Bruce Boudreau and the Ducks currently sit atop the Pacific Division with… (LM Otero / Associated Press )
Most NHL coaches divide the season into quarters or 10-game segments and set goals for wins or points. Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau takes a shorter-term view, preferring to break things down into digestible, one-week chunks.
"That just comes from when I played," he said Sunday. "If you said, 'We've got 14 games left and we win 12, we're there,' it's too far in advance to get excited. But if you have weekly goals, the numbers seem so much more palatable. Usually, if you win two out of three you're OK."
The Ducks, who have earned points in 10 straight games (7-0-3) and 16 of their last 17 (13-1-3), will have a lot to chew on this week with a homestand that starts Monday against San Jose and includes a showcase matchup against No. 1-ranked Chicago on Wednesday.
A good week could keep the Ducks on the Blackhawks' heels for the top spot in the NHL — and the Ducks are among the few teams that has beaten Chicago, a 3-2 road shootout victory on Feb. 12 . A bad week could bring the Ducks back to the West pack, with the Kings 12 points behind them and the Sharks 14 back.
"Oh my God, it just never ends," Boudreau said in mock horror.
Detroit follows Chicago into town Friday and Sunday before San Jose returns on March 25. The Ducks will begin this stretch without right wing Corey Perry, who has two games remaining on the four-game league suspension he was assessed for his hit to the head of Minnesota's Jason Zucker last week. Goaltender Viktor Fasth is ready to return from an upper-body injury and Boudreau said he expects Fasth to play "a couple games at least."
The Ducks will need all the healthy bodies and concentration they can muster.
"We haven't had more than one day off since Feb. 23 and we don't have more than one day off until April 11. I went through all the teams and nobody is even close to that," Boudreau said. "Some will play a tough schedule in that but halfway between they'll get two days off.
"We're just trying to keep it so we can get through it all."
They've gotten this far in impressive fashion, juggling injuries to Fasth and Jonas Hiller and making a smart move by acquiring faceoff specialist David Steckel to lessen the sting of losing Nick Bonino to a lower-body injury.
"Though he's not as sexy a player as other guys he does so many roles for us: he kills penalties, he's out there with big faceoffs," Boudreau said of Bonino. "On the power play he doesn't get the points but he's the middle guy, which is really important."
Boudreau said he's not concerned that players might look past the Sharks and to the Blackhawks "because it's such a good rivalry game with San Jose." But he acknowledged he's looking forward to facing the Blackhawks again and expects them to be angry over the Ducks having blemished their record.
"I think it's more that they'll want to puff their shoulders out and say, 'We're the best and we don't even know what this talk is about this upstart Anaheim team,' and they'll come at us with both barrels and guns a'blazing type thing," he said.
"If we win our game in hand and beat them we're one back, but it's funny how you operate. I keep looking at just the conference and who's got what in eighth place because any time I start looking too much forward, things bite me in the butt…. Our next eight games are against teams that are currently in the playoffs. If we're not on top of our game all the time, it's going to come back and bite us."
And not in a little chunk.
What's in a name?
The four divisions that will debut in the realigned NHL next season were designated A, B, C and D when they were announced last week, but Commissioner Gary Bettman said they'll soon have new, geographically appropriate names.
Many fans and media suggested the divisions be named in honor of great players such as Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux. It's an excellent idea but unlikely to happen while Gretzky maintains his distance from the league, still bitter over its treatment of him in matters related to the Phoenix Coyotes' bankruptcy.
Barring a reconciliation with Gretzky in which he would permit his name to be used, the NHL should restore the historic Adams, Smythe, Norris and Patrick division names it banished years ago.
•NHL general managers cut their annual March golf-fest/meetings in Florida to a one-day session in Toronto on Wednesday. No rule changes are expected to be proposed, though the unpopular, new faceoff interference rule might be discussed. Also likely to be on the agenda: an update on the collective bargaining agreement, grumbling about officiating, and minor housekeeping matters.
•The league-owned Coyotes did well to sign cornerstone defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a six-year, $33-million extension and prevent him from becoming a restricted free agent. General Manager Don Maloney, who must clear major expenditures with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, knew he had a keeper in this 22-year-old with a boundless future.
•Daly, who visited the 2014 Olympics site in Sochi, Russia, last week, said "the process continues to move forward" toward an agreement to include NHL players in the Winter Games…. Reminder: The trading deadline, pushed back by the lockout, will be at noon Pacific time on April 3.