If there was a moment that captured part of the Ducks’ season at the halfway point, it might be the latest goal celebration by Ondrej Kase.
Kase let loose Wednesday night with a pose and a wide smile that showed his red-white-and-blue mouth guard. While the veteran line of Ryan Kesler, Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg has carried the Ducks as they reach game No. 41 on Friday against the Arizona Coyotes, the team also has relied on the youth and energy of players such as Kase, whose joy is infectious.
“You see the smiles on guys’ faces,” Corey Perry said. “He’s got the biggest smile of all, that’s for sure.”
The Ducks have utilized five forwards with less than a season’s worth of NHL experience: Kase, Nick Ritchie, Joseph Cramarossa, Chris Wagner and Logan Shaw. They might add a veteran in the weeks leading up to the March 1 trade deadline, but for the immediate future the Ducks will tap into their youth, especially with Perry and Getzlaf working through scoring struggles and Getzlaf healing a lower-body injury that kept him off the ice Thursday.
The question is whether those young players can withstand the grind of a condensed NHL schedule.
“It doesn’t get any easier, that’s for sure,” Perry said. “The games are going to get ramped up that much more. The pace is going to increase and the intensity. They say the dog days [are] January-February. Everybody gets a taste of it at some point or another, and you’ve got to push through it.
“It’s tough. But you learn as you go and you hope the guys continue to grow as players.”
That will be imperative, Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said, with games scheduled every two days until the All-Star break Jan. 27-30.
“Now we’re getting into the meat of the season, and the rookie baptismal is over,” Carlyle said. “You’re NHL players right now, and you’re expected to grow. We just can’t accept everything the way it is right now. We want to be better.”
Despite records of 0-7 in games that end in overtime and 2-8 in games that go beyond regulation, the Ducks woke up Thursday virtually tied with the first-place San Jose Sharks atop the Pacific Division. But Carlyle judges their standing differently.
“How many games above .500 are you going to have to be to be a solid playoff contender?” Carlyle said. “That, to me, is more of the point.”
World Juniors buzz
There was a lot of talk and gentleman’s bets among the Canadian and U.S. players before the U.S. played Canada in the World Junior Championships on Thursday night.
“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of texts going back and forth,” Perry said.
Cam Fowler was on the 2010 U.S. team that upset Canada and counts that as one of his best hockey moments, even if it seems like a long time ago.
“I still remember the feeling of winning in Canada,” Fowler said, “and the feeling of pride playing for your country.
“It’s such a big tournament. You’re playing against the greatest players in the world. It’s on a big stage, nationally televised. It’s a pretty cool event and definitely one that sticks out.”
Getzlaf might skate Friday, Carlyle said, but probably will sit out a second consecutive game … Goalie Dustin Tokarski signed a one-year contract extension.
When: 7 p.m., Friday
On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: 830
Update: The Coyotes are on an eight-game losing streak and ranked 29th in scoring and goals-against through Wednesday. Arizona was waiting for center Alexander Burmistrov to secure a work visa after it claimed him off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets.