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All the Pressure Is on the Ducks

A loss tonight at the Arrowhead Pond would put Anaheim in a 2-0 hole before playing the next two at Edmonton.

May 21, 2006|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

For every setback this postseason, the Mighty Ducks have answered each challenge. So far.

After erasing three one-game deficits in the first round against Calgary, why would a loss in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals to the Edmonton Oilers be anything but another hurdle to clear?

There is the little prospect of being down two games to none entering Games 3 and 4 at Edmonton's Rexall Place. Aside from that, today's Game 2 at the Arrowhead Pond is another manageable situation to work through.

Right?

"It'll be crazy in there Tuesday and Thursday," Ducks defenseman Sean O'Donnell said of going to Edmonton. "I know their fans take huge pride in how loud that building gets and it'll pump that Edmonton team up. It wouldn't be an ideal situation to have to win, down 2-0.

"But that's Tuesday. We still have a game. We'll worry about Edmonton [fans] after Sunday night."

The Ducks insist they aren't about to hit the panic button. But they acknowledge there is more within them than what they displayed Friday night in their 3-1 loss, which allowed Edmonton to seize its first Game 1 in the playoffs. After the defeat, forward Teemu Selanne said players were angered by their performance that ended a six-game winning streak dating to Game 5 against Calgary. On Saturday, the mood in the dressing room was calm and collected.

"Nobody's too down in here," center Andy McDonald said. "It's just one game. It wasn't a big failure. We did some positive things but by no stretch was it our best performance.

"But that's the benefit of having a best-of-seven series. You've got time to make adjustments."

The Ducks' biggest fear entering the series was that the seven days of rest they earned after a four-game sweep of Colorado would take away the edge they've played with for the last few months.

The long break didn't hamper their skating but it appeared to affect their timing. They put 32 shots on goal against the Oilers' Dwayne Roloson but failed to direct many second and third shots at the goaltender and had trouble putting plays together in the offensive zone.

"We had a couple of chances on the power play," forward Joffrey Lupul said. "But that's something we've got to do a little bit better. Get some traffic in front and stay there. We had some traffic, but we kept going by the net. We've got to get there and stop, battle and get a couple of ugly goals."

There could be adjustments in personnel to create more chances. Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said he might return rookie forward Corey Perry to the lineup. Perry injured his knee in Game 7 against the Flames and has been a scratch since.

Lupul said they need to take advantage of their depth.

"I think we have to wear them down," Lupul said. "They're playing four [defensemen] most of the time. [Matt] Greene and [Marc-Andre] Bergeron aren't playing much other than Bergeron plays on the power play. They've got three lines. We're going to go with four lines and six [defensemen] all series. I think we can wear them down that way if we play physical."

The Oilers simply took advantage of opportunities they created for themselves.

It was Roloson who deftly flipped a pass out to the neutral zone with his backhand that allowed an alert Michael Peca to jump behind the Ducks' defense for a momentum-changing short-handed goal in the first period.

And it was Ales Hemsky's presence of mind to head to the net when Ryan Smyth let loose a slap shot that allowed Hemsky to bat the rebound into the net for the eventual game-winning goal, a play that ended the Ducks' streak of consecutive penalties killed at 39.

"You get in the playoffs and often times one or two goals can make a difference, and that plays a big part in special teams," Peca said.

The Ducks have already dealt with the raucous atmosphere of Calgary's Pengrowth Saddledome, winning Game 2 after a loss and taking the decisive seventh game.

Edmonton could be different. The Oilers are in the conference finals for the first time in 14 years and -- between the players and their hockey-mad city -- there is the realization that this is their best shot at a Stanley Cup since the glory days of the mid-1980s to early 1990s.

And that may be why the Ducks are under pressure to answer this challenge tonight.

"That's been one of our traits during the course of the season," Carlyle said. "That when things get difficult, we found ways to bounce back. That's what we're going to be looking to do."

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