a matter of executing it every night.”
He also said the team has adjusted well to the many new players added in trades leading up to last week’s NHL trade deadline.
“So far, I’ll tell you what, it’s been pretty good. They’ve been playing really well and they adapted really fast to our system,” he said. “That’s always a big key to adding new guys. We’ve just got to make sure we keep doing what we’re doing.”
'Character' defines Ducks, Flames: Flames Coach Bob Hartley, one of the more chatty coaches around the league, was effusive in his praise of the Ducks after his own team's morning skate.
"Built for the playoffs. Big size," he said. "You try to find weaknesses on that team you'd better wake up early in the morning. They have depth all over the forward lines, the blue line and two great, young goalies. Look at their record. We're approaching year-end and I think they've been one of the best teams and one of the most consistent teams, and you don't do this by luck. You do this because you have character."
Character has been a strong point for the Flames, who have earned the most points in the NHL in games they've trailed after the first period (27 points) or after the second period (23 points). They've staged some impressive comebacks to stay in the West playoff race.
"We’ve never had an easy game against these guys and I don’t think we ever will," Boudreau said.