Ducks' Ryan Kesler says he won't let up on Preds' Ryan Johansen

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ryan Kesler knows that he has managed to rattle Predators center Ryan Johansen and the veteran Anaheim Ducks center doesn't plan on easing up.

At all.

"It doesn't matter if I did or didn't get in his head for me," Kesler said Tuesday, a few hours before Game 3. "If I did, good. It means I'm doing my job. And if I didn't, I'm going to keep doing the same things and playing defense like I have been."

Johansen vented his frustration at Kesler's veteran play Sunday night after Anaheim rallied in Game 2 and won 5-3 to even the Western Conference finals at 1-1. Johansen said he didn't know how Kesler plays like that -- repeatedly poking him in the groin with his stick -- with family and friends watching.

The Predators did not make Johansen available Monday or Tuesday. That left teammates to answer questions Monday about this brewing battle.

Kesler leaned against a wall in the hallway outside the Anaheim dressing room and said he laughed when he heard Johansen's comments. He also said he has received lots of text messages from family and friends telling him they will still cheer him on.

A finalist for the Selke award given to the NHL's best defensive forward, Kesler said he won't be changing how he plays no matter what Johansen says because his goal is to help Anaheim win the series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

"He's not my friend, he's not going to be my friend," Kesler said.

Kesler interprets Johansen's comments as proof that what he's doing is working. Kesler noted he has drawn two penalties from Johansen in two games from the Predators center who "likes to use his stick." The second came off a face-off Sunday night when Johansen's stick caught Kesler in the face.

"Obviously, it seemed like he was a bit rattled, so I'm going to go out and play my game like I always do," Kesler said.

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