Ducks capitalizing on long breaks in a sparse April schedule
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Although rest is important in any Stanley Cup playoff push, the Anaheim Ducks hope they're not getting too much of a good thing.
When the Ducks take their home ice Thursday night to open their second-round series against the Calgary Flames, Anaheim will have played just six games in the previous four weeks.
''I'm antsy, so I've got to believe they're antsy,'' coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''They're ready to get playing.''
For hockey players who usually have three or four games per week throughout the regular season's six-month grind, all this rest is a chance to heal injuries while indulging in an unusual amount of practice time for a professional team. The Ducks don't think the break will create rust as well, but they won't know until they play again.
''Our guys are using this to our advantage,'' said forward Corey Perry, who scored seven points in the Ducks' first-round sweep of Winnipeg. ''We're getting healthy and ready to play.''
Perry echoed his teammates when he said he didn't mind idling while the rest of the NHL ground out the first round.
''I've been spending a lot of time at the rink anyway,'' Perry said. ''It's better than being somewhere else.''
The Pacific Division champion Ducks haven't played since they eliminated the Jets on April 22. They have seven full days off between playoff games - and they didn't even know that for sure until Tuesday, when the NHL finally announced part of its second-round schedule.
Anaheim's inactivity actually began at the start of April. The Ducks played only two games in the final eight days of the regular season, and they had four days off before the start of their first-round series.
That adds up to plenty of practice time, along with the theoretical chance to lose their edge. Anaheim showed no problems in the first round, running the Jets out of the postseason with a series of comeback victories.
Center Nate Thompson and goalie John Gibson practiced with the Ducks on Tuesday after missing the first-round series with injuries. Both should be ready to play against Calgary, underlining a benefit of Anaheim's time off.
Extended playoff breaks are nothing new to most hockey veterans. Whether in juniors, the minor leagues or in previous NHL seasons, nearly everybody has had an early finish to a playoff series, only to learn that their next opponent won't be decided for several days. During Boudreau's playing days, he remembers long stretches of inactivity in the AHL postseason broken up by soap operas and movies.
Although the second-round schedule was only partially set Tuesday, the Ducks will have extra days off early on against the Flames as well. They'll get two days off between Game 1 and Game 2, along with an extra day off either before Game 3 or Game 4.
''I think everyone in here would rather play every other day in a series,'' Thompson said. ''That's what guys are used to during the regular season. But it's also good to get some time for a break.''