Ducks Hurting in 1-0 Loss

Times Staff Writer

There was need for triage Friday.

The Mighty Ducks needed it to cure the aches and pains that have increased. They needed it to check on their psyche, which has been damaged in a post-Christmas funk.

They trudged off the ice after a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, which qualified their slump as a free-fall event. Many of the announced 14,420 at the Arrowhead Pond went home happy, seeing their Flyers follow Thursday’s victory over the Kings with another against the Ducks. The rest got to witness the Ducks’ fifth consecutive loss, ending their six-game home winning streak and nine-game home unbeaten streak.

“We need to understand that everyone in the league takes steps,” Coach Mike Babcock said. “The level of play goes up after the first 20 games, then after the second 20, then after Christmas.”


The Ducks have managed to stay in the playoff race through four holidays -- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day -- but could be out of things by Martin Luther King’s birthday if they don’t right themselves. Five consecutive losses left them in a three-way tie with the Kings and Phoenix for second in the Pacific Division, with last-place San Jose a mere two points behind.

Other than Dallas, no one in the division is in a playoff spot. Babcock called this an emergency situation ... two games ago.

The Flyers kept the Ducks on their downward path. They got an early power-play goal from Keith Primeau and goalie Robert Esche made that hold water, stopping 28 shots for his second shutout.

The Ducks attacked the Flyers’ net in the final 10 minutes, but Esche was up to the challenge, stopping three quality scoring chances by Paul Kariya. Esche and the Flyers survived a frenzy in front of the net with 20 seconds left and the Ducks didn’t get another opportunity.

“If we had played that way in the first two periods, it would have been a different story,” Kariya said. “That was a team playing its second game in as many nights. We should take it to them from the start.”

The Ducks were scoreless on seven power plays.

“We’re not playing very good hockey right now,” Kariya said. “We came out of Christmas sleeping. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose the momentum. It’s more difficult to get out of it.”


Even more so with the Ducks’ dressing room looking like a doctor’s waiting room.

The Ducks had to play without goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who was listed as day to day because of a sore neck. They started the game without two tough guys, Kevin Sawyer and Mike Brown. They lost center Marc Chouinard early in the first period because of a strained neck. Right wing Mike Leclerc departed in the second period because a swollen left knee, which he had surgery on in November.

“We seem to have a magnet in the training room pulling guys in,” Babcock said.

“We’ll have to see how everyone stands.”

Martin Gerber played well, stopping 24 of 25 shots.

But the others were key losses against the Flyers.

The Ducks could have used Sawyer (concussion) and Brown (strained back). Losing Chouinard, their grind-line center, and Leclerc, one of the team’s few power forwards, increased the difficulty.