Ducks Radio Analyst
OTTAWA – Setting aside potential distractions and finishing strong before the NHL all-star break are near the top of the to-do list as the Ducks open a four-game road trip tonight against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place.
The Ducks enter their only meeting with the Senators this season holding a 25-19-4 record, good for seventh place in the tightly packed Western Conference standings. Solidifying their position in the top eight is the immediate goal.
While the Ducks have played 48 games, tied with the Atlanta Thrashers for most in the NHL, the itinerary over the next eight nights appears relatively manageable. The Ducks will go on to visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday before closing the trip Jan. 25 at Columbus.
“We’ve played a lot of back-to-backs,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said this morning. “We’re kind of accustomed to a heavy workload. These games are spread out.”
The Ducks held their morning skate at Carleton University in downtown Ottawa, only because Scotiabank Place, located in suburban Kanata, is quite a haul. Even so, there was a sizable contingent of Canadian media on hand.
“There is a lot more attention paid to these games than what we’re accustomed to,” Carlyle said. “The markets we’re going to – it’s Canada. Not many people have seen our hockey club. This is our first tour, really, though the Eastern part of Canada in a while.
“There’s lots of family and friends, so there are all those pressures that come with it. First and foremost, the most important thing for us is to get off on the right step and have a solid game tonight.”
Perhaps adding to the challenge is that the next three games represent something of a homecoming tour for a number of Ducks. Defenseman Andy Sutton, who completed last season with Ottawa after having been a late-season acquisition from the New York Islanders, faces the Senators tonight.
Thursday’s visit to Toronto will be the first for Ducks left wing Jason Blake
since he came to Anaheim nearly a year ago in a trade that sent popular goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere to the Maple Leafs. And Saturday will mark the return to Montreal of longtime Canadiens captain Saku Koivu
, one of four former Habs now with the Ducks. The others are defenseman Paul Mara and centers Maxim Lapierre and Kyle Chipchura.
Regardless of all of that, the Ducks need points. They have won four of the past five games, seven of nine, and are 12-6-1 since Dec. 7.
“We’ve been more consistent,” Carlyle said. “Outside of the last two games, we’ve played to a higher level. The last two games, we haven’t really played that well.”
The Ducks dropped a 6-2 decision Saturday at Phoenix before edging Edmonton, 3-2, Sunday night at Honda Center.