If you can't win, you better learn, and the lessons that emerged from the Ducks' loss in San Jose on Sunday are expected to be put into effect in the New Year's Eve rematch at Honda Center.
For one, playing physically is more effective than relying on finesse.
The Ducks' lone goal in the 3-1 loss came from rugged fourth-line member Patrick Maroon, who was given 12 minutes 25 seconds of ice time and "was hitting everything that was moving," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said Monday after the team practiced at Honda Center.
"Once you start laying a body on them and getting the pucks deep, hitting guys, separating them from the puck … the chances were there," Maroon said. "It was a little too late, but now we know what we need to do."
After being overwhelmed by the second-place Sharks (25-8-6) and giving up two goals in the first 10:07 Sunday, the Ducks (28-8-5) held their own, outshooting San Jose but failing to rally against goalie Antti Niemi and crew.
"They play sound defensively, box players out; it's tough to get in front of the net on these guys," Ducks forward Corey Perry said. "But I'm excited, it's going to be a different game."
Boudreau didn't give approval to Perry's punch to the head that brought a third-period penalty and dropped Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart to the ice, and Perry declined to discuss his thinking.
But it was an answer to the elbow/butt-end of stick that teammate Daniel Winnik received after arguing with San Jose's Marc Edouard-Vlasic over face-off positioning, and the elbow Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano received.
"If it's hitting, scoring, fighting, whatever I have to do to get the team going, I'll do that," Maroon said.
That matched Boudreau's emphasis Monday.
"You have to be physical, or they're going to win all the battles and if they win all the battles, they're going to win the game," Boudreau said. "We need to stand up a little bit more for ourselves."
The road loss that made the Ducks 0-1-1 in San Jose underlines the importance of pursuing the Western Conference's best record come playoff time, Perry and Winnik said.
"For sure," Winnik said when asked whether they view the front-running crowd that includes the Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues as otherwise equal-caliber. "You can't take any of them lightly."
The Ducks are 14-0-2 at Honda Center.
No wall yet
Ducks rookie defenseman Hampus Lindholm, 19, ranks third in the NHL with a goal-differential of plus-20 when he's on the ice.
"We have a lot of good players and coaches to take advice from," Lindholm said. "With good people around you, it makes you better in practice. I try to take care of my body and recover. I'm not used to playing this many games, but I try to recover — cold tub and all those things — and play smart and not waste too much energy."
VS. SAN JOSE
When: 5 p.m.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Etc.: Veteran San Jose center Joe Thornton leads the NHL with 39 assists, and has seven in his last four games.
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