Although their first round playoff opponent became almost 100 percent certain on Thursday night, the Ducks’ solitary focus remains on the final remnants of the regular season docket this weekend.
|Pronger, who returns from suspension Sunday, says, “You want to go in playing well. You want to use those two games to get everything shored up, get yourself motivated and ready to roll. Come playoffs, you want to make sure you’re firing on all cylinders.” |
Barring an unforeseen circumstance, Pacific Division rivals Anaheim and Dallas will meet in the opening round beginning next week. While it will be a matchup of the four and five seeds in the Western Conference, the higher seed remains up for grabs. Three points ahead of the Stars, the Ducks can control their own destiny.
Any combination of two points gained by the Ducks in their last two games (at Los Angeles on Saturday and at home against Phoenix on Sunday) or lost by the Stars in their remaining two games (at home against the Coyotes tonight and San Jose on Sunday) gives Anaheim home ice, and thus Games 1 and 2 at Honda Center.
“I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we have two games to play here,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “Our focus can’t be Dallas. Our focus has to be the L.A. Kings and Phoenix Coyotes. We have two games that are very important to our team and organization.”
In what would be a pretty evenly matched series with the Stars, the Ducks ability to nab home ice advantage could be the tipping point, as they own a franchise-record 27-9-4 home mark.
“Home ice is very important, especially with the way we played here at Honda Center this year,” Ducks captain Chris Pronger said.
Going into the postseason with momentum is another reason the Ducks hope to dispatch the Kings and Coyotes on consecutive days. “You want to go in playing well,” Pronger said. “You want to use those two games to get everything shored up, get yourself motivated and ready to roll. Come playoffs, you want to make sure you’re firing on all cylinders.”
While there is a dilemma to rest players at the end of the season for playoff teams in all sports, the Ducks are steadfast in their desire to play hard in closing out the schedule.
“I will give nothing into that attitude,” said Carlyle of the rest quandary. “I won’t visit that at all.”
“I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we have two games to play here. "Our focus can’t be Dallas. Our focus has to be the L.A. Kings and Phoenix Coyotes. We have two games that are very important to our team and organization.” - Randy Carlyle
Added Scott Niedermayer: “I don’t think it’s ever good to head into a game and not be prepared or try not to go out and play your best. I think we just have to have that mindset going into this weekend to prepare as best we can and perform at the high level that we want to. That’s the only way to play any game.”
Helping the team’s cause on Sunday will be Pronger’s return to action after an eight-game suspension, and the Ducks captain is itching to get back into action.
“It’s obviously been a long layoff, especially with our schedule and four to five days between games,” Pronger said. “It doesn’t make it any easier having it drag on. It will be good to get a game in before the playoffs just to get a feel for things again.”
Cleared from the injured reserved prior to Friday’s practice at Anaheim Ice, Ryan Carter is looking more and more like a possibility for one or both of the games this weekend.
“I’ve been taken off the IR, so there’s a chance,” said Carter, who has been out with a broken wrist since Feb. 20. “It’s feeling better today. We’ll see how tomorrow goes. It would be nice to get in a game before the playoffs starts.”
Even another positive for the Ducks lineup is the progress of top goal-scorer Corey Perry, who skated prior to practice in his rehabilitation from a partially severed right quadriceps tendon suffered on March 6.
“That’s always a positive sign when you got a guy that’s been able to skate,” Carlyle said. “It’s the second or third time Corey has skated on his own. The optimum case for him is middle of the first round. I think a lot of things have to go right for that to happen.”