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Hockey

Some Ducks youngsters face their first NHL Game 7, but they’ve already known pressure

Brandon Montour had to think back awhile to the last time he played a Game 7. It’s been so long, and it didn’t occur on ice but on a grass field.

“Junior lacrosse,” Montour said. “I’ve been in a few there. I was fortunate to be on a lot of good lacrosse teams.”

Ducks teammate Josh Manson also had to think way back to his last Game 7.

“Maybe juniors?” Manson said, referring to his junior hockey days. “I think we made it to the third round in juniors.”

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For as much experience as the Ducks have from Game 7s each of the past four seasons, all losses, Wednesday’s series-deciding Game 7 against the Edmonton Oilers at Honda Center will be a first for several young players.

Defensemen Montour, Manson and Shea Theodore and forward Nick Ritchie will all play their first Game 7 in the NHL. So will Ondrej Kase if he gets the call for a one-off game to decide who moves on to the Western Conference final against the Nashville Predators.

Montour said he talked to Theodore about it, and that called forth their boyhood dreams. Montour always pretended to be his favorite player, Steve Yzerman.

“You play road hockey in the street when you’re a kid and you’re playing late at night,” Montour said. “You’re picturing playing in a Game 7, you know? You don’t really want to be in it. You want to have the series over … but we’ve got to be ready to go.”

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Most of the Ducks’ younger players already have experienced enough intense swings of playoff hockey that the pressure of a Game 7 might not be as big a task. Their series against Edmonton has had the biggest playoff comeback in Ducks history and their worst loss, in Games 5 and 6, respectively.

Manson said the timeworn approach of controlling emotions applies, especially at the start.

“It’s finding that balance, because if you try to do too much, you’re working in reverse,” Manson said. “So I think it’s just a matter of finding that consistency that’s gotten us to this point.”

Edmonton has disrupted that consistency with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who have given the Ducks issues, particularly since the Oilers put them on different lines. Manson owned up to the defensemen’s letting the two dynamic forwards get behind them in Game 6. But Hampus Lindholm, who has three Game 7s under his belt, said the younger defensemen have been through enough not to be overwhelmed at this point.

“Our D-corps, when we play well, I think we’re a big part of the team having success,” Lindholm said. “If we just keep playing the right way and play strong, it’s going to be a fun game.”

Montour has transitioned well in his first NHL season, and the postseason hasn’t been too big a stage. He has averaged more than 20 minutes a game and has a plus-8 rating. Montour looks forward to the moment.

“I feel like the depth we have, I feel like we’re capable of contributing in any way we can, whether that’s pitching in with a goal or making a solid defensive play,” Montour said. “I feel like we’re ready for anything that comes at us. We’ll be ready to go.”

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Gibson responding

A big factor Wednesday will be goaltender John Gibson’s ability to forget a Game 6 in which he allowed several soft goals. Goalie coach Sudarshan Maharaj said he reviewed the game with Gibson mostly from a fundamental standpoint.

“There isn’t a long dissertation,” Maharaj said.

Maharaj has worked with Gibson for four years and knows his routine. They don’t talk about resetting mentally, and Gibson turns the page easily.

“John likes to see it, deal with it and then move on very quickly,” Maharaj said. “In John’s case, it was a matter of literally addressing it this morning and go on to the focus and the relax [part of the preparation].”

Injury updates

Kevin Bieksa skated before practice. He is progressing “much more rapidly than we ever expected” regarding a lower-body injury and is day to day, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.

Nate Thompson was given a maintenance day and “will be an option for us if nothing changes between now and [Wednesday] morning,” Carlyle said.

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Patrick Eaves was seen on crutches but without a walking boot or a cast and is not believed to be available. Center Sam Carrick was recalled.

sports@latimes.com


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