Matt Beleskey celebrates after scoring against the San Jose Sharks with… (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )
The Ducks have taken their best swing at the NHL’s best team, and having the San Jose Sharks so backed to the ropes before a shootout loss this week has the team enthused about its prospects.
More will be known after this stretch of three home games in four days starting Friday against Northwest Division-leading Minnesota, with the defending Stanley Cup-champion Kings visiting Saturday and the unbeaten Sharks at Honda Center on Monday.
“We’re trying to be more aggressive, up-tempo, and we’re fine with that – we’re big guys who like to play low,” said captain Ryan Getzlaf, whose first line with Corey Perry and Daniel Winnik has combined for eight goals and eight assists through five games.
Getzlaf spoke with sincerity when saying he’s more focused on the idea of keeping this effective style of play continuing than on the 7 p.m. Saturday visit of the Kings, who intensified the Southern California rivalry by seizing the Cup last season.
“It doesn’t change; those are always going to be big games,” Getzlaf said after Thursday’s Honda Center practice. “It doesn’t signify anything.”
After contributing to an effort that let the high-scoring Sharks get just 18 shots on goal, defenseman Sheldon Souray said the Ducks were emboldened by the effort in San Jose, even if it concluded with a 3-2 shootout loss.
“We probably deserved a better fate” than giving up a third-period goal with 2:45 remaining and watching Teemu Selanne’s tying attempt in the shootout bounce off the crossbar," Souray said. “But if we play like that every night, success will come our way.”
Souray praised the Ducks’ forechecking, their ability to minimize the Sharks’ offensive time and space with the puck, and the overall defensive pressure.
“We need to bring that every night, and I think we will,” Souray said. “We don’t think, ‘We can win this game by playing 60%.’ Playing with that great respect for an opponent, playing how we did when challenged by the best team in the league, I think you’ll see how we played will be our identity.”
Goaltender Jonas Hiller recovered from a 5-0 loss to Vancouver on Friday thanks to strong penalty killing play in front of him, and a second straight game of limited penalties.
Backup Viktor Fasth preserved a shootout win Saturday against Nashville. Hiller said he was “not thinking” about the effect of that performance on his own playing time.
“It was just nice to get a night off and get some relief mentally and physically” before the Sharks, Hiller said. “I don’t think I played that bad before, but I got a couple bad bounces past me. Still, I believe luck doesn’t just come. You’ve got to work hard to be lucky … and it’s a lot easier when the guys in front of you play so sound.”
Hiller said he expects himself and Fasth to each get a start Friday and Saturday, but was unsure who’ll get assigned to what game.
Meanwhile, rookie Emerson Etem of Long Beach said he cherished his NHL debut Tuesday, playing 7:51.
“It was a great experience I took time to appreciate during the anthem and the first couple minutes of the game,” Etem said. “It’s a great opportunity for me. They’re rotating a couple of guys in” from minor-league Norfolk, “and whoever takes it and runs with it will be rewarded. So I’ll put in the work every day, keep trying to get better.”