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Ducks Have Return Postseason Engagement

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Many players put in the effort, but few can claim to have made the playoffs in five of their first six NHL seasons.

Perry, the Rocket Richard Trophy winner and the NHL's lone 50-goal scorer this season, was asked Tuesday how this playoff run differs from years past in Anaheim.

Upon reflection, one April stood out above the rest.

"Last year is the only time I've missed the postseason," he said. "We know what it feels like in this room. We don't want to go back there."

Maybe Perry and the Ducks don't feel spoiled after all, which can only be a good thing as they begin the playoffs on home ice tonight against fifth-seeded Nashville.

The Predators know what it feels like, too, having made the playoffs six of the past seven seasons but never advancing beyond the first round.

The Ducks have the added advantage of knowing what it takes to win a Stanley Cup.

Six players from the 2007 championship squad remain (Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne, Francois Beauchemin, Todd Marchant and George Parros). Defenseman Andreas Lilja won a Cup in 2008 with the Detroit Red Wings.

"What we try to do is utilize their experiences and have them speak to (their experiences) with our group," head coach Randy Carlyle said. "When you prepare your team for the playoffs, that's one of the strengths. You have younger players that have competed in numerous playoff series and in intense ones. They should be able to transfer some of their knowledge and their experience onto some of your younger players and some of your players who haven't been as far in the playoffs and haven't had that success.

"That's what we really look to - players providing that leadership, taking ownership of your hockey club."

That identity of an experienced club expecting more than a first-round exit comes with an interesting wrinkle in goal: With All-Star Jonas Hiller still experiencing vertigo symptoms and Ray Emery recovering from a lower-body injury, Dan Ellis could get the start against his former team.

Emery was playing well - 7-2-0 with a team-leading 2.28 GAA and .926 save percentage - when he suffered a lower-body injury and left his start last Wednesday.

Ellis, though, stated his case with back-to-back wins against the Kings on Friday and Saturday and allowed the Ducks to clinch the fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the first round.

Emery completed his first full practice since the injury Tuesday, but couldn't commit to being ready to start Game 1.

"I'm not sure. We'll see how it goes when we get there," he said. "I'm just happy with the way practice went today."

Ellis has given the Ducks no reason to lack faith after going 8-3-1 with a 2.39 GAA and .917 save percentage since arriving in a midseason trade with Tampa Bay. Ellis, who played with the Predators from 2007-10, started all six games of a first-round series loss to the eventual champion Detroit Red Wings in 2008.

He already has faced Nashville twice this season. The first was a 4-3 Nashville win in Tampa Bay on Oct. 24; the second was a 46-minute relief appearance after Jonas Hiller allowed three goals in an eventual 5-4 Ducks loss March 24.

"It's like any other opponent," Ellis said. "It's a team that's always been underestimated and always finished above expectations. They're not a team that's a pushover like some people say they are. They're a well-groomed team that sticks to their system and never beats themselves.

"We have to go out there and outwork them. That's going to be one of the keys to beating them."

Nashville is led by its top defensemen, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Weber is considered among the best in the NHL at his position, having scored 16 goals while amassing a plus-7 rating. Suter is a more defensive-minded player who finished at plus-20. The Ducks' top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Perry, as they skated in practice this week, can expect to see plenty of the Predators' top pair.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne was third in the NHL in goals-against average (2.12), and at 6-foot-5 makes for an imposing target, but otherwise the Nashville lineup boasts few stars. Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat were the team's only 50-point scorers. The Ducks had five players with at least 68 points.

Defenseman Jonathon Blum is a native of Long Beach and might have his own cheering section at Honda Center, but a game program might be otherwise necessary.

Anonymous or not, the Predators won three of four head-to-head meetings with the Ducks in the regular season. Will that translate to the franchise's first playoff series victory?

"Eventually, you've got to beat that curse," Ellis said. "You just want to make sure you're not the team that's allowing them to do that.

"Their urgency level there, their desire to get through that first round, is going to be higher than ever."

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