By Kyle Shohara
Today’s practice at Honda Center marked the return of three Olympic medalists. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne skated with the team for the first time since returning from Sochi, as the Ducks made final preparations for tomorrow’s game against the visiting St. Louis Blues.
Their return brought a sense of normalcy back to practice, along with positive vibes and levity.
“It’s good to have everyone back,” said Patrick Maroon. “The atmosphere in the locker room is a lot louder, but it’s always good to have your key guys back here. We had a really good skate with a lot of laughs today.”
The Blues are known for their bruising style of play, and that’s just fine for rugged defenseman Mark Fistric.
“It’s going to be a playoff kind of game,” he said. “They play hard and heavy, and it’s going to be a great test for us. I can’t think of a better way to start off the last stretch.”
With 22 games remaining in the regular season, the Ducks will look to prevent what happened during the stretch run last year, when they stumbled into the postseason with an 8-8-4 record in their final 20 contests. The Ducks went on to lose a heartbreaking seven-game series against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
“We want to be the best team,” Maroon said. “We want to be at the top all year. That’s what we’ve been harping on all year.”
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau is well aware of what happened at the end of last season, and says right now is an opportunity for the team to grow as one.
“If we say we’re preparing for bigger things, then that means this isn’t as important as what’s coming up next,” he said. “And this is really important. We have to grow as a team from now until the end of the year.
“We want to get better. We don’t want to stay status quo, because every other team is going to get better. If you stay status quo come playoff time, teams are going to pass you by.”