By Kyle Shohara
Although the Ducks aren’t playing their best hockey as of late, head coach Bruce Boudreau opted for a different approach to today’s practice at Honda Center.
He wanted to remind his players that hockey, at its core, should be fun. So instead of bag skating them or putting them through a physically demanding practice, Boudreau had the Ducks open the session with what he calls “two-puck” before breaking off into a scrimmage.
“Sometimes when things are going bad and things aren’t going right, players forget it’s a game to have fun,” he said. “We played a little bit of two-puck to warm up and told them that the sun still rose today and we’re still first place. Let’s not jump off a cliff because we haven’t played well the past week.”
The Ducks won’t have any other choice but to play at their best tomorrow night against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team right on Anaheim’s heels. With the Ducks loss last night coupled with the Blackhawks victory over LA, Chicago sits only three points behind Anaheim in the conference (and league) standings.
“I think it’s appropriate we play Chicago tomorrow,” said defenseman Bryan Allen. “They’re a great team coming in that’s always a good battle and great games. It’ll be good to end [the homestand] with a victory.”
Unlike the previous four games against teams clawing for a postseason berth, the Blackhawks are likely to punch a ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite sitting second in the Western Conference, Boudreau expects them to be a desperate hockey club.
“They’re the team that was first overall last year and won the Stanley Cup,” he said. “I think they would like to get back in that position. In the Central Division, Colorado and St. Louis aren’t losing too many games. They have to keep winning just to stay where they want to stay in their division.”
Victories in their next two games would surely send the Ducks into the Olympic break on a higher note. Matt Beleskey says it’s time for the Ducks to refocus and strive to be better.
“We can play two good, hard games here and go into the break feeling good about ourselves,” he said. “Sometimes adversity is something the team needs. Maybe this is a wakeup call for us. I’d rather have it now than towards the end of the season.”
Goaltender Viktor Fasth took part in his first full practice with the Ducks this afternoon. It’s been a rough season for Fasth, who’s dealt with several injuries, including a lower-body issue that’s forced him to sit out 34 consecutive games. But practicing with the team is a step in the right direction, and Boudreau says everything is dictated by how Fasth feels.
“There’s a plan in place,” he said. “Everything has to go according to how he feels. If he feels good by this date, this can happen. If he feels ready to play by another date, another thing can happen.”