|After playing four of their last five games at Honda Center, the Ducks face five in a row on the road, where they have been streaky this season. |
Alarm clocks buzzed a little earlier than normal on Thursday morning for the Anaheim Ducks, who had to gather at Honda Center for an 8:30 a.m. practice before departing to Edmonton for the start of five consecutive games on the road.
The Ducks have been boom or bust so far this season when away from Orange County. After dropping their first two road excursions of the year, Anaheim gained points in each of the following eight contests (7-0-1 record). But the Ducks have since lost three straight away, albeit in the buildings of three of the top four teams in the Western Conference (Detroit, Chicago, San Jose) that boast a combined 35-4-8 home record.
“We’re not afraid of going out on the road,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle, whose team currently holds a 7-5-1 road mark. “We know it’s not going to be easy and we’re going into tough buildings.”
When the Ducks look at those last three away games, they see a problem that also reared its ugly head in the game against the New York Rangers on Tuesday at home – turnovers. “I think in the last three road games, turnovers have been a big part of why we haven’t been that successful,” Travis Moen said. “We have to shore things up in the neutral zone and stick to our game. We’re a physical team and need to get pucks deep.”
Said Chris Pronger, “We have to try to simplify our game and not try to get too cute. When we try to get too fancy and try to play that run-and-gun style, it doesn’t play into our skill set. We have to get back to that grind game and physical game. When we do that, we’re very effective.”
| “These are three pretty big games for us,” Chris Pronger said. “This can get us in the right direction and set us up for after Christmas. It’s always nice going into the Christmas break feeling good about yourselves and being able to enjoy the festive season.” |
A good way to steer towards success on the road is to better capitalize on power play opportunities. The Ducks have gone three games without a PP strike and league-leading Teemu Selanne (13 PP goals) has been without one since Dec. 3 at Chicago.
“I think at times we’ve passed up the obvious,” said Carlyle of the team’s current power play drought. “The one thing about power plays is you have to understand they go in peaks and valleys. We were riding a wave there for awhile. When you go out on the road, specialty teams are going to be a key factor in your success on the road trip.”
Anaheim is hoping this trip to Canada plays out the way their last venture north of the border went in late October. Beginning the season with a 1-5-0 record, the Ducks started to turn things around with consecutive wins at Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal (becoming only the third team since 1992-93 to accomplish such a feat in Eastern Canada). This time it’s Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary on the docket, more familiar teams that have rivalrous pasts with the Ducks.
“These are three pretty big games for us,” Pronger said. “This can get us in the right direction and set us up for after Christmas. It’s always nice going into the Christmas break feeling good about yourselves and being able to enjoy the festive season. Hopefully we’re able to put together three good games and come away with some points.”
Although the next five games will come on the road, the Christmas holiday that gives the club a mandatory two days away from the game (Dec. 24 and 25) will break up the road trip into two parts. After the three games in Canada and some much-deserved time to themselves and family, the Ducks will resume the trip with games at Dallas (Dec. 27) and St. Louis (Dec. 28).
“It would be a lot tougher trip if we had five in a row on the road,” Moen said. “To be able to come home, enjoy Christmas and then go back out for two makes it a little nicer.”