|Drew Doughty and the Kings are happy to be home after an up and down road trip.
Every team is glad to get home after a road trip, but few teams were happier to get home than the Anaheim Ducks were this week.
The Ducks start a seven-game homestand Thursday, and they'll need a big showing to get back into the playoff race after a nightmarish 0-3-1 trip that ended with a 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh Monday.
With his team struggling, not even a late-night flight back to the West Coast after the loss to the Penguins was enough to keep coach Randy Carlyle from holding practice Tuesday.
"I felt with our schedule that is coming, we're going to play every second day here as we go, that we should try to get on the ice as much as possible to try to improve our overall execution level," said Carlyle, who added that his decision was made in part because the Ducks didn't practice Sunday, and instead had one-on-one meetings. "That first and foremost was missing from (Monday) night. It wasn't where it needs to be in the last 3-4 games and that has been frustrating for everybody."
The Ducks enter the homestand in the NHL's bottom five in goals-against per game (3.42) and penalty-killing (74.2 percent). Captain Scott Niedermayer said the simplest fix is to address the turnovers that have plagued the team.
"The biggest thing is you look at the giveaways," he said. "Those should be pretty easy to correct. There are good players in this League that are going to make plays. Things are going to happen even when you're doing your job, but to give them opportunities is tough."
Kings, too -
The Ducks weren't the only Southern California team that's been on the road. But the Los Angeles Kings headed home with a 3-2-0 mark thanks to shootout wins at Tampa Bay on Saturday and Florida on Monday.
"It's a great road trip," coach Terry Murray said after the 4-3 win at Florida. "When you're playing in this League today, and traveling as much as we have through this trip, to get three wins at the end of the road trip, I would have been very happy to say to the team, before we started out, that it would be great if we could do that on this trip. And it's done."
The win against Florida especially was sweet because the Kings overcame a 2-0 deficit just four nights after they saw a 2-0 deficit at Atlanta turn into a 7-0 debacle.
"I thought we were playing a pretty good game," defenseman Drew Doughty
told the Kings' Web site. "They just got those two quick goals. It wasn't like they were all over us or anything like that. We were playing solid. But after those two goals, we just kept it pretty positive on the bench, and when we got in the dressing room as well. We said, 'We've got to win this game. It's the last game of the road trip, and just blow it out.' I thought we did a great job."Juggling act for Stars -
The injuries that wiped out the Dallas Stars in 2008-09 may be contributing to the team's early success this season.
Losing players such as Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards for extended periods forced the Stars to use a few youngsters, some of whom have grown into bigger roles.
"For sure, it's healthy competition," said forward Brian Sutherby, who was scheduled to be a healthy scratch last Thursday until Jere Lehtinen's tweaked groin gave him the chance to dress. "It's been like that for my entire career, being anywhere from the eighth to 12th forward, or 13th, it's always something that's a motivating factor to try and stay in the lineup and sometimes that's the way it goes.
"You're in, you're out. I don't think anyone deserves to be out of the lineup right now. That's sort of tough, but you just got to roll with it."
So far, coach Marc Crawford has been coming up with the right combinations.
"I haven't really juggled the lines," said Crawford, whose team finishes November with eight games in 13 nights. "We talk about how one of our strengths is depth, and when we can throw that kind of depth on a line, that's an advantage for us and we want to utilize that advantage. We're going to try to keep everybody involved. We think we're going to have to use all 23 guys from here to the end of the month at least, and it's nice that you don't have a drop-off in players when the need arises."
Piling up points - and injuries -
The San Jose Sharks have been on the kind of run that powered them to the Presidents' Trophy last season -- going 9-0-3 in a recent 12-game stretch to move into first place in the Pacific Division and the overall NHL standings. They suffered their first regulation loss since Oct. 22 on Tuesday.
They got great goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov during the streak, as well as offensive production from the likes of Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau -- plus some timely performances from depth players who have ridden the Worcester-to-San Jose shuttle and helped the Sharks combat a tidal wave of injuries.
The Sharks also have done a good job playing the same way whether they're facing the l defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, or the last-place Carolina Hurricanes.
"It's more about our focus," said center Manny Malhotra, who's stepped right in as the Sharks' No. 3 center after signing just before the season began. "It doesn't matter if a team is 18th, first or 30th, it's about what we want to do and that's how we approach it. We know what we need to do."
Malhotra, who played for the New York Rangers, Dallas and Columbus before coming to San Jose, feels the Sharks have been excellent at making teams play their style.
"Every team has that focus, but in this locker room it is more about what we do," he told the Sharks' Web site. "Some other teams have to adjust. We want you to change your style."Missing bodies -
In contrast to deep teams like the Sharks, the Phoenix Coyotes are paying a big cost for a series of injuries that have wiped out much of their defense.
Kurt Sauer hasn't played since early October due to an upper-body injury, and both Zbynek Michalek and Ed Jovanovski have been sidelined with lower-body injuries.
"We're a group that needs everyone to play well," defenseman Adrian Aucoin said after Monday's 4-1 home loss to Tampa Bay, "and when you go a man short and only certain guys are getting on the ice, the other guys stiffen up and it's really hard to get a good rotation."
The defense corps was further thinned Monday against Tampa Bay, when Jim Vandermeer was given a boarding major and a game misconduct in the first period. That meant lots of ice time for the other five blueliners: Keith Yandle led the Coyotes with 27:11, and Aucoin logged 24:19.
"They're doing lots and lots of work," coach Dave Tippett said. "They're doing more work than they should be doing. They're pushed into that work and they're trying. ... But just because of our situation with the injuries, they've been called on to do more. They're giving every drop they have, and it's got to continue."Around the Pacific --
San Jose killed off all 21 opposition power plays in a six-game span, beginning Nov. 5 against Detroit. ... Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf had his 11-game points streak ended in the Ducks' 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday, but linemate Corey Perry had an assist to extend his streak to 12 games. ... Beginning Thursday, the Ducks will play every other day through Dec. 1 -- all at the Honda Center. ... Few teams have had as much trouble with delay-of-game calls as Phoenix. The Coyotes have taken eight in eight games through Nov. 16. The call against Jim Vandermeer in Monday's game against Tampa Bay led to the go-ahead goal in the Lightning's 4-1 win. ... Phoenix coach Dave Tippett was all smiles after the Coyotes beat his former team, the Dallas Stars, on Saturday. Asked if the 3-2 win was special, Tippett said: "You'd be lying to say it wasn't." ... Dallas goaltender Marty Turco stopped his 13th consecutive penalty shot when he denied Shane Doan of the Coyotes in the loss at Phoenix. ... The Stars will honor new Hall of Famer Brett Hull in a pre-game ceremony Nov. 25, before their game against the St. Louis Blues. Hull was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 9, becoming the first Dallas Stars player to enter the Hall. Hull scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Stars in 1999, but had his biggest offensive seasons with the Blues. ... The Kings have beaten Florida in their last five meetings, including Monday's shootout win. L.A. hasn't lost at the BankAtlantic Center since Oct. 26, 2001, when the Panthers won, 3-2. ... After hosting Philadelphia on Wednesday, the Kings play 17 of their next 18 games against teams from their own conference.
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist