LOS ANGELES — Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau played coy about lineup changes for Thursday night’s Game 3 against the Kings but it didn’t take long to deduce that defenseman Sami Vatanen and left winger Kyle Palmieri will likely be entered into the lineup.
Prior to Thursday’s morning skate, the team announced that Vatanen was recalled from the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in Norfolk, Va., and left winger Emerson Etem, the Long Beach local who had been the face of the first-ever Freeway Faceoff playoff series in many ways, was sent back down.
Vatanen was on the ice with the Ducks at the Staples Center for the morning skate, having flown in from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, all the way out on the very eastern tip of the Newfoundland coast, the night before. With the Admirals in the midst of a Calder Cup Playoff run, it would be unlikely that the Ducks would bring him up just to put him on the bench.
"I was flying nine hours," Vatanen said. "I flew from St. John’s to Toronto and from there to LAX. I think it would be closer to fly back home (to Finland) from there than to come here. But I’d rather come here than go home already."
He skated with his usual blue-line parter in Bryan Allen.
"He’s been good when he’s been in this year and I think he’s added another dynamic to our team," said Ducks center Andrew Cogliano. "He’s very strong offensively, he’s got a great shot and he does a good job of moving pucks out. He’s a guy that could jump up in the play as well so he’s tough to defend in terms of when he moves the puck out of his end. Forwards now have to respond and come backcheck on him because he can jump up and find holes and be a fourth attacker."
In 48 games with the Ducks this season, the 22-year-old Vatanen scored six goals with 15 assists had a plus-9 rating when he was sent back to Norfolk following the conclusion of the regular season.
Vatanen is hoping to contribute on the ice, as well as lighten up the mood for a team desperately needing a win.
"I try to make some jokes with the boys and relax the feeling here," Vatanen said. "Look at these boys, they’re all smiling here. I think I’m the clown here."
His teammates couldn’t disagree.
"He’s a different guy," Cogliano said. "He’s got a light personality. I think that’s a good personality to have in this type of situation. You don’t want to be too nervous, you don’t want to try to overdo things and overcomplicate things, you just want to come in and have fun and play strong."
Palmieri was grinning from ear-to-ear in the dressing room. Expected to take Etem’s place on the third line with Nick Bonino and Devante Smith-Pelly, Palmieri is not a highly-skilled forward but brings energy and is a much-needed scoring threat.
New energy to the lineup that has gone stale is exactly what the Ducks are looking for.
"Obviously being down 2-0 we haven’t done enough to win, so you have to do little adjustments or little things to find momentum and try to change the pace of things," Cogliano said. "I think the guys that Bruce has coming in tonight could do that."
The Kings had no new additions to report. Morning line rushes were the same as they have been nearly the entire postseason and Jonathan Quick was the first goaltender off the ice, as expected.
The Ducks have not announced a starting goaltender and Frederik Andersen and Jonas Hiller exited the Staples Center ice at the same time.
Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty is looking for more intensity out of his team. He doesn’t like that the Ducks have out-shot the Kings by such a large margin and thinks it’s time for L.A. to bring the offensive firepower.
"We didn’t play good enough in Game 2,” he said. "We want to be the team outshooting the other team and obviously not be given them as many opportunities. If we can put more pucks on the net that would be great, too. The bigger the cushion the better chance we have to win. We’re going to be looking to get more shots and more goals tonight."