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DUCK REPORT

They Head for a Key West Swing

January 23, 2006|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Now that they have finished their schedule against the Eastern Conference, perhaps it is fitting that the Mighty Ducks begin a stretch of games that are the most important to date in their quest to make the Western Conference playoffs.

The next seven days involve teams that are in playoff position or among those fighting with the Ducks for the eighth and final spot. Besides the Kings tonight, the Ducks play host to Edmonton on Wednesday and play at San Jose the next night before visiting the Kings again Saturday.

The Ducks are five points behind eighth-place Edmonton and one point ahead of San Jose and Phoenix.

"To date, this is the biggest week of the year, no question," forward Joffrey Lupul said Sunday. "Just by looking at the standings. We've got to set ourselves up these next couple of weeks to be in a good position for after the break.

"Everyone is going to come back after the break all rejuvenated and charged up. After that, it'll be a sprint to the playoffs."

The Ducks are pointing toward the two-week Olympic break as their plan to be firmly in the race for the postseason.

The schedule will be daunting as they play the Kings again and play host to the Sharks to open February, followed by a four-game trip that goes through San Jose, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

As is his custom, Coach Randy Carlyle preferred to put the focus on the game at hand, but he acknowledged the importance of the schedule ahead.

"I'm all about one at a time," Carlyle said. "We recognize the number of games we're going to play in the next [two weeks]. We have to gain points against [these teams]. They're good hockey clubs."

*

Defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski said he was glad to hear that Florida Panther center Gregory Campbell was fine after he leveled the rookie with a crushing third-period check Saturday that knocked Campbell flat on his back.

Campbell lay motionless on the ice for a few minutes but was conscious, albeit a bit groggy, as he was helped off by teammates. He appeared to put his head down to absorb the hit by Vishnevski, but caught the defenseman's knee square to his head.

"Sometimes in the game, you don't have time to think," Vishnevski said. "You just react."

There was some question whether Vishnevski would be penalized for hitting Campbell, the son of Colin Campbell, NHL vice president and chief disciplinarian, but the check was considered legal and drew no whistle.

*

Center Zenon Konopka (high ankle sprain) didn't practice and is unavailable tonight. Lupul (knee) also didn't skate, but it was merely a day to rest the minor injury and he said he expects to play tonight.

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