High stakes in Anaheim: the Ducks ‘understand what’s on the line’ tonight

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The Anaheim Ducks entered the playoffs as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

At the very least, not many picked them to go out in the first round. Not after how dominant they looked in the second half of the regular season.

And yet, a first-round exit is exactly what they’ll make if they lose tonight at home to the underdogs from Nashville.

“I don’t think you can ever block out the stakes, we all understand what’s on the line,” Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler told Postmedia. “But you have to prepare like you have all season long. You can’t just block out that it’s Game 7, but you have to focus on the simple things that got you to that point.”

For the first six games, the Ducks-Predators series flew largely under the radar. When Nashville forced Game 7 on Monday, most of the hockey world’s attention was fixed on Game 7 between the Blues and Blackhawks.

Tonight, all eyes will be on Anaheim. And if the Ducks lose — much like if the Blues had lost — there could be consequences.

For the Ducks, a loss would not only mean elimination, it would mean a fourth straight year of getting bounced in a Game 7.

“It’s a different year, it’s a different team with different players, new guys who haven’t been here for what we’ve gone through in the past,” winger Corey Perry told reporters. “You’ve just got to go out and play hockey and not worry about all the other extra (stuff). You’ve just go to go out and play and keep pushing.”

Whoever wins, the San Jose Sharks will be waiting.