By Kyle Shohara
It was clearly evident in last night’s game in Chicago that the team wearing white was closer to what you’d expect from the Anaheim Ducks. Though they were felled 1-0 in overtime by the Blackhawks, the Ducks returned to their brand of hockey and controlled the majority of play against the defending Stanley Cup champions. A win wasn’t earned, and they were still shutout for the fifth time in eight games, but the way in which they played, the players say, is a step in the right direction.
They’ll need to bring it again tonight, as they conclude their first set of back-to-backs in Dallas. It’s a quick turnaround for a team that didn’t get into Dallas until two o’clock in the morning. Nevertheless, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau says he won’t use a lack of sleep as an excuse.
“If you dwell on the fact that it’s a back-to-back, and we didn’t get to sleep until whenever it was we got to sleep, you’re building yourself up for excuses to fail,” he said. “That shouldn’t be the case. The first period is always important, and if we can get the lead, it’ll be doubly important for us.”
Veteran center Shawn Horcoff knows this team well, having played in Big D for the past two seasons. The 37-year-old skated in 153 games with Dallas, earning 49 points (18g/31a) and a +10 rating.
“They’ve got good speed,” said Horcoff. “They want to use their speed, get in on the forecheck, turn pucks over and want to make plays. It’s going to be a really good test for us. They’re playing really good hockey right now.”
Indeed, they are. Dallas enters the game with a 6-2-0 record (12 points) and reeled off five consecutive wins until the Florida Panthers dealt them a 6-2 loss at American Airlines Center on Saturday.
Stars captain Jamie Benn scored two goals in Saturday’s game, marking his second multi-goal contest of the season. Benn currently paces the NHL with eight goals, while his 12 points are tied for first overall. Tied with Benn is teammate Tyler Seguin, who has four goals and 12 points this season.
Leading the offensive charge on defense is John Klingberg, who enters the game with a four-game point streak (1g/4a).
After stopping 23 of 24 shots last night, Frederik Andersen will get the start against the Stars, according to Boudreau.
TURNING THE CORNER
The Ducks arguably played their best game – or most complete game – of the season last night in Chicago. Moving forward, Horcoff says the Ducks will have to be content winning low-scoring games if that’s what it comes down to.
“We changed some things, and I thought our team speed was back,” he said. “We were really moving well through the neutral zone. Until you score goals, until they start going in for us, we have to be content winning games 1-0. Last night, we were. We just didn’t get the bounces. If you’re going through a good spell, we get four or five goals in that game. It’s just where we’re at right now. We’re just looking for a bounce. Once it goes in, the floodgates will open.
“We should be in a good spot because we’re playing good team defense. When you can put those two together, you’re going to string together some wins.”
Ducks left wing Andrew Cogliano says the team got back to its identity.
“Last night was more of what we’re about. It’s who we are as a team,” he said. “We deserved better. You have to win the game, and that’s why Chicago is a good team. Even though we played a good, solid game, they didn’t let us score. We had a lot more shots and opportunities to score, and we controlled most of the play.
“We didn’t win, so no one is feeling great about themselves, but if we play like that, guys are going to feel better about the game. We’ll start stringing games together.”
Cogliano, by the way, played in his 630th consecutive game since making his NHL debut on Oct. 4, 2007 with the Edmonton Oilers, tying Andy Hebenton (1955-64) for the second-longest consecutive games played streak to begin a career. Doug Jarvis, who did not miss a game during his NHL career, holds the league’s all-time consecutive games played record (1975-88: 964 GP).