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Ducks don't waste upper-hand chances

Club's 18-3-3 record is partially the result of converting power-play opportunities at a league-best 27.8% rate.

March 12, 2013|By Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times
  • Ducks' Corey Perry, right, and Cam Fowler celebrate a power play goal by Perry.
Ducks' Corey Perry, right, and Cam Fowler celebrate a power play goal… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)

In the first month of the season, the Ducks were a below-average power-play team.

Part of the reason they have an 18-3-3 Pacific Division-leading record before starting a three-game trip in Minnesota on Tuesday is their 11 goals in 28 power-play opportunities since Feb. 18.

That 39.3% clip has elevated them to the NHL's top power-play team, at 27.8%.

"We're doing a good job of moving the puck around, looking for the open man. When you do that, you're going to have a lot of success," defenseman Cam Fowler said.

"The biggest thing is puck recovery. If we can get three, four guys into the corner and set it up all over again, we're going to have a good chance for pressure and more opportunities."

Although the Ducks were only one for seven Sunday in a 4-2 victory over St. Louis, the decisive goal came on a third-period power play. They worked the puck to Ryan Getzlaf, who fired a shot that Corey Perry touched past the goalie for the lead. It was the Ducks' record-tying 11th consecutive victory at Honda Center.

"You don't want to rush things. ... It's important to have patience, but you also have to have that sense of urgency to get set up and get after it," Fowler said.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said Kyle Palmieri and Nick Bonino are especially gifted in the power play, thanks to Palmieri's shooting touch and release, and Bonino's intelligence about distribution and positioning.

"All I talk about is our structure of how we want to set up and how we want to enter the zone," said Boudreau, who spent an abundance of time on "special teams" practice in the early part of the season. "It's what they do after that. … Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't. It's cyclical."

The best Duck?

Defenseman Francois Beauchemin's three-assist game Sunday followed a four-assist game Feb. 24, giving him 14 this season. His 16 points rank in the top 10 in the NHL among defensemen.

"He's healthy, the lockout did him wonders to get him healthy," from a right shoulder labrum tear that required surgery last year, Boudreau said.

"Our power play's getting better. He's on it. He's not throwing pucks up the middle and making mistakes. He's managing his ice time better. He's being a real leader, at 32, coming into his own. Now that we're counting on him, he's come to the forefront and responded."

Medical update

Palmieri (upper-body injury) and Bonino (flu) aren't expected to play in Minnesota but should join the team on the trip, Boudreau said.

Seeking brass ring

Two regulation losses by Western Conference-leading Chicago within the week have moved the Ducks to within six points of the Blackhawks.

Is Boudreau content to win only the Pacific Division?

"I want everything," he said. "I never once thought Chicago was out of range. Everybody else did. We've got a lot of work to do. We've completed half our season. You don't win anything in half a season. Consistency and staying healthy are the keys."

Tonight

AT MINNESOTA

When: 5 PDT. Where: Xcel Energy Center.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.

Record vs. Wild: 2-0.

Etc.: The Wild (13-9-2) just grabbed the Northwest Division lead Sunday by defeating Vancouver with star Zach Parise scoring two goals. Wild center Mikko Koivu, the younger brother of the Ducks' Saku Koivu, turns 30 on Tuesday.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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