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Practice Report: Finding Another Gear

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

By Kyle Shohara

After sweeping a four-game Eastern road trip and enjoying three full days away from the rink, the Ducks returned to Honda Center for practice this afternoon.

The league-leading Ducks are gearing up for tomorrow’s matchup against the division-rival Phoenix Coyotes, in the first of back-to-back games. The Ducks will travel immediately after the game to San Jose for a matchup against the Sharks at the SAP Center on Sunday night.

While players welcomed the three-day break, they said it was good to get back in the groove.

“Those days off were needed, and I think the guys enjoyed them, but now we’re back at it,” said Mathieu Perreault. “We have a good thing going here. We’ve won nine in a row and we want to come back on the ice.”

The nine-game winning streak represents the best streak in franchise history. The last NHL team to win nine straight games was Pittsburgh, which won 15 in a row from Mar. 2-30, 2013.

“Even though we’ve won nine, we want to come out tomorrow and restart it,” Perreault said. “We want to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Tomorrow’s game is the fourth meeting of the season against the Coyotes. The Ducks have won the first three, the most recent in the form of a 4-2 victory on Nov. 23 at Arena. Much like Anaheim, the Coyotes can roll four lines throughout a game, something head coach Bruce Boudreau is well aware of.

“You have to be prepared because they’re four lines deep,” he said. “They can put four really good lines out, and they have the most active defense this side of Chicago. You’re always worried about their depth. If [goaltender] Mike Smith is playing at the top of his game, he’s a tough one to beat. I always think they’re really tough. I’ll be watching their game tonight. We’ve been fortunate against them, but it’s been no easy task.”

They say the greatest enemy of success is complacency. With the Ducks nearing the halfway point of the season as the league’s point-standings leaders, Boudreau says the focus needs to be on getting better.

“We’ve got to continue to improve, and get better,” he said. “If we continue to improve and get better, we’re going to be fine. But if we stay the same, then we’re not going to be fine because the last half of the year, the better teams always get better. That’s why the hockey in March and April is so much better than it is in October. Our focus is on getting better.”

Every season is filled with memorable wins, and perhaps one the players will take away from this season was their emotional comeback victory on Monday night against the Washington Capitals. The game marked the return to D.C. for Boudreau and assistant coach Bob Woods, as well as Perreault, who the Ducks acquired via trade with the Capitals. Down by two goals in the first period, the Ducks clawed their way back and got the go-ahead goal (and eventual game-winner) off the stick of 19-year-old Hampus Lindholm with only 5:36 remaining in regulation.

Though Lindholm has all of 36 career NHL games under his belt, he said the victory in Washington will be one he remembers for a long time.

“It was a special game,” he said. “We wanted to finish off strong heading into the Christmas break. We were down two goals in our previous two games, and found ways to come back. That’s good for all the guys.”

Perreault said he’ll always remember his return to Washington. “I really wanted that one, and I think Bruce did, too,” he said. “It was great to see your old building and take it to them. I’ll always remember that I won my first game back in Washington. Every game is important, but that was the one I pointed to on the schedule when it came out. I was looking forward to that game.”

Anaheim’s standings point streak now sits at 12 games, the league’s longest since the Penguins’ 15-game streak (15-0-0) last March. At 27-7-5, this marks the Ducks’ second-best start in franchise history (2006-07, 28-5-6).

On the road, the Ducks have won six straight games to match the longest such streak in the NHL this season and are now only one shy of the franchise record (7, Nov. 28-Dec. 13, 2006). In addition, Anaheim is riding a seven-game road point streak (6-0-1), one game shy of the club record of eight set from Nov. 22-Dec. 13, 2006 (7-0-1).

With wins in Detroit, New Jersey, New York (Islanders) and Washington, the Ducks swept a road trip of four games-or-more for the fourth time in club history. The previous three occasions were Feb. 5-13, 2011 (4-0-0 through COL/VAN/CGY/EDM), Oct. 21-27, 2008 (4-0-0 through TOR/OTT/MTL/CBJ) and Nov. 19-24, 1993 (4-0-0 through VAN/EDM/CGY/WPG).

In addition to being 16-3-4 when scoring the first goal, the Ducks are now 11-4-1 when their opponent scores first, the best mark in the league. Only two other NHL teams are over .500 when allowing the first goal - San Jose (7-6-1) and Vancouver (9-8-3). Anaheim’s last five victories have all come with the opponent scoring first (5-0-0). The last NHL team to win five straight games after giving up the first goal was Minnesota, which won five such games from Nov. 28-Dec. 6, 2011 (Stats Inc.).

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