DALLAS -- Ryan Getzlaf, his face still beat up, sat at his locker in the visiting dressing room at American Airlines Center and made it clear that, despite a 2-0 series lead, he believes the Anaheim Ducks can and must play better.

"We have to play with the puck a little bit better,” said Getzlaf, who had a goal and an assist in the same week his family welcomed a baby girl. “I thought that last game we turned it over a little bit more than we’re used to, and we let them come at us at the start of the game as opposed to starting on time. That’s kind of our main focus is to get going here at the drop of the puck."

Monday provides a great opportunity for the Ducks to take firm control of the series and attempt to decrease the decibel level of what’s expected to be a raucous home crowd for the Dallas Stars, who haven’t played in the postseason in Dallas since 2008.

"We’ve got to come out strong," said defenseman Stephane Robidas, who played most of the season in Dallas before being traded to Anaheim. "The fans here are going to be pumped. Everyone will be wearing 'Victory Green.' It’s going to be a really good atmosphere."

And that’s something that doesn’t seem to faze the Ducks. Anaheim had 26 road wins, second in the league to only the Colorado Avalanche. Playing in someone else’s building hasn’t bugged them at all.

"I think we play the same way," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said following Anaheim’s practice on Sunday afternoon. "We don’t deviate from how we play. There are no valleys and not a lot of peaks. When you play that way, it’s usually a successful tour for you."

The immediate goal on Monday will be to avoid a struggling first period. Anaheim watched as the Stars came out as the aggressors and got an early 1-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of Game 2. The Ducks took advantage of Stars mistakes and wrestled the lead back, eventually winning a one-goal game. But they expect a similar Stars push in Game 3.

"I thought we sat back," Getzlaf said. "The first 10 minutes of the hockey game, we were waiting to see what they were going to do. They came out swinging. I think we were being outshot 9-1 at one point. Those are things we’ll address."

Robidas knows that the Ducks will get the Stars’ best effort.

"They’re going to come out really hard," Robidas said. "It’s a team that never quits. I’ve been with that team for most of the year, and they never quit. It doesn’t matter what the score is, they have guys with a lot of pride on the other side, lots of skill and they won’t quit. There’s a reason they made the playoffs. They found a way to make it, and you’ve got to give them credit."

The Ducks say they’ll be ready. The plan: take control of the series with a chance to end it in Anaheim, if necessary. To do that, they need a win in Game 3 or 4.
DALLAS -- Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff certainly wouldn't rule defenseman Brenden Dillon out for Game 3 of the team's first-round playoff series with the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, but he didn't sound particularly optimistic about the chances of Dillon playing on Saturday. He has what the team is calling a "lower-body" injury.

"There’s a chance he could skate tomorrow [Sunday]," Ruff said. "So we’ll see how that goes. But skating once and trying to play is a pretty big task, really."

Dillon was injured in the Stars' win over the St. Louis Blues last week, which clinched the club's playoff spot. He has not skated since then, so if he does take the ice Sunday, that would be at least a step forward. But whether that's enough to make him a player for Game 3 remains to be seen.

With Dillon out, rookie Patrik Nemeth is seeing more ice time and the club decided to give 24-year-old Kevin Connauton a chance in Game 2.

"I liked his mobility," Ruff said. "[The Ducks are] a good skating team. We were using him for his offensive ability and getting up ice. I thought he did a couple of situations where the defending side, I would have liked to have seen him on the other side of the puck. But I thought he added something to our team."

Dillon would clearly make the Stars' defensive corps better, as he was a consistent member of the second pair and someone who was solid on the penalty kill -- even recording two short-handed goals this season. He was third among all Stars defensemen in ice time per game with 21:05.
DALLAS -- Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff walked off the team’s charter near Dallas Love Field on Saturday and didn’t sound like a coach searching for any kind of new strategy to help his team win what is now a crucial Game 3 at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Monday night.

“It doesn’t feel like an 0-2 series,” Ruff said, before heading home to unpack. “We definitely haven’t been dominated. In fact, the last game we dominated, we just didn’t win. We’ve got to clean up some of our mistakes and take advantage of some of those key opportunities.”

It may not feel like it, but the reality is the Stars lost both games on the road to start this series to the opportunistic Anaheim Ducks. They looked nervous in the first period of Game 1 and it showed as the Ducks jumped out to a 4-0 lead and then held on to win by a goal. In Game 2, turnovers and special teams were the difference.

What’s clear after two games is that most big mistakes made in the defensive zone against Anaheim turn into great scoring opportunities. And the Ducks have a penchant for scoring on those chances.

Two big turnovers turned into two key goals as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry converted. It didn’t help that the Stars’ power play seemed to lose steam after scoring the first goal of the game. Handed a man-advantage with a 2-1 deficit, the Stars lost the puck and then couldn’t recover in their own zone. Sergei Gonchar didn’t get a slashing call after his stick was broken by Andrew Cogliano. Despite that, the Stars still had five skaters in the zone to the Ducks’ two, yet Getzlaf got the puck and made a nice pass to Cogliano for what became the winning goal midway through the final period.

“They’ve taken advantage of some of our key mistakes,” Ruff said. “There’s going to be mistakes in the game. You’re not going to clean up up every one. We’d like to keep them to a minimum, though.”

But even keeping them to a minimum may not be enough against the Ducks, who don’t need much of an opening on the ice to make things happen.

“We had the majority of the play and majority of the chances,” Ruff said. “They’ve had the best shooting percentage in the league and I see why because they don’t need a lot of chances.”

Nope. So limiting those chances even more in Game 3 is the Stars’ goal. For the Ducks, creating more of those chances could help them win on the road, which would give them firm control of the series.

“We played one and a half pretty good games,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “We’ve just got to find a way to limit our turnovers, limit our mistakes and take advantage of theirs.”

Getzlaf stars after life-changing 48 hours

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Chin heavily bandaged, cheek scraped raw and eyes bloodshot red, Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf took the ice Friday night against the Dallas Stars looking far worse for wear than your typical NHL player after just one playoff game.

But most don’t experience in a season what Getzlaf went through in the previous 48 hours.

The 28-year-old team captain shook off the pain and discomfort of taking a slap shot to his face in Wednesday’s opener of the Western Conference quarterfinals and the emotions that accompanied the birth of his daughter in the wee hours Friday morning, producing a goal and assist in the 3-2 victory against the Stars and helping the Ducks to a 2-0 series lead heading back to Dallas for Game 3.

"He’s a leader on this team for a reason," linemate Corey Perry said.

Getzlaf said the only hurdle he needed to get past in order to play in Game 2 was the X-ray that revealed his jaw wasn’t broken after he took a vicious slap shot off the upper chin from Tyler Seguin in the closing seconds of Wednesday’s 4-3 win.

Then, late Thursday night, as he and his wife, Paige, were getting ready to turn out the lights, she went into labor. About 2½ hours later, they added Willa to the family, who joins sons Ryder and Gavin. Getzlaf was ready to settle into the hospital room for the night, but Paige had other plans.

"Once she was settled, she made sure I went home and got a little bit of rest so that I can play tonight," he said. "Once I went through the warm-ups and those kinds of things -- and got my feet under me -- it was OK."

Getzlaf laid a hit on Alex Goligoski on his first shift, which he said "helps get those little nerves out of the way." After the Stars took a 1-0 lead, Getzlaf then made a play so typical of his career when he stole the puck from left wing Erik Cole and beat goalie Kari Lehtonen up high to knot the score at one with just more than two minutes left in the opening period.

"That was huge," Perry said. "What a great play by him, stealing the puck and scoring on that. That’s the type of player he is, and he showed what he can do."

After Perry scored in the second period to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead, Getzlaf helped provide a crucial two-goal cushion when he hooked up with center Andrew Cogliano for a short-handed goal in the third period.

Cogliano was battling for the puck with Dallas defenseman Sergei Gonchar behind the net when Gonchar’s stick broke. Getzlaf and Cogliano still had four Stars they had to work around, but Getzlaf managed to get the puck back to Cogliano, who put the puck high in the net for a 3-1 advantage.

Getzlaf's night even impressed teammate Teemu Selanne, who has some experience with playoff points (83) and children (four).

"The last 24 hours, what has happened to him, that shows a lot of character," Selanne said. "He’s Mr. Incredible. … It took him a long time to realize he can be the best player in the league, but he’s finally got it."

Rapid Reaction: Ducks 3, Stars 2

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Here's a quick look at the Anaheim Ducks' 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal at Honda Center on Friday.

How it happened: The Ducks pinned the Stars in their end for a solid 2½ minutes late in the second period, taking advantage of the aging legs of almost-42-year-old Ray Whitney and just-turned-40 Sergei Gonchar. The Stars finally got the puck out of their end and managed to keep the pressure on the Ducks for a stretch, but Tyler Seguin made an errant pass across Dallas' blue line to Jamie Benn, who was drifting away from the puck. Benn could only tip the rubber as it skidded in front of him, not enough to prevent Corey Perry from swooping in and taking possession with a full head of steam motoring toward the Dallas goal. Trevor Daley was between Perry and Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, and that probably made Perry even more determined -- in the first period, Daley straddled Perry as he laid on his back in the Dallas crease and got off a few blows before he was banished to the penalty box. Perry cocked and blasted the puck from just inside the right circle, past Lehtonen on the stick side for a 2-1 lead the Ducks would not relinquish.

What it means: The Ducks had to hold off some late pressure from the Stars -- including a power play that began with three minutes left, giving Dallas a two-man advantage for the final 30 seconds when it pulled its goalie -- but Anaheim owns its first 2-0 series lead since the opening round of the 2009 playoffs against the San Jose Sharks and has won two straight playoff games for the first time since winning Games 2 and 3 of the following series against the Detroit Red Wings, a series the Ducks would eventually lose in seven games.

Player of the game: Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf had an interesting 48 hours leading up to Game 2. He took a puck to the upper chin in the final seconds of Wednesday’s victory in the series opener, which opened a gaping wound that required numerous stitches. He then spent most of Thursday night and early Friday in the hospital, as his third child was born just before 1 a.m. local time. Neither experience proved too much for Getzlaf, who took the ice Friday night and started things off with a big hit on Alex Goligoski in the opening 30 seconds. He later came through with an unassisted goal in the opening period, which tied the score at one, about 30 seconds after Daley had escaped the box following his roughing penalty on Perry. Getzlaf also assisted on Andrew Cogliano’s short-handed goal in the third period, which gave Anaheim a 3-1 lead.

Stat of the game: Perry, one of only two NHL players with at least 20 goals at home during the regular season, scored the 19th playoff goal of his career -- but first since April 20, 2011 -- in Game 4 against the Nashville Predators.

What’s next: The series moves on to Dallas, where the Stars will host the Ducks in Game 3 on Monday. Anaheim will be looking to take its first 3-0 series lead since the opening round of their Stanley Cup championship run in 2007.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist while wearing a facemask over his lacerated jaw, Corey Perry scored his first playoff goal in three years, and the Anaheim Ducks beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 Friday night to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

Rookie Frederik Andersen made 34 saves in his second postseason start, and Andrew Cogliano scored a short-handed goal in the third period as the Ducks moved halfway to their first series victory since 2009. Anaheim has won just one postseason round since its only Stanley Cup title in 2007.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 16 shots, while Alex Chiasson and Ryan Garbutt scored for the wild-card Stars, who took two one-goal losses to open their first playoff series since 2008.

Game 3 is Monday in Dallas.

(Read full post)

Game 2 or not Game 2, that is the question

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
Importance of Game 2? Friday night is Game 2 for the Canadiens-Lightning and Stars-Ducks. Since 1987, when all Stanley Cup playoff series went to the best-of-7 format, Game 2 winners have won 71 percent of all series (277 of 390). However, in last year's playoffs, Game 2 winners won only eight of the 15 series contested.

Breaking down the Conn Smythe race 

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
Tuukka RaskBrian Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesConn Smythe Trophy favorite Tuukka Rask has proven solid in past postseason play.
It must have seemed like an eternity, but the wait is almost over for Boston Bruins fans, who finally get to see their team make its 2014 postseason debut tonight against the Detroit Red Wings. It’s the final first-round series to begin, and it has a couple of players who are among our favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy -- awarded to the most valuable player during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Bruins are ESPN.com’s consensus pick to win the Stanley Cup, in part because of their potentially easier path through the playoffs. If it happens, it’ll come with recognition for the Bruins' stars. Earlier this week, Bovada released its Conn Smythe odds -- here’s a look at some of the most intriguing choices before the betting lines shift too much:


Best bets among the favorites

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (12-1)
Goalies are always a safe pick when it comes to the Conn Smythe, winning it 40 percent of the time over the last 10 postseasons. Last year, Patrick Kane prevented a third straight goalie from winning, although if he had a vote, he would have given it to teammate Corey Crawford. You don’t win a Stanley Cup without a strong performance from a goalie, and Rask is a proven playoff performer on a team that has the best path to the Stanley Cup finals.

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Ryan Getzlaf to play in Game 2

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A day after Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf took a slap shot to the head, the Ducks already had found the lighter side of a potentially disastrous playoff injury.

"Luckily, he's married, has a couple of kids," Anaheim defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "He's not trying to impress anybody with his face."

Coach Bruce Boudreau was more succinct: "I didn't want to look at him," he said.

Nobody in either dressing room was surprised Thursday to learn Getzlaf plans to play against the Dallas Stars in Game 2 on Friday night despite that huge cut on his face. Getzlaf was hit by Tyler Seguin's shot in the final minute of the Ducks' 4-3 victory over Dallas on Wednesday night in the series opener, but the puck apparently broke no bones -- which means it'll be almost impossible to keep Getzlaf off the ice.

"That's why he is who he is," Boudreau said. "That's why he's won two gold medals and a Stanley Cup, and he's not 30. He learned from the Scotty Niedermayers and the Chris Prongers that were here before him, too. He's a battler and a gamer. It won't look too pretty, but he's going to be playing."

Getzlaf isn't the only top-line Ducks forward nursing an injury. Matt Beleskey might not play in Game 2 after leaving the opener in the third period. Beleskey said he has been struggling for weeks with an undisclosed lower-body injury that has been "all over the place" in its severity. He plans to evaluate himself Friday morning before deciding whether to try.

(Read full post)

Ducks' Andersen stays cool under pressure

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17

ANAHEIM -- Frederik Andersen is a rookie no more.

OK, officially he still is, but the young goalie for the Anaheim Ducks looked and played like a seasoned veteran Wednesday night, stopping 32 shots in his first NHL playoff appearance to help the top-seeded Ducks to a 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal.

Andersen, the first Danish goalie to appear in an NHL playoff game, earned the start over veteran Jonas Hiller and fellow rookie John Gibson with consistently stellar play while compiling a 20-5 record during the regular season.

Andersen said he never felt nervous playing in such a big game at Honda Center, even when the Stars turned a four-goal deficit midway through the second period into a one-goal disadvantage with about six minutes left in the game.

"You can’t let nervousness get to you," Andersen said. "You’re [in trouble] when you do that."

His teammates have been impressed by Andersen ever since he beat the Stars in his NHL debut back in October, but they saw him take his coolness to another level as he took the ice Wednesday.

“It’s really good for a young goalie to get out there and play his first playoff game and be so relaxed in net," Ducks forward Patrick Maroon said.

When the Stars scored two goals about 90 seconds apart late in the second period to cut the four-goal lead in half, Andersen didn’t seem to bat an eye as he turned away Jamie Benn on the doorstep with 40 seconds remaining in the period.

"He made some big saves at crucial times," Ducks winger Corey Perry said. "When he’s standing tall and playing big, that’s when he’s at his best.”

The Ducks missed a golden opportunity to retake a three-goal lead early in the third when Teemu Selanne stole the puck behind the net from Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen and fed Maroon in front, but he missed the net. Not long after, the Stars pulled within one on a goal by Tyler Seguin, drowning out the excitement inside the arena.

But the Ducks could still count on Andersen, who came up with two big saves in the final 2 minutes, the last with the Dallas goalie pulled from net.

"That’s what happens when you go down 4-0, the coach probably told them how they were playing," Andersen said. "I think it’s a good lesson [for us], playing with a lead. Good thing we won anyway."

The Ducks had two players leave the ice with injuries, including captain Ryan Getzlaf, who was hit in the face with a slap shot by Seguin with 16 seconds left in the game. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Getzlaf would need stitches near the corner of his mouth, but expects him to return for Game 2 on Friday.

Anaheim left wing Matt Beleskey, who also had a goal and an assist in the opener, left in the third period with a lower-body injury and did not return.video

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves to win his NHL playoff debut, and the Anaheim Ducks opened the postseason with a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night.

Kyle Palmieri, Ryan Getzlaf and Mathieu Perreault scored in a dominant first period for the top-seeded Ducks, who began their playoff run on a dead sprint. Anaheim led 4-0 midway through the second period before Dallas got rolling in its first playoff game since 2008.

Captain Jamie Benn and Colton Sceviour had power-play goals, and Tyler Seguin scored with 6:07 left to trim the Ducks' lead to one. Anaheim hung on with a handful of big saves from Andersen, a 24-year-old Danish rookie.

Game 2 is Friday.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Ducks 4, Stars 3

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks nearly took their unfinished business too lightly Wednesday night.

After building a four-goal lead midway through the second period against the visiting Dallas Stars, the Ducks were forced to hang on for the final six minutes before pulling out a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal at Honda Center.

The Ducks have been dispatched in the first round of the playoffs in three of their four appearances since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, despite having home-ice advantage, and they seemed overly intent on not going home early this spring. Even their marketing department has unleashed the battle cry, "Unfinished Business," after getting eliminated in the first round last season as the second-seeded team.

Anaheim, now representing the top seed in the West for the first time in franchise history, made a statement early on Thursday night, scoring three unanswered goals in the opening period.

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, part of the Ducks' Stanley Cup championship team along with Teemu Selanne and Francois Beauchemin, were among those who brought their A-games for Anaheim, as Getzlaf had a goal and an assist and Perry assisted on Getzlaf’s first-period goal. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau rolled the dice by giving rookie goalkeeper Frederik Andersen his first career playoff start and he responded with 32 saves.

Dallas, making its first playoff appearances since 2008, came out blazing but the Ducks quickly threw cold water on their hopes as Erik Cole turned the puck over in the offensive zone, leading to a 2-on-1 by Nick Bonino and Kyle Palmieri. Bonino lifted a brilliant pass over diving defenseman Aaron Rome and onto the stick of Palmeiri, who guided it into the net with his backhand.

A blocked shot by Getzlaf about 11 minutes later led to another odd-man rush by Anaheim and this time left wing Matt Beleskey fired the puck off the chest of Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen and, before Lehtonen could locate the runner, Getzlaf had swooped in and slapped it into the net for a 2-0 lead.

The Ducks then ended an 0-for-11 streak on the power play when Patrick Maroon made a nifty cross pass through the legs of defenseman Jordie Benn and onto the tape of Mathieu Perreault, who stuck the puck into the open side for a 3-0 lead.

Another power-play goal by the Ducks with just more than nine minutes left in the second period proved huge as the Stars scored twice in the final 3½ minutes of the period to cut the deficit in half and another by Tyler Seguin with just more than six minutes left to trim the deficit to 4-3.

The Ducks persevered, however, as Andersen came up with some big stops down the stretch.

The victory didn’t come without its physical downfalls for the Ducks. Getzlaf took a slap shot off the face with 16 seconds left and hurried off the ice, and Beleskey, who scored the fourth goal for the Ducks, left with a lower-body injury in the third period and did not return.

Ranking postseason goalies 

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Jonathan QuickDon McPeak/USA TODAY SportsJonathan Quick has proved he can stand tall in the crease for the Kings.
With the playoff matchups set and the countdown to the postseason underway, we’re ranking the top playoff teams by position. On Monday, the forward groups were ranked. On Tuesday, it was the defensemen's turn. Today, here’s the ranking of the goaltending for the 16 playoff teams.

1. Los Angeles Kings

Team save percentage: .922
Short-handed save percentage: .879
Jonathan Quick career playoff save percentage: .929 (50 games)

The Kings are a near-perfectly constructed team up front and on defense, but it’s Quick who puts them over the top in comparisons to the Sharks and other Western Conference contenders. He’s a competitor with a Stanley Cup and loads of playoff experience, and he now has Olympic experience on his résumé. There’s not a better goalie to have on your side at the outset of the playoffs.

“With Quick in goal, they’ve probably got the most complete team in the NHL,” said a veteran scout.

2. Boston Bruins

Team save percentage: .928 (No. 1)
Short-handed save percentage: .884
Tuukka Rask career playoff save percentage: .930 (35 games)

If the Bruins won the Stanley Cup last spring, Rask would've been in the Conn Smythe conversation with Patrice Bergeron after finishing the playoffs with a league-best .940 save percentage.

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The Goalie Heat Index

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16

It is impossible to overstate the importance of goaltending during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Deep runs into the postseason can be made on the back of a hot goalie, while a struggling netminder can cost even the best team a shot at raising the Cup.

The impact of goalies on postseason success has been as evident as ever over the past three years. In that time, two goalies won the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP -- the Boston Bruins' Tim Thomas (2011) and the Los Angeles Kings' Jonathan Quick (2012) -- while last year's champion, the Chicago Blackhawks, received incredible goaltending from Corey Crawford, who finished the playoffs with a .932 save percentage. On the other side of the coin, the poor play of the New York Islanders' Evgeni Nabokov and the Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price cost their clubs the chance to advance to the second round last postseason.

Who will stand out this year and help carry his team in Round 1?

For this, we once again turn to the Goalie Heat Index -- a statistical forecast of how goalies will perform in the postseason. Over the past dozen postseason campaigns, the best performance indicators -- in order of diminishing importance -- have been: career playoff save percentage, current regular-season save percentage and current regular-season shots on goal against (SOGA). This measure has worked to predict breakout postseason performances by unlikely playoff standouts such as Antti Niemi, Jaroslav Halak, Braden Holtby and Mike Smith.

Here is a look at which goalies figure to get hot in 2014:

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It's not very often that a No. 1 seed is beaten in the first round of the NHL playoffs, but it's not unprecedented, either. In fact, a No. 8 seed -- Los Angeles -- won the Stanley Cup a few years ago. So what do the Dallas Stars need to do to pull off the upset of the Anaheim Ducks? Here are five things they need to do:

1. Win the goaltending battle. It's odd that the Ducks are the top seed and have major questions in goal. Jonas Hiller was disappointing in the final month of the season, forcing coach Bruce Boudreau to go with his younger netminders in Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, who won all three of his starts with a .954 save percentage. Stars coach Lindy Ruff is betting Boudreau goes with Andersen because of how much Hiller has struggled. But that gives the advantage in nets to the Dallas Stars and goalie Kari Lehtonen. He's played well this season and is seeking redemption for his quick and rough playoff experience with Atlanta.


Which matchup are you most looking forward to watching tonight?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,036)

2. Utilize their speed and puck possession skills. The Stars annoy opponents because they are always on the go. If you're not ready to skate, the Stars will beat you. Dallas is the faster team and if the Stars can drive the tempo up and control the puck, something they are very good at doing, they can make things difficult on the Ducks. Ruff's style with this team is to grab the puck and create scoring chances. And with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin on the top line, they have the ability to do that.

3. Get scoring from more than Benn and Seguin. Everyone in the NHL knows how good Benn and Seguin are, but the Stars also have a second line that can do some damage in Antoine Roussel, Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt. All three will be playing in the playoffs for the first time. How they respond will go a long way toward determining whether the Stars pull the upset. The trio has played well down the stretch in pressure games and they look ready.

4. Do the job on special teams. The two squads are fairly even on the power play and penalty kill, but if you look inside the numbers you'll find that the Stars did a better job in both categories in the last few weeks. The Stars finished 23rd on the power play (Anaheim is 22nd) and 21st on the penalty kill (Anaheim is 13th, but not much higher than Dallas on percentage), but that was not indicative of how they played when the games mattered most as the season wound down. The Stars moved the puck well on the power play and found shooting lanes and they were smart, but aggressive on the penalty kill. They'll have to do both in this series.

As an added part to No. 4, the Stars' defense, inconsistent this season, must avoid too many costly turnovers. That's area that's been an issue for this team.

5. Don't squint under the playoff lights. This is a new experience for 12 of the Stars' players. Lehtonen has just two playoff games to his name. How the club reacts to the pressure, especially early in the series, is critical. If Dallas can stay calm and competitive in the first 20 minutes on Wednesday, that could set an important tone for the rest of the series. Anaheim has been here before. The Stars haven't played a postseason game since 2008. They've got a new GM, coach, owner and a gaggle of new players since then. They can't let the newness of the experience overwhelm them.