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Ducks try to see positives in lengthy road trip

by Corey Masisak
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Western Conference teams in the NHL spend a lot of time on the road -- geography dictates it more than anything else.

That said, the Anaheim Ducks are in the early stages of a journey that is quite long even for their standards -- seven games in 13 days in two different time zones against teams from four different divisions.

"Thirteen days is a long one," Anaheim forward Matt Beleskey said. "You've got to have a couple suits, and then the way I eat I've got to have a couple shirts, too. It is a little difficult, but most of the time you're in your suit so there's not a whole lot of other packing to do other than dress shirts and a couple suits. You try and pack as light as possible, especially when you're switching cities every other night."

"There's nothing you can really do. You just keep rolling with it. It is a good time with the guys, obviously you get to know them more. For me it is still a new team so it is good in that respect, but other than that you just keep going."
-- Andrew Cogliano

The Ducks began this trip with a 3-2 overtime loss Tuesday at Chicago's United Center. After playing Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild here at Xcel Energy Center, Anaheim moves on to Nashville, Columbus, Washington, New York and Detroit before trekking back to Southern California.

While some teams have long road trips as an annual experience -- Chicago gets evicted from the United Center every year because the circus comes to town; ditto for San Jose because of an ATP tennis tournament -- Anaheim has two long trips this season, and it is by choice. The Ducks also have an eight-game trip in February, and between these two (and by knocking out a "road" game against Buffalo in Helsinki), they will satisfy all of their Eastern Conference commitments (and much of their Central Division ones as well) away from Honda Center in large chunks rather than make an extra trip or two.

"It can get longer, but you have that ability to rest and you have that ability to practice in the other team's city it is a huge bonus," coach Randy Carlyle said. "You can space out your travel and get your proper rest. We stayed over in Chicago and then practiced here yesterday. We'll go to Nashville tonight and practice there tomorrow.

"Early in the season you don't normally get a lot of practice time. I wouldn't say that the players are enthusiastic about getting off the plane to go to practice, but hey, this early in the season and this is our job to get this team playing at a high level every game."

Added Saku Koivu: "Obviously, it is always tougher to play on the road. When you play on the road for two weeks there is a lot of traveling, so obviously the recovery period is not as good as it is at home. You can't really do your routine and off-ice workouts that you can do at home. There's a lot of things that you have to get away from familiar circumstances, but at the same time if you get off to a good start on a long trip the guys seem to have bonding time and you get that rhythm going."

One concern for Carlyle and the Ducks will be the team's health. Recalling a player from their American Hockey League affiliate will actually be easier during this trek east because the team is in Syracuse, but it is also tougher to quarantine someone when illness strikes.

Devante Smith-Pelly missed the game Tuesday because of an illness, and Carlyle said he's a game-time decision against the Wild.

"We all had our flu shots, if you can believe it, just before we left," Carlyle said. "Hopefully that's not something that is going to spread, because Dan Ellis had something last week and Smith-Pelly is the second player to contract some sort of flu/stomach ailment. We hope it is not something that is going to run through our hockey club while we're out on the road for seven [games] in a row.

Added Andrew Cogliano: "There's nothing you can really do. You just keep rolling with it. It is a good time with the guys, obviously you get to know them more. For me it is still a new team so it is good in that respect, but other than that you just keep going. It is just important to get wins because games kind of just turn over into other games on the road, and this road trip can kind of make the beginning of our season, so it is an important one."
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