The depth of talent on the Ducks’ roster means there’s less patience with mental slips by those on the edges.
Forward Emerson Etem found that out two weeks ago when after a defensive miscue in Dallas, he was sent to minor-league Norfolk for three games.
“Obviously, there’s not a lot of spots on this team … me being the young guy, I can’t ever take my foot off the pedal,” Etem said Monday following the team’s morning skate before its game against the New York Islanders at Honda Center.
The Long Beach 21-year-old said he received the message of the demotion that there were some “defensive plays I needed to touch up on.” He rejoined the Ducks on Friday at Chicago.
“I played a lot of minutes” with Norfolk, “was in a lot of situations, and in regard to defense, I got my confidence back up,” Etem said.
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau noted at the time of Etem’s demotion that he had previously answered such a move with sharp play and high energy and was hoping for a repeat of that.
After scoring three goals in the Ducks’ playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings last season, Etem had six goals before going to Norfolk.
“Sometimes, you’re scoring a little here and there, you’re thinking you’re doing something right, and you’re not,” Etem said. “It’s a wake-up call. I worked hard down there. I’m going to work hard up here. I’m doing what I’m told.”
ROAD-TESTED: The Ducks’ back-to-back sweep of Chicago and St. Louis on Friday and Saturday gave them 10 road wins, and knowing they’ve completed nearly half (20) of their road schedule so quickly is cause for optimism.
“It was very important, we played some tough hockey games in some tough buildings,” center Ryan Getzlaf said. “It’s a confidence thing. We’ve been at the top of our game for the last little while, proven night in and out we can compete.”
The Ducks (20-7-5) have taken four trips east of Missouri, and forward Matt Beleskey said the success should answer a chip on the team’s shoulder about low placement in various NHL power rankings published nationally.
“It showed people what we’re made of,” Beleskey said. “We went to play the top four teams and were competitive. Three shootouts in a row before beating St. Louis, it’s big.”
ESPN.com noticed Monday, listing the Ducks at No. 1.
“To be where we are after this, considering injuries and sickness, is pretty good,” Getzlaf said. “It proves we have the depth we need. We just need to stay focused on the road ahead.”
BIG MEN ROLLING: Getzlaf and Corey Perry are fulfilling – if not surpassing – every hope Ducks’ management had in signing them to twin eight-year contracts in excess of $130 million in the spring.
Getzlaf, with 16 goals and 20 assists overall, has a 13-game points streak and Perry leads the team with 18 goals, scoring a goal in five straight games.
Boudreau, acting superstitious, didn’t like the topic being mentioned out of apparent fear the streaks could end, even if the Ducks are facing the Eastern Conference’s second-worst team Monday night. The Islanders are 8-17-5.
The coach knocked on wood behind him, said Getzlaf and Perry “are playing great, I hope they don’t change a thing,” and was eager for the subject to change.
Ducks goalie Jonas Hilkler was first off the ice at Monday’s skate, indicating he’ll start again after beating Chicago in Friday’s shootout.
INJURY UPDATE: Forward Jakob Silfverberg, out since Oct. 25 with a broken right hand, is skating in practice and has a Friday doctor’s appointment to likely get cleared to start shooting.
Center Mathieu Perreault (lower body injury) and defenseman Francois Beauchemin (upper body injury) did not skate Monday. Boudreau said he’s “hoping before Christmas,” all three will be ready to play.