After spending Friday strutting their stuff and raising money for CHOC Children’s during the seventh-annual Anaheim Lady Ducks Fashion Show Luncheon, the Ducks returned to practice today at Honda Center to prepare for tomorrow’s matchup against the Florida Panthers.
The Ducks enter a crucial part of their late season schedule. The team’s next nine games are against opponents who sit outside the playoff picture. Entering today, Anaheim trails its Northern California rival, the San Jose Sharks, by two points for the Pacific Division lead. The Ducks also trail the St. Louis Blues by four points for the top spot in the Western Conference.
“We want to finish strong,” Teemu Selanne said after today’s skate. “Those games are more dangerous because they’re playing for next year’s jobs.
“We want to build momentum for the playoffs and be top notch when the playoffs start.”
That schedule kicks off against the Panthers, who defeated the Ducks, 3-2, on November 12. Their roster underwent significant changes since then, the most notable in net. Gone is Tim Thomas, who backstopped the Panthers to that win in November. In his place steps Roberto Luongo, a goalie the Ducks acknowledge is one of the best in the league.
“He is a world-class goalie,” Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I’m sure he’s going to want to be very good against us.”
After a solid road effort against the Sharks came up empty, Boudreau said getting back in the win column is important for the Ducks.
“It is huge, for us,” Boudreau said. “We thought we played a pretty good game in San Jose and came up with nothing. Florida has already beaten us once.
They’re going to come in with confidence. We have to be strong enough mentally to pull through this.”
Tomorrow’s tilt also gives the Ducks the opportunity to snap a four-game losing skid at Honda Center. Anaheim, who opened the season without a regulation loss on home ice in 21 straight games, has struggled in recent weeks, a trend Boudreau discussed with the team today.
“I mentioned that,” Boudreau said. “We have lost four in a row at home. When you go 21 games unbeaten at home and, all of a sudden, you’re .500 since then, you get a little worried. We want to establish ourselves again at home.”
Selanne echoed his coach’s thoughts, discussing the importance of making Honda Center difficult for opponents.
“We want to create the feeling that this is our barn, this is a tough place to come play,” Selanne said. “We want to finish strong and try to create something special at home.”
BONINO RETURNS TO PRACTICE
Ducks center Nick Bonino was all smiles as he returned to practice after missing Thursday’s game against San Jose.
Bonino suffered a lower-body injury in the loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night after blocking a shot. He admitted feeling sore after practice, but said he’s excited to rejoin the lineup.
“It’s not fun watching your team play when you want to be out there,” he said. “You never want to be out. Last year, I went through it for 20-something games and the four games I missed this year were tough to watch.
“Whether you’re winning or losing, you want to be out there with the team. You’re happy when the team is winning and you want to be out there for that, but you want to be out there for losses too. I’m doing what I can to get back in there as quick as I can.”
Boudreau wouldn’t commit to Bonino returning to the lineup tomorrow night. The Ducks coach is taking a wait-and-see approach to his recovery.
“I don’t know if he’s ready to play yet,” Boudreau said. “After you skate, and you put your foot in the boot for the first time, it’s the next day to see how stiff and sore you are [that matters]. We’ll have a better read tomorrow.”
DUCKS TO HOST CHOC NIGHT
The Ducks will raise funds and awareness for Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC Children’s) by hosting CHOC Night tomorrow.
Prior to the game, in the Hockey Spot, CHOC Children’s volunteers will be selling the fan-favorite, limited edition stuffed Choco bears (the CHOC mascot) outfitted in an Anaheim Ducks replica home jersey autographed by an Anaheim Ducks player for $60 per bear. Once the puck drops, any remaining bears will be sold on the Main Concourse in Section 219. Choco bears traditionally sell-out fast and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
Fans attending or watching Sunday’s Prime Ticket telecast can donate to CHOC Children’s in a number of ways. By texting “CHOC” to “90999,” a $5 donation will be made to the hospital. Fans will also have the opportunity to bid on silent auction items at Section 214, including a Teemu Selanne package of autographed memorabilia and a basket of player-autographed “Choco Bears,” including Olympian-signed bears.