Two weeks on the road, then two more games back-to-back and the Ducks needed a rest. They had two days off before resuming practice on Sunday morning at the Honda Center.
Technically Friday was not a day off, as the players participated in the third annual Lady Ducks Fashion Show and luncheon. Put on by the players' wives, girlfriends, and significant others, the event raised over $20,000 for CHOC. However, it was a day away from the ice.
Add that to Saturday's canceled practice and the Ducks players were able to get some recuperation time and a mental break from the game.
"If you are going to expect them and you are going to push them to give you 110%," said coach Randy Carlyle, "they can’t give it if they don’t have proper rest. This is an opportunity for them to have a couple of days away from the rink. Come refreshed. They were much more energetic this morning. A lot more enthusiasm, so hopefully that translates into a solid effort tomorrow night."
The Ducks practiced for just over an hour, working on the usual drills, specialty teams, and conditioning. All with the focus of playing the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow night.
"They’re a good hockey club that is rolling along," said Carlyle.
Rolling along is right. The Kings have won nine in a row, their best ever as a franchise. That includes coming back from a 3-0 deficit against the Red Wings on Saturday.
The Ducks have struggled all season against all of their Pacific Division rivals, but two points tomorrow would be huge for Anaheim. 23 games are left on the schedule and the Ducks need every point they can get if they want to get into the playoffs.
Joining them at practice for the first time was goaltender Vesa Toskala, who was obtained from Toronto in the Jean-Sebastien Giguere trade. Going through immigration was relatively smooth, once he got his appointment for his interview. Some things you can't hurry.
Now that Toskala is here, he is slated to be Jonas Hiller's back-up, although Toskala does not feel that is his role at this point in his career.
"I don’t think I’m a back up goalie," said the enigmatic Finn. "Obviously I want to play a lot. I know how good I can play but like I said earlier, lots of things you can’t control in this league. I just do whatever I asked to do here and help the team make the playoffs. Not going to complain or anything. If it’s my call, I would play every game because I love to play and when I play a lot I think I play my best."
Hiller, who has played 2408 minutes so far this season, just 78 minutes shy of last season's total, will need some help in goal. Seeing as Hiller will be relied upon by the Swiss team during the Olympics as well, Toskala will have to prove himself trustworthy in net to give Hiller a break here and there.
Carlyle is happy to give Toskala some adjustment time before putting him in net. Will Toskala, who will be wearing #36, despite requesting his usual #35 (sorry, Giguere has the long-term rights to that number in Anaheim), get a chance to play before the Olympic break? That might depend more upon how the Ducks are doing.
They need to win at least 3 of the next 4 games to avoid falling in the standings. As long as they are desperate for the points, it seems more likely that Hiller will be the logical choice for Carlyle.