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Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry may thrive apart for Ducks

Anaheim hopes putting veteran forwards on different lines can spark offense

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- Previous attempts to split up Anaheim Ducks linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry used to result in separation anxiety. In other words, it benefited almost no one.

Until last season.

Bruce Boudreau, then the Ducks' coach, put Getzlaf and Perry on different lines; Perry played with center Rickard Rakell. This was done not merely to jump-start Getzlaf and Perry, but to spark an anemic offense that had the Ducks in last place in the Pacific Division at the Christmas break.

That was a true crisis.

This season is different. The strong play of the Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg line has been carrying the Ducks, who are four points out of first place in the Pacific Division entering their game at the Calgary Flames on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; SN360, PRIME, NHL.TV). But the success of that line can only mask the scoring issues elsewhere for so long.

Video: ANA@TOR: Getzlaf banks home a power-play goal

Getzlaf and Perry have combined for one goal since Dec. 13. Perry has one assist in the past six games and Getzlaf has one goal and two assists in that stretch. Earlier, Perry went 18 games without a goal, from Oct. 28 to Dec. 4, the second-longest such stretch in his NHL career.

With Perry struggling again, the Ducks took measures to try to get him back on track. Coach Randy Carlyle used the morning practice on Wednesday at Honda Center to tinker with the lines, putting Perry with Rakell and Antoine Vermette, with Getzlaf centering Nick Ritchie and rookie Ondrej Kase.

The Ducks play back-to-back road games against the Flames and the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. Defenseman Clayton Stoner had abdominal surgery earlier this month and will be out four to six weeks, Carlyle said.

Also, the Ducks will be without defenseman Sami Vatanen (flu) in Calgary, and defenseman Brandon Montour, 22, could make his NHL debut.

Video: ANA@TOR: Andersen kicks out his pad to rob Rakell

They are hoping Rakell can help Perry break out of a slump, just as he did when they played together for parts of last season. Who knows what could be possible a year later, now that Rakell is armed with more experience and the fact he has 21 points (14 goals, seven assists) in 25 games?

Plus, Vermette was not around last season to shoulder the load in the faceoff circle, where Anaheim has excelled this season. Kesler has the most faceoff wins (465) in the NHL, and Vermette has the best winning percentage (66.0) for centers who have taken more than 25 draws.

"I've said on numerous occasions that we felt Rakell was going to play center at some point," Carlyle said. "I don't know if [Thursday] is the night or not. We do have that option.

"We've played with the numbers on numerous occasions, and we'll see what we decide to do."

Getzlaf pointed out that the' Ducks depth gives them the luxury of trying to find the right combinations, searching for the correct fit and not depending too much on Kesler's line, which he said is playing "complete hockey."

"We've got to score goals," Getzlaf said. "… Our line has got to be better in the goal-scoring department. We switched it up [Wednesday] and we'll see how it works."

The tried and true formula wasn't quite doing it. But Carlyle doesn't see the need for full-scale change. Again, the ups and downs of this season are not remotely like last season's slow start.

Video: ANA@DAL: Getzlaf chips the puck in from the doorstep

"Our perception of this whole thing is if we can stay competitive here and build on the five games over .500 and find a way to eliminate some of these overtimes, we'd be a lot happier," Carlyle said of the Ducks' 1-7 record in overtime and shootouts. "If we are .500 in overtime, we'd be in first place. That's the difference."

They seemingly have more tools at their disposal to work their way out of it. Vermette, an unrestricted free agent, signed with Anaheim on Aug. 15. Kase was called up from San Diego of the American Hockey League and made his NHL debut on Nov. 2.

"This league is better for him because down there [in the AHL] it's all over [the place]," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. "Here it's structured, and he's a very structured kid. He's strong on the puck and he works and he doesn't panic."

Despite the scoring woes, Perry is Anaheim's third-leading scorer with 27 points, one point behind Getzlaf and two behind Kesler. Perry has seven goals, 20 assists and is minus-5; Getzlaf has four goals, 24 assists and is minus-7.

Video: ANA@DAL: Perry sweeps a backhand into the net for PPG

"Again, they're your big guys, your go-to guys," Carlyle said. "I don't look at it like it is all doom and gloom. Do we think they can provide more? Yes. Do we think the Kesler-Silfverberg-Cogliano line are playing maybe too much in certain situations? Yes.

"But that's the schedule and we're in this business to win. You do what you have to do to win hockey games. Are we trying to develop more cohesiveness in the other units? Yes."

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