BREAKING NEWS
L.A. Now

Ducks look for more juice from their power play

The Ducks take an 0-for-19 power-play skid into Friday's game against the St. Louis Blues at Honda Center

It was power-play practice for the Ducks earlier this week, against a mishmash penalty-killing unit featuring a guy coming off a head injury, a frequently scratched defenseman, an early-season acquisition and one regular.

Yet even with that talent mismatch and the benefit of an extra man, the Ducks' most elite players couldn't find a way to score one goal in five tries.

Ryan Kesler slammed his stick down and banged the glass after losing a puck. Ryan Getzlaf flipped his stick skyward when his pass to former league most valuable player Corey Perry was intercepted.

And defenseman Sami Vatanen, who's racking up All-Star votes and has a team-high five power-play goals, couldn't cleanly launch a blue-line blast.

So it has gone for the Ducks' power play this season, which takes an 0-for-19 skid into Friday's game against the St. Louis Blues at Honda Center.

"Frustration and emotion in practice is good," Getzlaf said. "It means you care. You're trying. You want to make better plays. It's intensity, we expect better of ourselves. You can always get better in this game. It doesn't matter where you're sitting in the standings."

Monday's practice was the fresh start of fixing the biggest weakness of the 24-9-6 team, which enters the new year with the most points in the NHL.

Anaheim's star-studded power play ranks 23rd in the NHL with a scoring percentage of 15.6. In 128 manpower advantages, the Ducks have scored 20 goals.

"Against Vancouver [an 0-for-4 showing], our third power play was our best," Kesler said. "On the first two, we looked short-handed a few times."

Injuries to usual power-play participants Perry, forward Kyle Palmieri and defenseman Francois Beauchemin have limited those three to just three games together this season, forcing Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau to shuffle in new additions.

"It always hurts to have one of your top guns out," Kesler said, nodding toward Perry, who missed 15 games with the mumps and then a sprained knee before returning Wednesday.

Compounding the problem, Boudreau said, is a schedule that has rarely afforded the Ducks time to give extra attention to the power play. Until Monday, the Ducks hadn't had two consecutive days off between home games since Nov. 26.

"We haven't had a lot of time to work on it, and when you look at the teams that are good at it, they're on it every day," said Ducks assistant coach Brad Lauer, who coaches the power play. "It should be better than it is, but as we get our reps in, it should get better. It's a work in progress."

From Nov. 12 to Dec. 1, the Ducks were blanked on the power play in nine of 10 games, a two-for-25 skid during which Lauer said players were "ad-libbing."

"We make things more difficult on ourselves and don't stick to keeping things simple," Lauer said. "Sometimes, [players with] higher-end skill want to complicate things, trying more high-risk plays instead of keeping things simple. We've gotten away from that. They understand that."

After Monday's step-by-step practice, what Lauer called a "foundation day," he said: "Today was a good start to getting back on the right page."

Despite his frustration in the session, Kesler agreed the answer is "just execution. We have the players, the system, in place. It's practicing it every day, talking about what's going to be open. The repetition."

Boudreau wants the problem fixed this month, when the Ducks have to leave California only once between now and Feb. 4, when they embark on a schedule that will give them only three more two-day breaks between home games.

Friday opponent St. Louis "is usually at the top [of power-play rankings] by shooting the puck and getting big bodies at the net," Boudreau said. "We've got the big bodies. We've got to shoot the puck more."

DUCKS VS. ST. LOUIS BLUES

When: 7 p.m.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.

Etc.: Despite their power-play prowess, the Blues rank near the bottom of the NHL in penalty-killing success. Forward Vladimir Tarasenko has 22 goals.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
48°