Ducks General Manager Bob Murray watched how the Kings cruised through the regular season, then gassed the accelerator to the floor once the Stanley Cup was in sight.
“Our first job is to get to the playoffs. I don’t care where we finish,” Murray said. “Just get there, and then we’ll figure it out.”
Murray’s logic is rooted in the belief that, “as was proven last year, home ice is not what it used to be.” The Ducks joined San Jose and 2013 champion Chicago as teams that squandered home-ice advantage to the lower-seeded Kings, who won the Cup for the second time in three seasons.
Yet, the man leading the Ducks, Coach Bruce Boudreau, isn’t accustomed to that strategy.
Asked Friday, on the first day of training camp, how he’ll do it, Boudreau responded, “You can’t. You push as hard as you can. If you end up first, great. If you end up eighth, great. When you start saying, ‘All we want to do is relax and get in,’ then you’re in trouble.”
Boudreau has not only pushed the Ducks to two consecutive Pacific Division titles — with a 54-20-8 mark and No. 1 seeding in the Western Conference playoffs last season — but also he’s directed all five teams he’s coached for a full season to a division title. His Washington team also won the President’s Trophy, finishing with the most points in the league in 2009-10.
He’s never led a team to a conference final in the playoffs, however.
“We’ve [won] the divisions, the Western Conference. The big thing now is to get further in the playoffs,” Boudreau said. “But you can’t just say, ‘Let’s wait till the playoffs.’ It’s 82 games of tough sleddin’ to get there.”
Boudreau said he understands the premise of Murray’s thinking, but he also foresees the pitfalls.
“We’ve got to get there, but we have to make sure you’re being successful in that process,” Boudreau said. “If we sit there and say, ‘Let’s see what it’s going to be like.’ That’s too tough to comprehend.”
Murray suggested one strategy might be to balance ice time, which was the thought when the Ducks added centers Ryan Kesler and Nate Thompson to help ease Ryan Getzlaf’s workload.
“I know where they’re going with that when that’s said,” Boudreau said. “But I don’t think I can ever in my life say, ‘Guys, we don’t have to win this game, let’s just go play.’ ”
Forward Kyle Palmieri and last year’s first-round draft pick, Shea Theodore, will be sidelined through training camp with injuries.
Palmieri, coming off a 14-goal, 17-assist campaign, suffered a high right ankle sprain while skating in Boston around Labor Day weekend in preparation for the start of camp.
“Lost my edge, went to the boards, came over on my ankle,” Palmieri said of the pickup session with a couple dozen NHL players.
Barring setbacks, Palmieri could return for the Ducks’ exhibition finale on Oct. 4, a home game against the San Jose Sharks.
Theodore, 19, was injured in a collision during Sunday’s futures game and diagnosed with an ulnar collateral ligament sprain in his right elbow. He’ll miss four to six weeks.
Theodore was the 26th overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft. He had 22 goals and 57 assists for minor league Seattle last year, and should return there for more grooming when healthy.
“You work all summer to get here and be at your best, then get hurt at the rookie camp … nothing you can do,” Theodore said.
Back at it
With his teammates donning new T-shirts reading, “Our Time Is Now,” Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy sounded a near keynote speech as the new season began, the bitter feelings of last season’s playoff elimination by the Kings still lingering.
“We were incredibly disappointed and embarrassed about Game 7,” a 6-2 rout, Lovejoy said. “We need to build throughout the year to come up with answers for that. [The loss] stuck with me all summer. That’s our archrival, a team we felt we were better than all year.”
Boudreau said he was pleased by the first practices of 6-foot-4 forward Dany Heatley and defenseman Clayton Stoner, new additions who played in Minnesota last season.
Heatley “made some nice plays ... you can see why he was a 50-goal scorer — those great hands,” Boudreau said. “We just hope he brings the effort of today throughout camp and the season.”
Stoner showed “he’s very competitive,” Boudreau said. “There was one down-low battle against [6-5, 250-pound forward Steve] MacIntyre, and he just wouldn’t give an inch. That’s a real good sign.”