Ducks Radio Analyst
ST. PAUL, Minn. – An often-overlooked challenge for NHL teams, particularly those in the Western Conference burdened by heavy travel schedules, is a relative lack of practice time.
The Ducks saw the effects of that firsthand Sunday night in Columbus, when they rode Corey Perry
’s fifth career hat trick to a 5-3 victory over the Blue Jackets despite a performance that left a fair bit to be desired in the aesthetics department.
“When you don’t get a chance to practice – we haven’t had a chance to practice in a week – things start slipping,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said after putting the club through on-ice drills Monday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center. “You don’t realize things are slipping. So we wanted to clean up a couple of things. We watched some video today and went out there and worked on some of the things that we thought just weren’t sharp.”
Ironically, the Ducks gained two points in Columbus and only one Friday in Detroit, courtesy of a 2-1, shootout loss, despite having played better in most areas of the game against the Red Wings than against the Blue Jackets.
The Ducks will be seeking an overall effort more along the lines of the former than the latter in a key Tuesday matchup with the Minnesota Wild.
“When we play our best, even a team like Detroit doesn’t get too many scoring chances,” Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa
said. “Especially Detroit, they want to have the puck all the time. We played such a tight neutral zone especially that they were kind of forced to dump the puck all the time, which they didn’t want to do. That’s how we kind of took them off their game plan.”
With goals from Jason Blake
and Bobby Ryan
supporting the three from Perry, the Ducks created plenty of offense against Columbus. The three goals against, however, marked only the third time in the past 15 games that the Ducks have surrendered more than two.
“Those two games were kind of different,” Sbisa said. “When you play the first-place team, emotions ride really high and you’re really pumped up. It kind of showed in our game. Then it’s kind of tough the next game (when) you play against the bottom team in the league. But you have to still be ready because every team in this league can beat anyone. Maybe we should have done a better job preparing ourselves mentally because we knew it was going to be a different game.
“We still won the game. I think it just showed we were kind of sloppy in parts of the game, which cost us a couple of goals.”
Some difficult travel between Detroit and Columbus late Friday night resulted in the cancellation of a scheduled Saturday morning practice. As a result, until Monday, the club’s most recent actual practice session had come on Feb. 5. The team’s annual First Flight field trip for elementary school students two days later had been more of a show than a practice.
“We were really sharp, I think, against Detroit,” Boudreau said. “But you get so emotionally high that you come down against a Columbus team, and now we have to get back up to that emotional level again tomorrow.”
Though still nine points out of the eighth and final Stanley Cup playoff position in the Western Conference, the Ducks have moved within five points of struggling Minnesota. As if that won’t be enough motivation against the Wild, there is even more of a premium on the game because the Ducks are opening a difficult back-to-back set that includes a Wednesday night date with the surging Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I would certainly like to wake up on Wednesday morning and have to worry about it because we’ve just beaten Minnesota,” Boudreau said. “I’m not concerned about Pittsburgh now. I know what they’re going to bring to the table.
“If we start to overlook what’s right in front of us, then that bites us. We have, just like us, a desperate hockey club (in the Wild) that needs to win.”