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Power play, young players are keys for Ducks

by Curtis Zupke continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

It's a new era for the Anaheim Ducks. Teemu Selanne retired, and in January will be the first player in franchise history to have his number retired.

By then the Ducks would like to have a lot of their questions answered, but they are always teeming with drama, not to mention flashes of excellent hockey. A little less of the former and more of the latter come the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been a theme during training camp.

"I think we've done the divisional stuff," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We've [been] the Western Conference champions. The big thing now -- and it's a long ways away -- is to get further in the playoffs. But you can't just sit there and say, 'Let's wait until the playoffs' and go from there. If you look at the division and the conference, it's 82 games of tough sledding to get there."

Here are three keys to how the Ducks can get there:

1. Improve the power play -- This normally would be a small concern, but it was almost confounding that the NHL's highest-scoring team had the 22nd-ranked power play. Anaheim went through stretches of five, eight and six games without scoring with the extra man, and the Ducks also had a three-game drought in the Western Conference First Round series.

The additions of Ryan Kesler and Dany Heatley should greatly help a team that already has Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. General manager Bob Murray was sold on Heatley after his scouts saw him with the Minnesota Wild during the playoffs.

"I know he's a proud guy," Murray said. "He's like Teemu. He wants to go out the right way. We're giving him a pretty good opportunity, I think. This could work out for both of us."

2. The kids must mature -- Anaheim has young talent falling out of its pockets but goalies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson have a combined 31 regular-season and 11 playoff games between them.

Forwards Devante Smith-Pelly, Emerson Etem and Patrick Maroon each has less than a season's worth of NHL experience, and William Karlsson's next NHL game will be his first. They need to make up for the 40 goals and 92 points generated by the departed Mathieu Perreault and Nick Bonino.

Kyle Palmieri is capable of 20 goals and should build off his 14 goal, 31-point season.

3.They must learn from the past two early playoff exits – Anaheim has been smarting for two years running after it was eliminated by disappointing Game 7 losses on home ice – to the Detroit Red Wings in 2013 and the Los Angeles Kings last season.

The Ducks are a high-scoring, entertaining team to watch during the regular season, but their deficiencies were exposed in the second-round loss to the Kings. They know they have to learn from that loss.

"We know that, as a team, we were incredibly embarrassed with how Game 7 went," defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "They came out and outplayed us in every aspect. From almost the start of the puck, it was embarrassing. We can't do that again. We need to build throughout the year, to come up with answers for that. We can say we're going to do things differently in September, but ultimately it doesn't matter until we get back in that situation. We need to use this year to learn how to do that."

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