Rather than try to match the Kings’ defensive prowess, Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau is positioned to double down on his team’s potent scoring ability Thursday night in Game 3 of the NHL Western Conference semifinals at Staples Center.
With Anaheim trailing the series two games to none, the Ducks on Thursday morning promoted offensive-minded defenseman Sami Vatanen from minor-league Norfolk, and Boudreau said Vatanen (six goals, 15 assists in 48 regular-season games) could play.
“He’s an option,” Boudreau told reporters Thursday morning. “He brings more of an offensive game, if we decide to go that way. Power-play guy.”
The Ducks ranked second in the NHL with 266 regular-season goals, and have scored three times or more in half of their playoff games.
The Vatanen move follows Boudreau inserting forward Kyle Palmieri (14 goals, 17 assists) in place of rookie Emerson Etem, who was shipped out to join Norfolk in the American Hockey League playoffs in Newfoundland.
Additionally, Boudreau has kept defensive-minded forward Daniel Winnik on the bench, relying instead on hard-shooting Jakob Silfverberg.
In this series the Kings, who allowed the fewest goals of any NHL team during the regular season, rallied from a 2-1 deficit with seven seconds remaining to win Game 1 in overtime, then won, 3-1, Monday, with goalie Jonathan Quick making 36 saves.
“They’re not making it easy,” Boudreau said. “They’re a great team. That’s why they won a Stanley Cup two years ago, because they’re very good defensively. That’s not a very easy house to crack. We’re trying what we can do, and hopefully … they’ll work.”
Boudreau and the Ducks are seeking an early lead, saying they’re prepared for an intense opening 10 minutes, expecting the Kings to doggedly pursue a 3-0 series lead.
In the first round the Kings became only the fourth team in NHL history to recover from a 3-0 series deficit and advance.
The Kings have thus far kept Anaheim’s first-line stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry goal-less.
Kings defensemen Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin and Coach Darryl Sutter said they were keeping a sharp eye on the duo, given their talent.
“We can do a better job against Getzlaf’s line, I don’t know why people think they aren’t playing well,” Doughty said. “We need to spend more time in their zone.”
Sutter said, “Ryan Getzlaf, in this series, has outplayed us, we need to be better against Ryan Getzlaf.”
Vatanen, meanwhile, said the flight from Newfoundland lasted nine hours. He arrived in Southern California on Wednesday afternoon.
"Let's go and have some fun," the jovial Vatanen, 22, said. "I try to make some jokes with the boys, relax the feeling here. I hope I bring that and some energy."
Asked if the jokes went well, Vatanen cracked, "I think so, look at them, they're all smiling."