|“We played so many games so far and have been here and there,” Hiller said. “We never seemed to be in one place. It’s always great to be back at home. We’re excited to be here and play in front of your own fans." |
Finally getting a small bit of relief from the schedule, the Ducks have had the chance the past couple of days to rest up and get in a good practice.
The team was given yesterday off after defeating the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks 2-1 at Honda Center on Sunday. It was the club’s third straight win overall and fourth in a row at home (where they will need to capitalize on as many points as possible during a six-game homestand that goes through Jan. 12).
The Ducks were back at it today for the better part of 90 minutes, where the coaching staff was able to go over a few different tweaks to the game plan moving forward. “Over the last month, we have had a limited amount of time to spend on some of the details that needed attention paid to,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. "You can do it a little bit between games but not to this degree.
Watch the Ducks and new acquisition Maxim Lapierre talk after practice
“One thing that we have always maintained is your players have to be rested and fresh if you expect them to go out and play to 110 percent on every night. We’ve been able to get a couple of days of work in and get a day off to forget about hockey from the players’ standpoint.”
At Tuesday’s practice, the Ducks again got a look at their newest acquisition, center Maxim Lapierre. The 25-year-old was obtained from Montreal on New Year’s Eve, but has yet to play in a game for the club as he awaits immigration paperwork to be finalized.
“I can’t wait for the challenge to be in the Ducks lineup,” said Lapierre, who will wear No. 14 when he does debut for Anaheim. “I have to wait right now. I’m still working and training hard. I’ll be ready for my first game.”
|“I can’t wait for the challenge to be in the Ducks lineup,” Lapierre said. “I have to wait right now. I’m still working and training hard. I’ll be ready for my first game.” |
Last weekend, Carlyle indicated that Lapierre would most likely see time as Anaheim’s third-line center to start off his tenure. With the Ducks’ current injury situation, it is unclear who would be slotted beside him, although rookie Brandon McMillan
and Joffrey Lupul were originally mentioned as possible linemates.
“We’d love to be able to see him be a 15- to 20-goal scorer for us,” Carlyle said. “The game is where we will get a good read on Max and see how he fits into our situation. He’s going to get an opportunity as soon as his paperwork is finalized.”
Already without Ryan Getzlaf
, who is out indefinitely with a multiple sinus fractures, the Ducks had Jason Blake
also go down early in Sunday night’s game against Chicago with a shoulder injury. “Blake is feeling much better and it is not as serious as we first thought,” Carlyle said. “That is a good sign. He has a possibility to skate tomorrow.”
Among the players who helped fill the void of playing almost all 60 minutes with 11 forwards was McMillan, who has bounced around lines throughout his first 20 career games this season. Against the Blackhawks, he was called upon to fill Blake’s role on the second line with Saku Koivu
and Teemu Selanne
. It is a spot he has played in before and grown comfortable in.
“We got put together in Boston and I thought we had really good chemistry,” McMillan said. “We had a good game there and have been together in different spots. I think we’ve done a good job. Teemu and I have good speed and we try to utilize that against defensemen. We have had three or four 2-on-1s in the last two games at least. If we can keep doing that, we’re going to get a lot of chances for ourselves.”
One player who has most noticeably stepped his game up for the Ducks is Jonas Hiller
. Winning seven of his last nine starts, the goaltender is now second in the league in wins (19) and fourth in save percentage (.925). He has also dropped his goals-against average to 2.54.
“One thing that we have always maintained is your players have to be rested and fresh if you expect them to go out and play to 110 percent on every night. We’ve been able to get a couple of days of work in and get a day off to forget about hockey from the players’ standpoint.” - Randy Carlyle
He turned in quite the performance against Chicago on Sunday, when he stopped 39 of 40 shots (and all 19 that were fired his way in the final period). Among those saves, were several which required acrobatic moves to keep Anaheim in the lead and eventually on to victory.
“The last game I felt really good,” Hiller said. “You get that feeling that they will need an unbelievable play to beat you. But at the same time, you have to know what has happened so far in the game. You can’t just give up and think everything is going to hit you. You have to keep focus and try to stop the next puck, which is the most important one.”
His play comes at an important time for the Ducks, who have four more games on their current homestand. Points will be so crucial in that timeframe, as the team will then play 11 of 14 goals on the road through mid-February.
“We played so many games so far and have been here and there,” Hiller said. “We never seemed to be in one place. It’s always great to be back at home. We’re excited to be here and play in front of your own fans.