Unhappy with what he was seeing at a rare 9 a.m. practice, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau halted drills and vehemently urged his team for a better effort.
|“They are all must-wins,” Ryan said. “They’ve all been must-wins since January 1. That mindset doesn’t change for us. We’ll prepare for St. Louis. At this point in the season, every two points is a must-have.” |
The session at The Rinks – Anaheim ICE took place hours before the team boarded a flight for St. Louis for the start of a critical three-game road trip. The Ducks are six points back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and have just 15 games left in the regular season to make up the ground. There is little to no room for error over the next month.
“I think I explained that to them a few times,” Boudreau said. “I wasn’t happy with what their practice was in the first half. Maybe guys aren’t used to getting up at 7:30 in the morning or something. The day before a game, you want to have a good practice.
“I know they had a day off for the most part yesterday. I know it’s not at our regular practice facility. But you expect a certain level of play and when you don’t get, you just can’t accept it. You have to push to get it better.”
Boudreau’s most veteran player agreed that the practice was not smooth at the start. “We were sloppy,” Teemu Selanne
said. “Yesterday was like a service day for us. (Maybe) before the flight, the mind is already on the flight. It wasn’t easy right away, but it got better after the start.
“Our focus is only on tomorrow. We know they have a great team. I’m really looking forward to seeing how good we could be against them.”
In their matchup with the Blues tomorrow night, Anaheim will be pitted against a team that has soared to the top of the Western Conference. Just like the Ducks did, St. Louis made a coaching change during the month of November. Out went Davis Payne on Nov. 6 and in came veteran head coach Ken Hitchcock, a Stanley Cup winner with Dallas in 1999. He has also coached Philadelphia and Columbus during his career.
One game under the .500 mark (6-7-0) before Hitchcock took over the reins, the Blues have since compiled a 38-11-7 record under their new head coach. They rarely lose at home in the Scottrade Center (27-4-4 record in their building) and are tied for first in the NHL with 91 points (along with the Rangers).
“It’s a pretty loud building,” Boudreau said. “Some teams just like home cooking. They have played great all year. You take out their record before they made the change and they are the best team in the league by a good margin. Definitely, our hands are full.”
|“These three games, most importantly tomorrow night, could almost write our season,” Blake said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing now or where we’re playing. We have to make that we’re ready, take care of ourselves and win hockey games.” |
At this point though, time is more of an opponent than any NHL team is for the Ducks. With the clock winding down on the 2011-12 campaign, Anaheim needs continue the run it started in January that got the team to this current position.
“They are all must-wins,” Bobby Ryan
said. “They’ve all been must-wins since January 1. That mindset doesn’t change for us. We’ll prepare for St. Louis. At this point in the season, every two points is a must-have.”
The rest of the three-game road trek consists of Dallas on Saturday and Colorado on Monday, two teams among the seven with the Ducks that are separated by just nine points. By the time Anaheim returns home next week, the playoff picture could be dramatically different one way or another.
“These three games, most importantly tomorrow night, could almost write our season,” Jason Blake
said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing now or where we’re playing. We have to make that we’re ready, take care of ourselves and win hockey games.”