Bruce Boudreau and the Anaheim Ducks are shaking things up a bit after a rather frustrating performance on Monday night against the Dallas Stars. Despite grossly outshooting the Stars for most of the game, the Ducks were decisively outplayed at even strength and now the coach has made a rather controversial decision heading into a very crucial Game 4.
Teemu Selanne will be a healthy scratch.
Selanne learned yesterday that he wouldn't be playing. Said only other playoff game he's been scratched was in 2004 with Colorado.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) April 23, 2014
The future Hall of Fame player has not been exactly effective this series and missed on some prime chances on Monday night, but he's been far from a liability and certainly not one of the issues on the Ducks so far in this series. In his place, the Ducks will slot in young phenom forward Emerson Etem who has the ability to play with size and speed and could certainly be a potential game-changer for Anaheim tonight against the Stars.
Etem is a great player and could cause some problems, but sitting Selanne when Pat Maroon gets to keep taking the ice every game is a head scratcher of the highest order. Etem played in 29 games for the Ducks this season and has seven goals and 11 points. He's struggled a bit in the AHL this season and has just 13 goals and 3 assists in 45 games, but he could be a potential issue for Dallas tonight.
There's also the problem with the Ducks apparently prepared to go straight after the Stars after they felt so slighted on Monday and it will be interesting to see how much is gamemanship on their part and how much they're willing to focus on retaliation rather than actually scoring.
See, the Ducks have "plans" for the horrible "bullying" they've been subjected to at the hands of the Stars, and now the players are even getting in on the ridiculous notion that Ryan Garbutt's mad dive and swipe at the puck was somehow meant to intentionally injure a player who probably means more personally to the Dallas bench than anyone in Anaheim.
"You would think it's an accident, but then you see who did it and you wonder if there were different intentions," said defenseman Bryan Allen.
To be fair, Boudreau and number of other Ducks players have stated the way to really make the Stars play is on the scoreboard rather through actual physical retaliation.
"You counteract that with goals. If you're not going to make them pay, they're not going to fear you," Boudreau said. "It's not the Marquess of Queensberry rules out here."
"They're trying to hit my head, I don't know about getting into it," Getzlaf said. "I don't have enough room right now for them to get in my head, trust me, I've got enough [stuff] going on.
"The best way to deal with that stuff is to put on a good hockey game and put ourselves in a good situation to win this series."
It's going to be a very physical game, however, no matter what happens and fireworks are certainly expected.
For the Stars, it's going to be business as usual with Lindy Ruff going with the same lineup as Monday's win, including Brenden Dillon once again a scratch.
Stars lines this morning: Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin, Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt, Horcoff-Fiddler-Sceviour, Whitney-Mueller-Chiasson.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) April 23, 2014
Stars defense pairs: Goligoski-Daley; Nemeth-Benn; Connauton-Gonchar. Rome and Dillon the fourth pair.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) April 23, 2014
The Stars survived some early pressure from the Ducks on Monday and it will be interesting to see how quickly Anaheim vows to take the crowd out of it tonight. This has been a close and hard fought series and the Stars have a crucial opportunity to really take control tonight before the series heads back to Anaheim on Friday and hopefully can at the very least set up a Game 6 situation with a big win once again on home ice.
Lindy Ruff spoke with the media at length after the skate today and had some very interesting comments in regards to his coaching decisions and the roster and line construction both on Monday and on going into this game. With the benefit of having last change, Ruff put together what he calls a "utility line" to pull from as needed since the series has essentially become a battle of three lines between the two teams.
"Especially when the special teams gets ramped up, it's good to have guys like Mueller who can play any position," Ruff said, per Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. "The Nichushkin goal was a situation where after killing a penalty, he and Seguin went out with a different linemate and ended up scoring a goal for us. It's like having a utility box that has a lot of pieces for you, and you can use every one."
In regards to Alex Chiasson, who has actually had a fairly strong series but had his minutes limited a bit on Monday, Ruff praised the play of the young forward and mentioned how he works to get him some extra ice time.
"I think both offer a little bit different, and there's time when Chaser's ice goes down a little bit and I want to get him a little more ice, then I'll throw him up there, because he's playing well for us," Ruff said. "Sometimes when they're throwing three lines at us, I want to throw three lines right back at them."
Ruff also mentioned how he wasn't too pleased with the Stars being upside down in the shots against category and expressed frustration with how his team wasn't able to get a lot of pressure up the middle of the offensive zone in Game 3. We've mentioned it a few times the past two days, but the Ducks were essentially playing a 2-1-2 through the neutral zone and into their own zone and clogging up passing lines and plays across the middle rather effectively.
The Stars were caught trying to make too many passes rather than backing the defense off and going and getting the puck when needed, something the did a much better job of as the game went on.
"Stay with the game plan," said Ruff on Wednesday. "If you're the middle lane drive guy, drive the net, drive the net, back the D off. We were probably a 75 percent team last game (at being effective in driving the net). We mushroomed out too much, We were on the outside and too easy to defend against. If we have no ice, let's make their D go below the goal line and go get get it, and then go forecheck as hard as we can and try to create pressure and take away their time and be hard on them. Be physical, finish your check on them, win your puck battles, come back to the bench, get some rest and be ready to do it again."
The puck is set to drop just after 7 p.m. local so fans will need to slip out of work a bit early today on their way to the arena. Traffic on Monday getting into the AAC was close to a nightmare and should be expected to be even worse today as fans arrive in the middle of rush hour in Dallas.