Back at Honda Center after a day off to presumably let their emotions cool down from a fourth straight defeat, the Ducks worked at practice on Thursday toward putting those struggles in the rearview mirror.
|“It was a good group today,” said Ryan after Thursday's practice. “It was a loose atmosphere and that is important. We addressed some issues on the ice that we needed to work on.” |
The group, looking more spirited than when they left the ice following Tuesday 5-2 loss to Columbus, spent roughly 90 minutes skating together and implementing points brought up on video prior to practice.
“It was a good group today,” said Bobby Ryan
, who leads the Ducks with 28 goals on the season. “It was a loose atmosphere and that is important. We addressed some issues on the ice that we needed to work on.”
Anaheim knows time is not on its side going forward in the race for a playoff berth. With just 16 games remaining on the regular season docket and currently seven points behind eight-seed Calgary, the club knows a charge is in order to keep playing hockey beyond April 11.
It’s an uphill battle, but one facing a team that knows full well it has the ability to get things turned around. Last season the Ducks were in 12th place as late as March 18 before going on a 10-2-1 tear to get in the postseason. The first game in that streak was a 4-3 overtime home win over Nashville, the same opponent coming to town tomorrow night.
|“Times like these are when you need to pull together and realize this can easily be changed," Sexton said. "It’s not going to be magic that brings us back. It’s going to be through hard work. We just need that first win to get it going for us.” |
“A team like Nashville would be a great jumpstart for us if we can capitalize on those guys,” rookie Dan Sexton
said. “Times like these are when you need to pull together and realize this can easily be changed. It’s not going to be magic that brings us back. It’s going to be through hard work. Once things start to pull our way, we could go on a six- or 10-game stretch. We just need that first win to get it going for us.”
One big area of concern to the coaching staff has been the special teams play in the first four games since the Olympic break. Anaheim’s power play has only connected on 3-of-21 opportunities (14.28 percent, including two 0-for-7 nights) and the penalty kill has only stopped 12-of-19 chances (63.15 percent).
“It’s a huge concern for us,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “It’s been a thorn in our side, specifically these last four games. When things are going against you and you need to stop the bleeding, your specialty teams have to be one of things that help your team provide positives.”
Having put themselves in the postseason conversation with strong play before the Olympic break (14-6-0 record from Jan. 5 through Feb. 14), the Ducks certainly did not foresee this losing skid coming. Highly concerned about the outcome of the last four games, the team has had to ward off the frustration settling in among the group.
“It’s tough, especially in our line’s situation,” said Ryan of the team’s first forward grouping of him, Ryan Getzlaf
and Corey Perry
, which has two goals and 10 points since March 3. “We’re guys that need to find ways to get the puck in the net. When it doesn’t come as early as it should sometimes, we maybe try to do too much and get away from the things that have made us successful in the past. That is the biggest thing that the three of us have talked about. We just need to keep it simple, get some pucks to the net and score some old-fashioned goals.”
|“They don’t get any more important than this for us right now," Niedermayer said. "Look at where we’re at. We can be better and need to be than we have the last four games, and we get an opportunity to try to do that tomorrow." |
The first attempt at getting back on track comes tomorrow night at Honda Center against the Predators, nine points above Anaheim in the seventh hole in the West. Nashville will be playing in the second half of a back-to-back following tonight’s game in San Jose.
“It’s a four-point game and two points we desperately need,” Ryan said. “Any time teams come off a back-to-back, it’s important to take advantage of them early. Hopefully, you can get a lead before they find that second wind and that adrenaline that usually comes about halfway through the second period.”
Said Scott Niedermayer, “They don’t get any more important than this for us right now. Look at where we’re at. You have to approach them all the same way. We can be better and need to be than we have the last four games, and we get an opportunity to try to do that tomorrow.
“Believing in each other is the only way you have good things happen.”