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Boston Catches the Ducks Flat

Hockey: Few Anaheim players look sharp in 3-1 exhibition loss to hard-working Bruins.


ANAHEIM — The Mighty Ducks played a game they'd just as soon forget Friday.

Because it's exhibition season, they can.

The Ducks were outworked by the Boston Bruins in a 3-1 loss in front of 16,440 at the Pond.

"I could see right off the bat it was one of those nights we just didn't have it mentally," Coach Ron Wilson said. "That's going to happen. Tonight, we just didn't have much zip. It wasn't one or two guys. It was the whole team, basically. I thought [goalie Mikhail Shtalenkov] was sharp and Teemu [Selanne]. But we didn't always know where the puck was. We were turning our backs on it. We'll work on it."

Steve Rucchin scored the Ducks' only goal only 1:58 into the game. Todd Elik, Cam Stewart and Adam Oates scored for the Bruins.

A week from tonight, the games start counting, and as much as he doesn't want to harp on it, Wilson wants to be sure the Ducks are ready.

In their short history, they never have been.

The Ducks got off to a 2-8-2 start in their first season, a 4-8-1 start in the lockout-shortened 1995 season, and a 2-8 start last year.

They lost their season-opener last year to Winnipeg--the team that beat them out for the final Western Conference playoff spot by a single victory at the end of the season.

You do the math.

"That first game against Winnipeg ended up being what broke our season," goalie Guy Hebert said. "If you look at it, even one point in that game would have gotten us into the playoffs."

The idea is to be ready from the first faceoff this season, since the Ducks open the season with a five-game trip and play seven of their first 10 on the road, beginning a week from tonight in Toronto.

"It's going to be difficult this year with the way our schedule is," Wilson said. "We're not going to say, 'We'd better get off to a good start or else.' That's too much pressure. We didn't get off to a great start last season, but at the 20-game mark we were a .500 team."

Of course, if they'd gone .500 in their first 10, they would have been a winning team at the 20-game mark.

One of the ways the Ducks have gotten ready is by trimming the roster to manageable size early and playing mostly veteran lineups in the last few exhibition games. Paul Kariya and Garry Valk, both injured, and defensemen Jason York and Jason Marshall were the only regulars missing Friday. Defenseman Dave Karpa, who signed a new one-year contract Friday, also did not dress.

"Right from the first day of the first year, we've always set goals," said Valk, who expects to recover from a hyperextended left elbow in time for the season's first game. "This is the first year we really believe in those goals. Definitely, the first 15 games or so are really important this year. That's a tough grind those first 10 games, but a good start is going to be the key."

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