Ducks look to rebound in Game vs Oilers
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The majority of the talk regarding the Anaheim Ducks' strategy to defeat the Edmonton Oilers in their Western Conference semifinal series focused around stopping Hart Trophy candidate Connor McDavid.
The Ducks may want to consider refocusing their attention to another young Oilers standout if they plan to even the series in Game 2 on Friday night at Honda Center.
Second-year winger Leon Draisaitl has feasted on the Ducks all season, scoring six goals in five regular-season games between the teams and adding a goal and three assists in Edmonton's 5-3 win in Game 1.
The German forward's empty-net goal capped a four-goal, third-period outburst for the Oilers. Edmonton handed the Ducks their first loss of the postseason and first regulation loss since March 10.
With 12 points overall (seven goals, five assists) against the Ducks this season, Draisaitl is garnering more focus from both the opposition and the media, but he is not shying away from either.
"The attention is on McDavid, and rightfully so," Draisaitl said. "He's the best player in the world. For me, whether it's 10 guys asking me questions or two, it doesn't matter.
"It's a dream. I think every hockey player dreams of playing in the NHL and dreams of playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It wasn't any different for me. So far, it's been a lot of fun."
Edmonton coach Todd McLellan believes Draisaitl's role as a support player for McDavid should not reduce the attention Draisaitl deserves as one of the game's developing stars.
"Leon doesn't mind stepping up and putting himself out there," McLellan said. "The fact is that Connor does get most of the shadowing and checking and that type of stuff, and in turn that leaves Leon open. He has that ability and broad shoulders to accept that role."
While Draisaitl was a constant point-producer this season, the Oilers got an additional boost from an unexpected source in Game 1. Defenseman Adam Larsson scored four goals in 79 regular-season games, but he found the back of the net twice in the third period in Game 1, including the decisive goal.
"You need depth scoring in the playoffs if you want to get really far," Larsson said. "You need your top guys, too, if you want to go a long way."
The Ducks quickly lost home-ice advantage after Game 1, in which coach Randy Carlyle was dissatisfied with the effort of his players after Anaheim dispatched the Calgary Flames in a four-game sweep.
"We need more physically and emotionally from some players in the next game," Carlyle said.
The Ducks' lack of discipline was the deciding factor in Wednesday's loss. The Oilers converted 2 of 5 power plays.
Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler, who returned to the lineup after missing the entire Calgary series, knows that the path to victory needs to come by giving the talented Oilers fewer chances to score with the man advantage.
"Discipline is something we talked about. You can't give a team with that offensive firepower that many looks on the power play," Fowler said after practice Thursday. "Even if they don't capitalize on it, it gives them momentum.
"We can clean that up by taking less penalties, but we also gave them a couple of easy chances at full strength as well."
An injury likely will change the lineup for Anaheim.
Defenseman Kevin Bieksa sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of Game 1 and did not return. Bieksa has been ruled doubtful for Game 2, which could signal the return of Sami Vatanen, who has been sidelined with an upper-body injury since Game 1 against Calgary.
If Vatanen cannot go, Korbinian Holzer should draw in as the sixth defenseman.
"When I feel like I can help to team to win, I'll return to the lineup," Vatanen said. "I'm really close to returning."