Antoine Vermette is motivated and ready — just the way Joel Quenneville wants him.
The veteran center, one of the most affable players in the NHL, did his best to say the right things — or avoid saying the wrong things — when asked about his surprising benching for Game 3 of the Western Conference final. He couldn’t help but admit disappointment at being a healthy scratch.
“I thought I had a good game. I was playing well. So it came as a surprise and disappointment,” the 32-year-old Vermette said. “I’m not going to lie — I was not happy with that. But my job is to be ready whenever I have a chance to be in the lineup — and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Asked if he felt tired after the triple-overtime victory in Game 2, Vermette’s curt response said it all: “Nope.”
Vermette, who also was a healthy scratch for the first two games of the opening-round series against Nashville, has one goal and two points with a plus-4 rating in 10 playoff games this year.
He could get his chance in Game 4. Quenneville said Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen, who also was a healthy scratch in Game 3, “could play” against the Ducks on Saturday night.
“When we look at making decisions … [Game 3] was going to be our most challenging game energy-wise after the tough [triple-overtime] game we had in Game 2,” Quenneville said. “We felt that trying utilize our depth that [Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom] could give us some energy and some speed. As it turned out, we didn’t win the game. That’s where we’re at.”
Teravainen said he was a little surprised to be benched for Game 3, but didn’t appear miffed. Of course, he’s 20.
“You never know what happens,” said Teravainen, who has one goal — a game-winner vs. the Wild — and three assists and an even plus/minus in eight playoff games. “So I have to be always ready to go out there. But we’ve got a lot of depth in our team. Sometimes I’m not in. I think it’s pretty normal for a young player. When I’m not in I have to work even harder in practice to get back.”
Ducks paying the price
The Ducks blocked 27 of the Hawks 67 shot attempts in Game 3. In fact, the Hawks barely had more shots on goal (28) than shots blocked. The Ducks had 27 shots on goal and nine shots blocked.
“I think last night [we] played a little too much on the perimeter, trying to make too many plays,” forward Brandon Saad said. “I think when we delay the play, wait to find the perfect shot, they get a chance to get in the lane. The more we force it to the net, make quick plays, it’s going to be to our advantage.”
Center Marcus Kruger did not take any face-offs in Game 3. Quenneville indicated it was not injury related.
“He’ll be better,” Quenneville said when asked about the situation.