ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks will deliver hacks and whacks, bumps and thumps and all sorts of other special treatment.
This is not news to Calgary Flames superstar Johnny Gaudreau.
It’s not new to him, either.
“It’s always a battle playing against these guys,” Gaudreau said after Wednesday’s practice at Honda Center. “We’ve learned that over the years here, especially in the playoffs a couple years ago. We know what we’re in for, and we’re excited for the challenge.”
Starting with Thursday’s Game 1 (8:30 p.m., CBC/Sportsnet 960 The Fan), Gaudreau will likely find a few fresh bruises after every shift.
The buzz is that this best-of-seven brouhaha between the Flames and Ducks could be the most scrappy and spirited of eight first-round showdowns.
As Calgary’s marquee man, Gaudreau is an obvious piñata.
It comes with the territory.
“I just play my game,” Gaudreau shrugged. “I don’t think it’s the first time I’ve been targeted or been looked at a little bit more on the ice.”
The Flames have some tough customers of their own, but they realize that trying to out-pummel the Ducks is a dangerous game.
For the crew from Calgary, the key to success in this series is speed and smooth transition.
Both sides know it.
After Wednesday’s prep work, Ducks defenceman Josh Manson admitted they don’t want any part of a “track meet” with the Flames.
“They have some offensive talent,” Manson warned. “I mean, look at Gaudreau. He’s one of those guys that can get behind you and all of a sudden, the game swings in a hurry. For us, its just limiting their speed, not trading chances with them as much as we can.”
Gaudreau collected four points – a goal and three helpers – in five dates with the Ducks during the regular season.
His centre and partner-in-production, Sean Monahan, tallied once and had a pair of assists.
What’s scary is that Ducks meanie Ryan Kesler, usually deployed in a shutdown role against Nos. 13 and 23, out-scored them both.
In fact, Kesler had more points against the Flames this winter, with nine, than any other attacker.
If the Selke Trophy candidate continues to win that battle, Calgary’s playoff party could be short-lived.
Gaudreau and Monahan, of course, are shooting to flip the script.
“This is a time when guys have to step up,” Monahan said. “Obviously, me and Johnny talk a lot and we want to step up here, get our game to the top level and do whatever we can to help the team win.
“As a hockey player, if you want to be the best, I think you put a lot of pressure on yourself. It weighs in all the time. I think that kind of stuff actually makes you better. Me and Johnny lean on one another. When you want to win as bad as this group does here, you want to be a big part of it.”