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Looking to the Stars

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
By Matt Vevoda

"We fell short of where we wanted to be," Marchant said of losing to Dallas in last year's playoffs. "As a result, we had a longer summer than we wanted to. I think that's the motivation."
It’s been more than six months since they last met and while the seasons for the Ducks and Stars are currently going in different directions, there is still plenty of anticipation for their matchup Friday night at Honda Center.

Despite holding home-ice advantage in the Western Conference Quarterfinals series with Dallas, the Ducks fell in six games and were sent on their longest summer away from the ice in three seasons. Though a new campaign is underway for Anaheim and the team is focused on continuing its winning ways regardless of the opponent, there is still some lingering thoughts on what may have been last April.

“We fell short of where we wanted to be,” said Todd Marchant after Thursday’s practice. “It took us three games to finally get into the series and by that time it was too late. And still we had a chance. You go look back on the series, going into the third period of Game 6 in Dallas we had a 1-0 lead and 20 minutes to get to a Game 7. We didn’t take advantage of it. As a result, we had a longer summer than we wanted to. I think that’s the motivation.”

To start the 2008-09 season, it seemed both teams were stuck in neutral as they combined for a 3-8-1 record (Ducks 1-5-0; Stars 2-3-1) through their first six games. But the Ducks have gone into overdrive since with a league-best 8-0-1 mark in their last nine. Stuck at 4-6-2 and 14th in the Western Conference, the Stars are stilling waiting for that jumpstart.

“They are a good team,” said Jean-Sebastien Giguere, expected to start in goal tomorrow night. “They are looking for their game right now. It’s always a tough game against Dallas. I think we should be ready.”

What has undeniably helped the Ducks turnaround has been the play of their top forward line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz. After totaling all of two points between them in six games to start the year, the trio has dramatically rebounded for 43 points since.

Aided by Getzlaf’s 18 points on the season (tied for first in the league) and Perry’s 17 (tied for second), the Ducks now rank first in the league in goals for with 48.

“They are leading our team,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “That is a huge bonus for us. They are the group that when they play their game and when things start to turn around for them, they are quite capable of putting offensive statistics up on the board.”

"I think as a team we'e played much better defensively," Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "If we play a very tight defensive type of game, we have the fire power to score three goals every game if we want to."
Although he has to watch their offensive output from the other end of the rink, Giguere is more than impressed with what he is seeing from the line.

“These guys have all the talent in the world,” Giguere said. “They have the size, speed, toughness and skills. Nothing can stop them if they want. Right now things are clicking for them and it’s good for the rest of the team because we can take advantage of that.”

Over the last three games, the Ducks defense has started to make just as much progress. In wins over Calgary, Los Angeles and St. Louis, the team has only surrendered a total of four goals. It’s an achievement the Ducks hope to continue as they try to rise from their current position of 28th in goals against.

“I think as a team we’ve played much better defensively,” Giguere said. “It’s a whole lot more fun playing that way for everybody than to not know what the score is going to be at the end of the game. If we play a very tight defensive type of game, we have the fire power to score three goals every game if we want to.”

While appreciative of the success his team has seen recently, Carlyle continues to preach there is a higher peak that can still be reached. “I think we can improve on our work ethic and we can move our feet more,” Carlyle said. “When we’re moving consistently, we’re a hard team to play against. I don’t think you can say that we’ve done that for 60 full minutes yet.”

Notes: George Parros (eye) and Brad May (knee) took part in practice on Thursday at Honda Center. Carlyle indicated that both will be game-time decisions against the Stars. Prior to their injuries, the duo was shining on the energy line with a total of seven points to go along with their always demonstrated physical play.
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