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Hockey

Ducks are off to a flying start and not holding back

Sami Vatanen
Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen celebrates with his teammates after scoring against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

The season began with the Ducks talking about being at their best for the playoffs, and putting less emphasis on their drive to win in the regular season.

They are 7-1 and are leading the NHL in goals, evidence the accelerator is pressed to the floorboard.

“I don’t think there’s any easing off,” forward Matt Beleskey said. “We’re trying to be the best we can be every single night. We might not be trying to have the best record, but if you do it’s not a bad thing.”

Coach Bruce Boudreau, in perhaps a small concession, played the third and fourth lines this week after the Ducks scored empty-net goals.

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“The minute you start to pace yourself in this league [and] start thinking six months in advance, in six months we’ll be in Bermuda,” Boudreau said. “You’ve got to stay in the day.”

But there are signs the big picture is being eyed by a team that bowed out in a Western Conference semifinal series last season, and by a coach who has never led his team to a conference final.

Although they are NHL points leaders, Corey Perry (nine goals) and Ryan Getzlaf (nine assists) are averaging less playing time than last season.

Perry’s average is 28 seconds less than in 2013-14; Getzlaf’s is 1 minute 21 seconds less. Second-line center Ryan Kesler has been on the ice 2:15 less than he was with Vancouver last season.

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Last season, when goalie Jonas Hiller was in the midst of a 14-game winning streak, Boudreau played him in eight consecutive games in December. After goalie Frederik Andersen won his sixth consecutive start Wednesday, he was given Friday night off.

The Ducks are also exercising great patience with injured players like veteran forward Dany Heatley (groin), something Boudreau said he has always done.

“The balance of ice time is there,” Boudreau said. “We’re doing a good job of allotting the minutes.”

Hot shot

Perry’s nine goals through eight games have come with a 30.0 shooting percentage.

Perry would have to maintain the same pace to approach Wayne Gretzky’s record of 92 goals in 1981-82. He has a chance of becoming only the third player since 2000 to score 60 goals in a season.

“I just go out each game and try to do the same thing,” Perry said. “I remember in my 50-goal season [of 2010-11], how hard that was, and even [43] last year was a grind. You do the best you can do, play hockey, and hope good things keep happening.”

Scary sight

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Columbus forward Cam Atkinson posted on Twitter a photo of his badly cut and swollen right eye, an injury he suffered Friday against the Ducks when he was struck by Kesler’s right skate.

“Thank God I can see,” Atkinson told the Columbus Dispatch after the game.

Boudreau said he suffered a similar fate as a player, once being struck below the eye by a skate blade.

“Had double vision for a year,” Boudreau said. “I just hope he’s OK. Our guys on the bench, and we had the puck coming down the slot for a great chance to score, all said, ‘Blow the whistle!’ Because they knew he was down, had gotten a skate cut. That comes before any chance to score.”

TONIGHT

VS. SAN JOSE SHARKS

When: 5 p.m.

On the air: Prime Ticket. Radio: 830.

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Etc.: Last season, the Ducks lost twice in San Jose after a game the day before. This time, the Ducks lightly practiced and the Sharks lost to Buffalo in an afternoon game before traveling south. It was San Jose’s fourth loss in a row. “Back-to-backs are tough, especially when you have a tough opponent,” Perry said. Sharks defenseman Brent Burns led NHL blue-liners with eight points (seven assists) through Friday.


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