The runup to the Christmas break might as well be the least wonderful time of year for the Ducks. Judging by recent history, it’s become as predictable as last-minute shopping.
Or in their case, last-minute flopping.
Last season they took listless losses at the New York Islanders and New York Rangers before the break. Two seasons ago, the Ducks looked content to get the game over with and head home in a 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
This latest scenario is similar: The Ducks are at the end of a six-game trip and it’s the cliche “trap game” at Ottawa on Thursday that separates them from a needed holiday break that runs through Monday. Players are weary from the road but the Ducks are mindful given how this trip has turned.
“It’s important to get out before the Christmas break, get a win and feel good about ourselves,” defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “More importantly [we need to] have a good solid effort.”
The prebreak flop came early for the Ducks. They appeared fatigued in a 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday in their fifth game — on the eighth day of their trip and 11th game in the first 20 days of December. Their 13 shots were one better than the franchise record for fewest shots in a game, last done in 2010.
Bieksa said the schedule isn’t an excuse, especially after a quick flight from Toronto the night before. The Ducks took Wednesday off before their third game in four nights. They need a win to finish the six-game road run at .500.
While the trip has seen defenseman Cam Fowler assert himself as an All-Star candidate and forward Rickard Rakell as one of the NHL’s more exciting scoring threats, the Ducks’ defense has been exposed to bouts of flooding in their net. In its past four road losses, Anaheim has allowed eight, six, six and five goals.
“We won the Jennings last season,” Bieksa said, on the trophy given to the team with fewest goals allowed. “We’ve gotten away from that at times in not having pride in our defensive game.”
Bieksa said there was no structural damage from a puck to the face that took him out of Monday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He returned against Montreal, and the single goal was the Ducks’ lowest output since falling to the Nashville Predators, 5-0, on Nov. 12.
Offense, or at least secondary scoring, was supposed to be an issue for Anaheim going into the season, but Rakell has helped address that with 14 goals in 23 games while playing wing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Rakell’s play was a bright spot in Tuesday’s loss.
“He’s one of those guys where he’s very skilled, very dynamic one-on-one,” Bieksa said. “Not too many people look good in a 5-1 loss.”
DUCKS NEXT UP
When: 4:30 p.m. PST Thursday.
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 830
Update: Former Ducks wing Bobby Ryan has goals in four straight games after a 16-game scoring slump. … Ottawa has gone 3-0-1 since a 5-1 loss to the Ducks on Dec. 11. … Thirteen Ducks made the scoresheet and goaltender John Gibson made 21 saves in that game.