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Ducks looking to get off to strong start

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Anaheim Ducks open the season against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night hoping to pick up where they left off more than nine months ago.

Not as the 13th-place team in the Western Conference and out of the playoffs, but as one of the hottest teams in the season's second half, when they went 24-4-6 down the stretch. With top forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan all back, and Jonas Hiller healthy between the pipes, they believe they can keep that pace.

"I don’t see why it shouldn’t carry over," Perry said. "As a team in the second half, we were right up there with the best in the League. We fell a little bit short but if we continue to do the same things we were doing I don’t see why we can’t be one of the top teams."

Anaheim is also hoping to get tougher in front of Hiller. That was their objective last summer, when the team signed free-agents Sheldon Souray and ex-Canuck Bryan Allen on defense and added gritty Daniel Winnik to their third line.

"In today’s game, people go to the front of the net and I didn’t think we challenged enough in front of the net last year," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "So hopefully we'll make it a tougher spot for other teams that want to go there and just hang out."

Boudreau is also hoping hard-shooting Souray can help the power play. Souray, who did not get any extra-man duty in Dallas last season, will join a unit that ranked 21st in 2011-12.

"They're power play was 30th wasn’t it?" Boudreau said of the Stars, who indeed were the League's worst team with the man advantage last season. "We're playing him on the power play. I think he scored 26 goals for Montreal one year. So go figure. We’ll find out. Maybe he’s not very good there anymore but we’re going to try him there."

As for deriving extra motivation from missing the playoffs last season, Boudreau said he doesn't care where it comes from. So long as the Ducks avoid the slow start that led to him getting the job after his predecessor, Randy Carlyle, was fired midway through last season.

"I know they are very cognizant of their bad starts as a group, so we'll see," Boudreau said.

Here are the rest of the expected lines for the Ducks, including a slight surprise on the fourth line, where 19-year-old rookie Rickard Rakell will start ahead of 22-year-old Peter Holland:

Kyle PalmieriRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Bobby RyanNick BoninoTeemu Selanne

Daniel Winnik – Saku KoivuAndrew Cogliano

Matt BeleskeyRickard RakellDevante Smith-Pelly

Toni LydmanFrancois Beauchemin

Sheldon SourayLuca Sbisa

Bryan AllenCam Fowler

Workhorse Jonas Hiller starts in goal, with Danish rookie Frederik Andersen backing him up – for now. The Ducks are expected to swap Andersen with Swede Viktor Fasth, who is down with their AHL affiliate to get some game action.

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