ANAHEIM, Calif. — Two teams looking to change their identities meet Sunday night when the Anaheim Ducks and the Calgary Flames face each other at the Honda Center.
The Ducks seek consistency after 10 days that resembled a ferociously jagged line on a Richter scale. Anaheim began that stretch with a 6-1 thrashing of the Nashville Predators, only to follow with a 4-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Ducks responded by defeating the Los Angeles Kings 4-0, then got routed by the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1.
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle hopes his team's most recent result, Friday night's 5-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes, will be the beginning of the end of the Ducks' uneven performance.
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“Hopefully, it's a start we can build on,” Carlyle said afterward. “Tonight was a statement that we have to approach the game a little differently, maybe, than we had for the first five or six games. Our defense was much more effective moving the puck. We didn't really tax our goaltender. We were disciplined. We didn't take a bunch of stupid penalties.”
They also relied on forward Rickard Rakell, the Ducks' most consistent player lately. Since returning to the lineup Tuesday night against the Kings, Rakell accumulated three goals and six points in three games. Two goals and an assist came Friday night, three weeks after Rakell ended his status as a restricted free agent by signing a six-year contract worth $22.8 million.
“He's a gifted kid, and we're very fortunate to have him,” Carlyle said. “It looks like the game is slow for him. That's what's amazing for those young players who have that skill set. The puck follows them around, and they can do things that other people don't want to try.”
Whether left winger Nick Ritchie and center Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks' captain and leader in assists, are able to contribute remains an open question. Both missed the past two games after sustaining upper-body injuries in the victory over Los Angeles. Kings defenseman Tom Gilbert received a three-game suspension for hitting Ritchie into the glass. Both Ducks participated in Saturday's practice, though.
The Flames, meanwhile, search for a new personality under first-year coach Glen Gulutzan, who wants to add discipline and skill to a squad known for workmanlike grit.
“I'd like to establish a really solid, structured game,” Gulutzan told the Calgary Herald while referring to comments Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane made about the Flames' schizoid tendencies.
“They're hard to predict,” Kane told the Herald. “Whether it's going to be a tight checking match-up or it could get out of hand and there could be a lot of scoring, they're always fun games to play in, especially when you don't know what to expect.”
For Gulutzan, those are fighting words.
“We used that quote because we need to find and establish what you're going to get from the Calgary Flames every night,” Gulutzan told the Calgary Sun. “When you look at the teams that have had success year after year over the last 10 years, you always knew what you were going to get. That's the stepping stone we'd like to get to.”
Calgary's 5-0 loss to the Kings on Saturday night reinforced Gulutzan's point.
“You're going to get a team that rolls and knows its identity,” Gulutzan told the Sun. “They've got all the pieces, right?”
The Flames face Anaheim without right winger Kris Versteeg, who went on injured reserve with a strained groin Saturday. Calgary recalled left winger Hunter Shinkaruk from Stockton of the AHL.