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Needing 'Special' Attention

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

By Matt Vevoda


AnaheimDucks.com

"I think that is one area where we can do better and we know we can make winning easier by doing that," Selanne said of Anaheim's power play.

For much of the Ducks’ last half dozen games, their two special teams units have been nestled at opposite ends of the success spectrum.

It all began for Anaheim during a game at Dallas on Feb. 28. That’s when Andrew Ebbett (first period) and Stars center Mike Ribeiro (second period) traded power play goals in a span of 9:12 for their respective clubs. Since that time, Anaheim has gone 0-for-21 with the man advantage while the penalty kill has gone a robust 21-of-22 (only goal surrendered was again to Ribeiro on March 6 at Honda Center) against opponents during the same span.

“What we’ve done since the trade deadline is we’ve tried to be a lot more aggressive with the penalty kill,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “That is where you have seen the emergence of Mike Brown. Todd Marchant has filled a huge role. Petteri Nokelainen has come in and we’ve used Robbie Niedermayer and Ryan Carter. We’ve used five forwards, basically.”

Stopping power plays at a 95.45 percent clip has definitely kept the Ducks close in those contests (two wins, four losses by one goal), but in order to reverse those fortunes over the final 13 games on the calendar, the team understands it must get its power play back to its vibrant past. Even with the recent drought, Anaheim still ranks ninth in the league with a 20.31 power play percentage.

“I think that is one area where we can do better and we know we can make winning easier by doing that,” said Teemu Selanne, who leads the team with 14 power play goals. “There have been a lot of good chances. I think it’s all about making right decisions, when it’s time to shoot and when it’s time to pass. You can’t force either one.”

"For the last couple of games, they've been one-goal games," Wisniewski said. "We're looking at four-five power play at least, so if we can sneak one in there, it's going to be a big key to making the playoffs here in the next 13 games."

Said Bobby Ryan, whose eight power play goals are tied for the league lead among rookies, “It’s important not to get too down in the low times. We had a good month of January and February wasn’t a bad month for the power play either. It’s not clicking right off the bat here. We have to get more pucks to the net and more traffic in front.”

Things will not get any easier for the Ducks on Wednesday night against Nashville, which brings to town the league’s third-best penalty kill (84.72 percent). But Anaheim was able to score twice on that unit (one from Ryan Getzlaf that temporarily tied the game at 3-3 in the third period) in the last matchup between the teams in Orange County on Nov. 14, a 4-3 overtime win for the Predators. The Ducks power play will look for that same success in this go-around.

“When you start keeping it simple and are just throwing pucks at the net, you never know what can happen,” said defenseman James Wisniewski, who Carlyle indicated may get a bigger chance on the power play unit. “You may get one or two goals. That can be the difference in winning games. For the last couple of games, they’ve been one-goal games. We’re looking at four-five power plays at least, so if we can sneak one in there, it’s going to be a big key to making the playoffs here in the next 13 games.”

In an effort to get things turned around with the man advantage, Carlyle and the coaching staff have tried to employ a few different looks. They’ve moved Ryan to the top unit with Selanne and Getzlaf, and Corey Perry to the second unit with Ebbett and Erik Christensen. Now, Wisniewski may see an increase to his minutes on the power play. The highest amount of time he’s clocked on the unit in four games with the team thus far is 1:05 against the Stars on March 6.

"It's important for us to make sure we're ready to go," said Ryan, who turned 22 years old on Tuesday. "Especially at home, we have to use the crowd to our advantage and make sure we're playing for them. Hopefully, special teams comes through in a big way tomorrow night."

“We’ll try to spread a little more of the minutes out,” Carlyle said. “Wisniewski’s strength is he has a shot and he can use it. That is what we’re going to continue to focus on is utilize the strengths of the personnel that we have and try to put them in situations they can have success in.”

Beginning with Wednesday night’s game against the Predators, the Ducks will only face four different teams in a span of eight games (two games each against Nashville, Phoenix, Colorado and Edmonton). The Ducks hope the familiarity can help spark change to the team on multiple fronts, including on the power play.

“It's important for us to make sure we’re ready to go,” said Ryan, who turned 22 years old on Tuesday. “Especially at home, we have to use the crowd to our advantage and make sure we’re playing for them. Hopefully, special teams comes through in a big way tomorrow night.”

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