By Kyle Shohara
Another day of practice is in the books here at Honda Center, as the Ducks prepare for tomorrow night’s visitors, the Ottawa Senators. Much like the Ducks, the Senators have endured an up-and-down first half of the season, but find themselves one point out of the two wild card positions.
Simon Despres seems to be progressing after returning to practice last Saturday. Today, he took part in battle drills, but Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t offer a timetable for a possible return – or a conditioning stint in the American Hockey League, if necessary. It’s a day-by-day thing for the big defenseman, who hasn’t played since Oct. 16 due to a concussion. But seeing him engage in battle drills is an encouraging sign nonetheless.
With the second half of the season upon the Ducks, who, by the way, currently sit three points out of third place in the Pacific Division, head coach Bruce Boudreau emphasized the importance of treating every game as a must-win.
“The mindset is that they know we’re in a race,” Boudreau said after practice today. “They’ll be into it for 41 games. Every game is going to be really important. It’s imperative we’re ready to play every night.”
The Ducks have, in fact, played better as of late, winners of five of their past eight since the Christmas break (5-2-1) and five of their past eight on home ice (5-3-0). There’s also a heavy dose of divisional games in the second half against teams they’ll need to leapfrog in order to make the postseason.
As for tomorrow night, expect a similar on-ice product from the Senators as you did from the Detroit Red Wings, according to Boudreau.
“They beat us pretty good last year in two games,” he said. “They have tremendous team speed, so that’s something we have to deal with.”
The Senators were on the wrong end of a 7-1 final on Sunday night against the Washington Capitals in a game that was highlighted by Alex Ovechkin scoring his 500th and 501st career NHL goals. Tomorrow marks the first of a four-game road trip for the Senators. Ducks defenseman Josh Manson says the winner of this game will come down to compete level and the sheer desire for two points.
“It’s going to come down to whoever wants it more,” Manson said. “They got embarrassed, so they’ll come in here with something to prove. They’ll want to start this road trip off on the right foot. We can build off of last game. After the first 10 minutes of the first period, we came out and played the way we wanted to. We had a lot of speed. We’ll want to do that again.”