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DUCKS REPORT

Schneider: It's time to put up or shut up

January 02, 2008|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Halfway home are the Ducks in this 2007-08 season, but what awaits them at the end is hardly known at the midpoint.

Are the playoffs and a chance to defend their Stanley Cup title the eventual destination? Or are earlier-than-planned tee times?

Each scenario is in play for an erratic team that's two games above .500 and holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference; the Ducks' chances of winning a second consecutive Pacific Division title are fading with their inability to keep pace with surging Dallas and San Jose.

"I think we're getting to a point now where it's kind of put up or shut up," defenseman Mathieu Schneider said. "We've talked all year about the same things. The guys in this room now are going to be the guys that'll have to be responsible night in and night out."

What's clear is the Ducks have plenty of work to do over the final 41 games. Calgary needed 96 points to squeeze into the eighth spot in the playoffs last season and over the last four NHL seasons, the eighth-seeded teams have averaged 93.5 points.

It could mean the Ducks will need at least 50 points just to factor into the postseason picture, a far cry from a year ago, when they led the Pacific virtually from start to finish.

"There's a [thought] that we've got to play .800 hockey at home and .500 on the road," Coach Randy Carlyle said.

"What we want to do is gain points in every hockey game and get to that more consistent brand [of hockey] that we're capable of doing."

The Ducks' recent three-game trip to western Canada was a microcosm of their season.

They were dominant in a 2-1 win over Edmonton and were in control for the first 30 minutes against Calgary. Then they lost their way as a 3-1 lead dissolved into a 5-3 loss against the Flames and waited until the third period the next night in Vancouver to show signs of life in a 2-1 defeat.

Consistency has been that elusive for a team that seemed to be set after the return of defenseman Scott Niedermayer and the trade that brought in Doug Weight from St. Louis for Andy McDonald. The Ducks are 4-2-1 since the addition of Niedermayer and Weight.

"We've got ourselves in the mix, but we've got to take it to the next level and continue to compete and play to a higher level each and every night," Chris Pronger said. "The target's still on our back. Especially with Scotty coming back and Dougie coming over, everybody's still looking at us. They may not be looking at us as the top seed, but they're still looking at us as a measuring stick."

Schneider said they have a lot of room for improvement and "we expected to be further ahead than where we are today." The Ducks have won more than two games in a row only twice and haven't been more than four games over .500.

"Winning one and losing one, winning two and losing one, that doesn't get you anywhere because a lot of teams are doing that now," Schneider said.

--

TONIGHT

vs. Columbus, 7, FSN West

Site -- Honda Center.

Radio -- 830.

Records -- Ducks 19-17-5, Blue Jackets 18-15-6.

Record vs. Blue Jackets -- 2-1-0.

Update -- Winger Brad May, nursing a broken right foot, spent part of New Year's Day with the Stanley Cup on the city of Anaheim's float in the Tournament of Roses Parade. "He sure was enjoying himself, wasn't he," Carlyle cracked.

Tickets -- (877) 945-3946.

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eric.stephens@latimes.com

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