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Hockey

Ducks’ Corey Perry has returned to his top-line form

Corey Perry
Ducks’ Corey Perry looks on during the second period against the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 21.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

When Randy Carlyle delivered the sobering news, Corey Perry wasn’t happy, and the Ducks coach certainly didn’t expect him to be.

Hell, Carlyle wasn’t happy to have the conversation, either.

But coach had made a move, and Perry was headed to the fourth line, a steep fall from grace for the former 50-goal scorer.

He had been playing on the top line all season alongside Ryan Getzlaf, but after Perry returned from an 11-game injury absence, he struggled.

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When Carlyle reviewed the video, he noticed Perry was “fading away from the critical area.” To wit, Carlyle felt the winger wasn’t planting himself in front of the goaltender, and his play suffered as a result.

So Perry was relegated to the fourth line for five games and he responded with two goals during that stretch.

The 32-year-old has since reclaimed his role on the top line alongside Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell, and he’s riding high with seven points in his last four games.

“Corey, to his credit, put the work in off the ice,” Carlyle said following Saturday’s practice. “When things weren’t going well, he committed himself to a higher workload in the gym with our strength and conditioning guy.

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“All those things are factors of him being able to correct some of those things that were going on and now he’s reaping some of the benefits and we are too.”

Getzlaf stole the puck Friday and sprung Perry on a breakaway, which he converted through Cam Talbot’s five-hole en route to the 3-2 victory. But it was the goal Perry didn’t score that truly pleased Carlyle.

He singled out a sequence where Perry skated out of the corner and slung the puck short side, clanking it off the cross-bar. That’s what Carlyle wants to see more of.

“Corey Perry is as good as any player in the league at bringing the puck from the back of the net to the front of the net,” Carlyle said. “He’s as good as any player from the top of the circles one on one with the goaltender.

“And he has to continue to make himself very presentable in those areas for him to be an effective player. That’s the conversation we had. You have to be on top of the goaltender. On top of the crease working that area, retrieving pucks from the back of the net.”

The Ducks are scratching and clawing their way in a heated Western Conference playoff race, and they need their agitator tormenting the opposing team with his wormlike ability to find the net.

Perry is feeling good, and he acknowledged his play has improved now that he’s able to enjoy the continuity of skating alongside Getzlaf, his longtime running mate.

He failed to reach the 20-goal mark last season, and he’s in danger again with 11 in 45 games this campaign. But there’s hope on the horizon.

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“I’m back to doing what I do best and that’s going to the net,” Perry said. “Good things are starting to happen. … I got away from it for a little while.

“It’s a matter of me going out and moving my feet, being part of pucks and taking it to the net.”

And that’s exactly what Carlyle wants to hear.

AT SAN JOSE

When: 5 p.m. Sunday.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.

Update: The Sharks visited Honda Center last month and shellacked the Ducks 6-2 after the clubs traded shootout victories in November. … Ryan Kesler didn’t practice Saturday, a maintenance day following offseason hip surgery.

sports@latimes.com

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