As the sun broke over the horizon this morning, the Ducks found themselves in unfamiliar territory. No longer are they in first place in the Western Conference (and the league), after spending the better part of two months at the top of the standings.
As of today, the Ducks (43-14-7, 93 points) sit in second place, one point behind St. Louis, making tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs all the more important.
Tonight’s contest concludes Anaheim’s five-game homestand, one in which the club has gone 2-0-2. After starting with two victories, consecutive shootout losses have the Ducks looking to salvage their final extended homestand of the regular season before embarking on a three-game road trip beginning Wednesday night in Calgary.
“You always want to go on the road after a win,” said Matt Beleskey. “You never want to be down going into a road trip. It’s a big game for us.”
Playing the Maple Leafs means a lot to Beleskey, who grew up in Midhurst, Ontario, approximately an hour’s drive from Toronto.
“It’s always fun,” he said. “I grew up watching them. We lived an hour away. It’s always fun to be able to play the Leafs. Everyone back home watches the game. It’s always a big one.”
FORMER COACH RETURNS
Tonight’s game marks the return of head coach Randy Carlyle to Anaheim. Carlyle coached the Ducks for seven seasons from 2005-11, posting a 273-182-61 record in 516 career games. In 2007, he led the Ducks to California’s first Stanley Cup Championship along with the club’s first Pacific Division title.
Carlyle was behind the bench when defenseman Cam Fowler entered the league as an 18-year-old in 2010. Now 22, Fowler reflects on his former coach.
“He helped me a lot. I owe a lot to him,” Fowler said of Carlyle. “He really helped me get started in this league. He and [Maple Leafs Assistant Coach] Dave Farrish really spent a lot of time helping me with my game and watching over me. I definitely appreciate all that they did for me. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Fowler says he has a lot of fond memories of Carlyle, including the origin of his nickname.
“He gave me the nickname ‘Camshaft’ which has kind of stuck with me,” he said. “That’s probably one thing that sticks out. He said it was a part of a car. I’m not really sure where it came from. I wasn’t going to argue with him about it.”
Corey Perry broke into the league in 2005, Carlyle’s first year as head coach of the Ducks, and together won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2007. Perry says Carlyle should be remembered for doing “a lot of good things” for this organization.
“Everything I’ve done in my career has been a big thanks to him,” he said. “It was a lot of fun with him. He was a great coach here, there’s no question.”
ON THE MAPLE LEAFS
The Ducks will face one of the NHL’s most dangerous top lines tonight comprised of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel. The trio has combined for 159 points and figures to get plenty of ice time again tonight, as Carlyle is known for being a three-line coach.
In the first meeting of the season back in October at Air Canada Centre (4-2 loss), the Ducks were guilty of turning the puck over far too many times. Boudreau says they’ll have to rectify those errors with smarter play tonight.
“Not turning the puck over is number one,” he said. “When you turn pucks over as we did against them in Toronto, we had four or five two-on-ones against us. Kessel beat us on two of them for sure. You just have to play a good, smart game against these guys, or they take advantage of your mistakes.”