Ducks say four-game trip will ‘make or break’ playoff hopes
The Ducks need this trip to be a lot more fruitful than the last one, when they went 2-2-1 and suffered two bad losses.
Their playoff hopes are on the line, and they already squandered one precious opportunity to create some separation Sunday.
The Ducks held a 2-1 lead, but the San Jose Sharks scored the equalizer with 54 seconds left and then won it in a shootout.
The Ducks still picked up a point, but a regulation victory would have vaulted them past the Kings and into a tie with the Sharks for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division.
As it stands, the Ducks are jockeying for position with six teams for four playoff spots. And they’ll play one of those teams during the four-game road swing, a Saturday matchup in Minnesota. The Wild occupy the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
The trip starts Tuesday at Detroit, where the Red Wings are ostensibly on the outside of the playoff race, and a Thursday game at Chicago, whose playoff aspirations are sinking.
It ends Monday at Vegas, still atop the Western Conference, before the Ducks return home to play Dallas.
“We talked about this, this is a big road trip for us,” defenseman Cam Fowler said. “It can kind of make or break things for us moving forward here, so we need to go out with a good mentality, make sure that we’re focused on every game.
“We have the capabilities to do it but we have to go out and prove that.”
If the series of road games doesn’t go according to plan, the Ducks could be on the brink of missing the postseason by the time they’re back in Anaheim.
The Ducks have won the Pacific Division five consecutive seasons. That honor seems all but gone with the way the expansion Golden Knights are playing.
Also likely out of reach: the 100-point plateau, which the Ducks have reached each of the last four seasons. The Blackhawks are the only other squad to that span.
There are just 27 games left for the Ducks to solidify themselves as contenders and stave off elimination. The last time they didn’t quality was during the 2011-12 season. But there’s still plenty of hope in the Ducks’ locker room.
“We know what’s at stake, we know where we are in the standings,” said Corey Perry, who won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. “We know what it takes to get in the playoffs and win in the playoffs. We have to stick with that, stick with our game plan, stick with our structure and keep pushing forward.”
Perry said he’s confident the Ducks are built for a long playoff run, and why shouldn’t he be? The club is a perennial playoff powerhouse teeming with big-game experience. Coach Randy Carlyle shepherded the club that hoisted the Cup in ’07, and captain Ryan Getzlaf was on that squad, too, as was Francois Beauchemin.
Their recent success also looms large, with trips to the conference finals in two of the last three seasons.
To show off their playoff muscle, though, the Ducks need to qualify. And that means prospering on the road with the regular season coming to a close.
When: Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Update: This is the Ducks’ first meeting with the Red Wings this season. The teams split two games last season. … Against San Jose, Antoine Vermette was a healthy scratch for the second time in three games as Derek Grant again was the fourth-line center.
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