Defenseman Sami Vatanen, who missed Game 2 of the Ducks’ first-round playoff series against the Calgary Flames because of an upper-body injury, participated in the team’s morning skate Monday and might return for Game 3 Monday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Ducks will take a 2-0 series lead into the game.
Vatanen’s spot in the lineup on Saturday was filled by Korbinian Holzer, who had never before played a Stanley Cup playoff game. Holzer played 13 minutes and 5 seconds in the Ducks’ 3-2 victory at Honda Center.
Coach Randy Carlyle said he planned to consult with Vatanen and with the team’s training staff to see if the Finnish defenseman is able to play Monday night.
“I thought he looked pretty good,” Carlyle said. “For us, it’s about getting healthy bodies back. We’re not going to put people in situations they cannot have success at, and ultimately, it’s the player’s decision on whether he’s ready to play or not.”
Carlyle said the team’s series lead didn’t necessarily give him latitude in waiting to restore Vatanen to the lineup and that he considered the game their most important of the season (at least until the next one). “We play our best players,” he said.
Those who play Monday night are sure to face a hostile crowd that will loudly support the locals. The Flames missed the playoffs last season but returned by earning one of two Western Conference wild-card berths this spring.
The Ducks say they’re prepared for fans to be raucous and for the Flames to draw inspiration from those cheers.
“We want to go out there and play our game and not worry so much about what they’re going to do,” said Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf, whose likeness is on a banner hanging in the arena to commemorate his career with the junior-level Calgary Hitmen. “We know they’re going to have energy. They’re going to come out hitting, those kinds of things. We’ve just got to respond the right way, as usual.”
That means maintaining their composure no matter how loud the fans are or what happens in the game. Historically, keeping their cool has been a problem for the Ducks, but Getzlaf said this group isn’t the same as its predecessors.
Defenseman Josh Manson also said the Ducks’ poise will be crucial to their success.
“I think you’ve just got to keep the emotional roller coaster to a minimum,” he said. “There’s going to be those peaks and there’s going to be those valleys and you’re going to feel like all the momentum is on their side. Two minutes later it could be on your side again. I think it’s just limiting the highs and lows and finding that even keel.”
Carlyle said he’s confident the team’s most experienced players will be able to handle whatever happens, and that the younger players will follow that lead.
“If you look at it, it’s something that you’re going to have to be accustomed to if you’re in the playoffs, and with veteran players, they don’t look at it as different,” Carlyle said. “The distractions and the noise and all that is something that you just turn the page at because I guarantee you most of them don’t even hear it. They’re just immune to it because they’re out there focusing on what they can control and what they have to do.
“That’s most important — don’t be caught up in the emotions of what’s going on because the crowd is going to scream every time they think there’s a penalty that should be called. That’s just the way it is. That’s how these buildings are. Specifically in Canada they’re even more revved up, because they’ve got stronger opinions.”