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Scoring from wings, power play questions for Ducks

by Curtis Zupke /

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks seem primed for another deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there are areas of concern for the Western Conference regular-season champions.

Some are a recurring theme; another is a product of offseason reshuffling.

Here are three questions facing the Ducks:

Will there be enough scoring from the wings? Anaheim either traded or did not re-sign wings Matt Beleskey, Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem. They combined for 41 goals last season, including nine on the power play.

Returnees Jakob Silfverberg, Patrick Maroon and Jiri Sekac, with newcomers Carl Hagelin and Chris Stewart, are expected to collectively fill that void.

"If you stay static, other teams go by you, so you've got to continue to try to improve," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Chicago's done it, the good teams have done it, keeping the same core together and moving parts around it and continually get better. So that's what we're trying to do."

Silfverberg came on late in the regular season but consistency will go a long way toward improving on his 13 goals.

"I felt like I got the trust from Bruce in different situations that I haven't seen before," Silfverberg said. "The way I played in the playoffs is the way I want to play. I want the puck every shift I'm out there. I tried to create scoring chances. That's how I want to play, and with trust from Bruce, hopefully it will stay that way."

Maroon had nine goals and an NHL career-best 34 points last season while contributing size (6-foot-2, 231 pounds) and strength. Sekac and Stewart figure to get bigger roles on the bottom two lines. Hagelin, acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers, adds speed and is coming off back-to-back 17-goal seasons.

Will the power play get better? It's difficult to believe that a team with as much skill and firepower as the Ducks isn't more productive with the man-advantage. But Anaheim's power play actually got worse last season, dropping to 15.7 percent (28th in the NHL) from 16.0 percent in 2013-14. The power play has finished in the bottom third of the League in three of the past four seasons.

Predictability is a big reason for its ineffectiveness, and general manager Bob Murray was bothered enough to bring in former Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean as an assistant, replacing Brad Lauer, to try to improve the power play.

Can the Ducks find a killer instinct? They found themselves facing this question for the third straight season after another Game 7 home loss, this time to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final. They say they need to learn from it and come back with more of a chip on their shoulder.

"We lost some friends and some teammates, but it's part of the business," forward Ryan Kesler said. "On the flip side, we picked up some really good guys and I'm excited. We're close [to a Stanley Cup]. We are right there. Now we just need to go there and do it. Start from scratch and start this ride all over again."

That's the same kind of talk heard in the Ducks dressing room after the past two playoff disappointments. Perhaps the best solution is not to let a series get to a Game 7.

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