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Breaks reveal lessons

May 07, 2007|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

The Ducks were back at practice Sunday following two days off as a reward for their double-overtime triumph over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 5 that gave them the second-round series.

But there weren't the usual round of questions touching on possible rust developing in what could at least be a six-day break before Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, which aren't scheduled to begin until Thursday at the earliest.

It could be later if San Jose wins tonight to extend its series against Detroit to a Game 7 on Wednesday. But the Ducks didn't play for five days after their first-round win over Minnesota and they opened the series against the Canucks with a 5-1 blowout win.

"If we didn't win that first game, everyone would be saying that the break hurt us and we weren't prepared," Ducks center Andy McDonald said. "Perhaps we did something in that break that helped us prepare and hopefully we can do the same things to get ready for this next round."

Coach Randy Carlyle took some pains not to overemphasize that Game 1 win, which he said came against a Vancouver team that was tired from playing seven difficult games against Dallas.

But he did acknowledge some things he learned from last year's conference finals against Edmonton, in which the Ducks had seven days off and were sluggish in a Game 1 loss that eventually led to a five-game defeat.

"You can adjust the type of drills you have in practice to bring you closer to game-like competition," Carlyle said. "I think we didn't do enough of that last year."

Forward Rob Niedermayer said there were things to learn from the experience of a year ago.

"When you have this much time, you have to stay sharp," Niedermayer said. "In practice, you have to battle. It's something you can't slough off at all.

"I think the practices were getting more and more intense before the Vancouver series and that's something that why were able to play so strong in the first game."

Added McDonald: "We don't know how many days of practice we'll have here. The emphasis is making sure that we're sharp in practice. Have good, intense practices with everyone working hard so you can try and get yourself as well-prepared as possible for that first game."


Todd Marchant was held out of Thursday night's game even though the veteran center proclaimed himself fit to play after sitting out a month to recover from sports hernia surgery.

Carlyle said Marchant would be ready and he could provide a major boost to the fourth line. Marchant was second on the Ducks last year with 13 points in 16 playoff games.

"I don't realistically think that we can expect him to come back in after missing six weeks and be at 110%," Carlyle said. "Physically, he will be. Mentally, he'll try. But this is the NHL playoffs. It's not regular season you're coming back to.

"The game's being played at a pretty high pace. He's going to have to really push himself to keep up."


Fresh off helping limit Vancouver's Daniel and Henrik Sedin to a total of two points in five games, center Samuel Pahlsson was given the day off but is expected to practice today.... Carlyle said defenseman Ric Jackman continues to progress after suffering back spasms, which have kept him out of the playoffs.

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