Less than 24 hours after what could have been a demoralizing 4-1 loss in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals in Detroit, the Ducks were back to business at Honda Center.
Well, it wasn’t all business.
Head coach Randy Carlyle attempted to shake things up with a scrimmage in which players whacked the puck around using wrong-handed sticks for the first 10 minutes of today’s relatively short practice on home ice. That’s where the Ducks will attempt to extend this series in tomorrow’s Game 6, as they trail the Red Wings, 3 games to 2.
“I didn’t think it was a day that you’d want to come to work and drag your knuckles and say, ‘Oh, here we go again,’” Carlyle said. “We’re not feeling good about the way we played, but I told them, ‘We’re judged on our response.’ And how are we going to lift the spirits of people other than go back to some of the goofy things you did when you played hockey (as a kid)? Wrong-handed scrimmage and ball hockey are all things that they remember, and you could see a lot of smiles on the faces, a much lighter approach.
“We’re just trying to turn the page and start to feel good and happy about being at the rink.”
That was the sentiment in the Ducks locker room following the practice, where the Ducks were already shaking off the discouragement of Game 5 and focusing on the do-or-die task at hand tomorrow night.
“Our season is on the line now, so it’s up to us to have the best game of our year tomorrow,” said defenseman Ryan Whitney, who had Anaheim’s only goal in Game 5. “We’re at home, we’ve been good here and these fans are great. We at least want to have a good first period and get some momentum going.”
“Luckily for us,” Bobby Ryan said, “we’re playing at home.”
I didn’t think it was a day that you’d want to come to work and drag your knuckles and say, ‘Oh, here we go again,’” Carlyle said. “We’re not feeling good about the way we played, but I told them, ‘We’re judged on our response.’ We’re just trying to turn the page and start to feel good and happy about being at the rink.” - Randy Carlyle
Defenseman James Wisniewski, who returned in Game 5 after missing the previous Game with a lung contusion, dismissed any speculation that the energy exerted over the first two rounds had taken a physical toll on him and his teammates.
“I came here March 4 and we had the hardest practices I’ve ever had,” Wisniewski said. “I think we’re in better shape than any other team in the league. I just think our focus wasn’t there last game. I don’t think it was because we were tired. We have Stanley Cup winners in the locker room and they know what it takes to win. You can expect a whole different team tomorrow and hopefully we’ll pull one out and get to Game 7.”
Goalie Jonas Hiller had 34 stops in Game 5, a marked improvement over a Game 4 that was probably his first sub-par outing of the postseason. He noted that the Ducks have shown their resolve in must-win situations just to get into this postseason, when they won 10 of their last 13 regular season games to qualify.
“This group has shown that we’re able to be in these situations,” Hiller said. “At the end of the regular season we pretty much had to win every game to make the playoffs at all. But we definitely need more tomorrow than we showed yesterday. Everybody has to be mentally ready and be ready to fight at least 60 minutes.”
Agreed Whitney, “We’ve had a lot of games that were must-wins, we’ve felt like, and tomorrow is really the first must-win we’ve had [in this series].”
The Ducks have taken solace in the fact that despite not playing their best hockey, they had chances to tie it late in Game 5. Erik Christensen was robbed by Detroit goalie Chris Osgood with about three minutes left in the second period on a point-blank shot, and the Ducks had a power play in the first few minutes of the third in which they failed to capitalize.
“We’re optimistic that we can play a better game of hockey than we did in Game 5,” said forward Todd Marchant. “We’re going to have to in order to beat this team. For whatever reason, in Game 5 we didn’t play nearly the way we can play. That being said, we still had a chance to win the game. We had some chances.”
|“This group has shown that we’re able to be in these situations,” Hiller said. “At the end of the regular season we pretty much had to win every game to make the playoffs at all. But we definitely need more tomorrow than we showed yesterday. Everybody has to be mentally ready and be ready to fight at least 60 minutes.” |
The Ducks split their first two games at home with the Red Wings in this series, with a 2-1 win in Game 3 coming when a late goal by Marian Hossa was controversially waved off by referee Brad Watson. The Wings came back with a convincing 6-3 win in Game 4. Now the Ducks need a victory at home to forced a seventh and deciding game back in Detroit
“Last night was a game that we want to put away and forget. We know we have to be better and we want to be better,” Teemu Selanne said. “I don’t think we were happy with how we played, but they played well too. I think everybody was disappointed after the game. But, you know, even keel. We’ll forget about that and be better.”
The Ducks are 5-0 in their franchise history in Game 6s at home, including a victory over the Sharks in the first round this year (also Detroit in 2007, Calgary in 2006 and Dallas and New Jersey in 2003).
Said Carlyle, “I believe in this group. We’ve dealt with adversity for a long time at different spots in the season. What we’ve tried to do is turn the page on what happened last night. The most important thing we can do is refocus, realize the situation we’ve put ourselves in, accept the responsibility and focus on the things you can control. This is just another day at the office. There is a little more importance on the work day tomorrow, but that doesn’t change the approach.”
- Forward Ryan Carter missed practice because of “an appointment,” according to Carlyle, though he wouldn’t specify further.
- Carlyle said he had no plans to continue with the move he made in Game 5, splitting up Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He moved Getzlaf to a line with Erik Christensen and Teemu Selanne, while the top line consisted of Perry, Bobby Ryan and Petteri Nokelainen. “With any grouping that you’ve had together for the good part of three years, the only reason that you take them apart is to try to change the momentum flow of the game. I don’t see that as anything drastic. Those things happen. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here.”
- Gord Dineen, who this season coached the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the Iowa Chops, has been relieved of his duties and offered another position in the organization.