ANAHEIM – Emerson Etem insisted he’d be able to sleep well in the afternoon, despite admitting he tossed and turned a little Saturday night.
The anticipation of playing a Game 7 has built more and more since Detroit won Game 6 in overtime and the Anaheim Ducks rookie knew it.
“This is, for sure, the biggest game of my life,” Etem said after his team’s morning skate in preparation for Sunday’s clash with the Detroit Red Wings.
Their Stanley Cup playoff series is the first of the year to reach the maximum.
Most of the players between the Ducks and Red Wings have been through this before, but that doesn’t mean everyone was nice and relaxed before puck drop at the Honda Center.
“If they’re going to be nervous, they’ll be nervous,” Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think the young guys that haven’t been through it are going to be more nervous than the guys that have been through it and understand it. You tell them how you want them to play and hope they do what they’re supposed to do.”
If you based it on experience, the Red Wings have a major edge, and more players to help their club’s youngsters through the butterflies.
“Just go out and play,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said of his advice. “Guys have been here before, they’ve been in elimination games. Game 7 is maybe a little different. In reality, it’s kind of like Game 6. You have to go out and play and do it well.”
Although this series may not have received as much attention as others in the playoffs, it’s certainly been contested the closest with momentum swings all over the place.
The Red Wings have won all three of their games in overtime. The Ducks have won the odd-numbered affairs.
“You don’t have time to let your mind wander, for sure,”Boudreau said. “You’re always looking at the other bench at who they’re putting on. You’re always looking at who is not playing as well for you as you’d think and maybe making changes.
“You try to think three steps ahead, but it’s difficult. You’ve got to live in the moment at the same time as thinking ahead.
“I know at the end of each of these games, I’m pretty whipped. That tells me I’m having to do more thinking than I really want to do.
“Besides, when you’re trying match wits with Mike (Babcock), who’s been in every pressure situation in the world, it’s not the easiest thing.”
For his part, Babcock disagreed with Boudreau’s assertion: “My wife would tell you matching wits with me isn’t that tough.”