By Kyle Shohara
Pictures from Practice
Although practice today didn’t last nearly as long as the two hour training camp-esque skate yesterday, the intensity and focus was ramped up even further as the Ducks prepare for their homestand finale tomorrow night vs. Dallas.
With the team as healthy as it’s going to be at this point of the season, the Ducks rolled out five sets of forward lines during the hour-long session on Honda Center ice. Matt Beleskey skated with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry for the second consecutive day, while Ryan Kesler centered Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg. Patrick Maroon skated in white with Nate Thompson and Tim Jackman, while Jiri Sekac and Tomas Fleischmann took rushes with Rickard Rakell and Kyle Palmieri. The kid line comprised of Emerson Etem, Chris Wagner and Stefan Noesen rounded out the forwards.
Yesterday Matt Beleskey said that if the Ducks expect to make a deep run in the postseason, the team is going to need the contributions of every player in the lineup. So in addition to working on team-specific drills, each player will have to make sure he’s ready when called upon. “Maybe it’s one game, maybe it’s five, who knows? That’s why we’re really focusing on practice,” he said. “It’s about being ready to play in those games no matter if you’re in or out of the lineup. I think everyone in here is going to buy in and be ready to go from here.”
With the way the schedule has unfolded – the Ducks have had four days between games and after tomorrow won’t play again until Saturday – head coach Bruce Boudreau has been able to use these days to prepare his squad for what’s to come next week. “It’s an advantageous situation we have to take advantage of,” he said. “We went through, and I don’t know the exact numbers, but something like 31 games in 60 days. There isn’t a lot of great practice time. Now that you have practice time before the playoffs, you have to take advantage of it.”
Veteran center Nate Thompson says the unorthodox schedule has been beneficial for a team with its sights set on hockey’s ultimate prize. “We worked on a lot the last few days, like system things, special teams and things you don’t really have an opportunity to do in the season,” he said. “We had a nice break and good practice time. It’ll help us going into these games.”
While the Ducks are in a battle for first place in the Western Conference and within reach of the Presidents’ Trophy, the movement beneath them is a sight to behold. Calgary, Minnesota, Winnipeg and Los Angeles are all jockeying for postseason contention, and spots could very well be determined on the final day of the regular season. Players and coaches alike admit they’re tuning in to the madness. “My wife and I will sit and watch every game,” said Boudreau. “We have two TVs going, so we’re vested. The games are very interesting and you could see the intensity in all of them.” He says he tries to watch the games as a coach and not a fan, but sometimes the fan within him takes over. “If it’s a great goal or a great play, it’s like Oh, wow. But I look more at who’s jumping into the play or who’s sitting back.”
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t watching the games or seeing what’s going on,” said Thompson. “We know there are a few different teams we could play, but that’s out of our control.”
The Ducks have fared well against each of those opponents, including season sweeps vs. Minnesota (3-0-0) and Winnipeg (3-0-0). Anaheim also took the season series vs. LA (4-0-1) and Calgary (3-1-1). In total, the Ducks went 13-1-2 against those teams.