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Focused on Improvement

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
By Dan Wood

Ducks Radio Analyst

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Ducks will look to build on Tuesday’s improved performance in Chicago when they try to break a three-game winless skid Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

While the Ducks are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blackhawks at the United Center, their play was significantly better than in back-to-back home losses to the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes last weekend.

“I wasn’t impressed with our first period, and then we had a 2-1 lead,” Coach Randy Carlyle said after putting the Ducks through a Wednesday afternoon practice session in Minnesota.

“We weren’t that good (in the first period) because of the amount of turnovers we were committing,” Carlyle said. “We have to cure that ailment earlier in the hockey game. It should be cured in warm-up. We can’t afford to have that loose-type of play.”

Out-shot by Chicago 11-5 but saved by goaltender Jonas Hiller in a scoreless opening 20 minutes, the Ducks twice seized leads, on a power-play goal by Ryan Getzlaf and an even-strength strike from Teemu Selanne. The Blackhawks, despite being out-shot a combined 24-18 in the second and third periods, got even and forced overtime on a Patrick Sharp goal 5:57 into the third.

“Once we got out skills going, our mindset was that we were going to put the puck in and go to work, and we did that,” Carlyle said. “So that was encouraging. It was discouraging that we gave up a one-goal lead, but at least we were competing in the game. We were inside, and we did a lot of good things in the hockey game.”

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the contest for the Ducks was their failure on five other power play opportunities, including three in the third period. After ranking third in the NHL on the power play last season, the Ducks completed play Tuesday 25th in the league at 11.4 percent, with just four conversions in 35 man-advantage situations.

“We looked very, very tired (on the power play),” Carlyle said. “We were sloppy with the puck, and we weren’t crisp. And that is something that we can’t accept.

“It was just lack of execution in a critical point in the game.”

Ironically, the Ducks are much-improved in penalty-killing thus far this season, with 90.6 percent efficiency that ranked sixth in the NHL. Since giving up two power play goals in their 4-1, season-opening loss to the Buffalo Sabres in Helsinki, the Ducks have foiled 28 of the past 29 opposition manpower advantages.

“Our job is to make both (special teams) in the upper echelon, and that’s what we’re going to strive to do,” Carlyle said.

Rookie winger Devante Smith-Pelly, who missed Tuesday’s game because of flu-like symptoms, practiced Wednesday and will be re-evaluated today.

Rugged winger George Parros took a puck to the face early in practice and needed stitches to close the wound, which did not appear serious, according to Carlyle.

The Ducks also assigned winger J.F. Jacques to the Syracuse Crunch of the American League.
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