When the Anaheim Ducks began last season under coach Bruce Boudreau, they lost their first four games and gained only one point from an overtime defeat before earning their first win. Under Randy Carlyle, who guided the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup and replaced Boudreau in June, the squad achieved the same results after five games.
Carlyle and the Ducks hope to reverse that trend Sunday night in the team's home opener against the Vancouver Canucks at the Honda Center.
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The Canucks began the season with four consecutive victories for the first time since 1992 before losing Saturday night to the Los Angeles Kings in a shootout, 4-3. Only the Canucks and the Montreal Canadiens have yet to lose in regulation this season.
“It's a lot of fun to play hockey right now,” Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom said. “We're really buying into what we say we're going to do, and it gets results.”
Vancouver achieved its success without placing one player among the NHL's top 20 in goals, assists, points or plus-minus rating. Nor did the Canucks rely on goalie Ryan Miller for four of the first five games. Miller, the former Vezina Trophy winner who played in the past two Winter Olympics for the United States, missed the last four games with unspecified tightness in his core muscles.
But Miller will make his second start of the season Sunday night. The 36-year-old began his 15th season Oct. 15 with 25 saves in win against the Calgary Flames.
Anaheim, meanwhile, seeks to avoid the kind of phenomenon that occurred after last year's 1-3-1 start. Following a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild to end that four-game losing streak, the Ducks lost their next five and owned only two points after their first 10 games.
Undisciplined play, disorganization on offense and the lack of forechecking defined Anaheim's poor start this year. But the Ducks overcame all three problems in Thursday night's 3-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite taking eight penalties, Anaheim kept the Flyers from scoring on all but one of their seven power plays. Last year, the Ducks led the NHL by defusing 87.2 percent of opponents' power plays.
“You got almost the same group in here that's killing penalties, guys that work hard and are hard on the puck,” Anaheim winger Ryan Garbutt told the Orange County Register after scoring the winning goal Thrusday night. “I think confidence carries over. I think our penalty kill is going to be a strength of ours for the season.”
Off the ice, the Ducks and defenseman Hampus Lindholm remain at an impasse in contract negotiations. Lindholm, a restricted free agent, seeks a contract between $5.5 and $5.8 million per season while Anaheim is offering between $5.1 and $5.4 million per year, report various sources.
The Ducks have only $323,335 in room under the salary cap after signing forward Rickard Rakell, another restricted free agent, to a six-year contract extension Oct. 14.