As much as was made about the difficulty of the Ducks' eight-game trip, the four-game stretch that starts Tuesday in Florida is potentially the real trap.
"It could be a grind," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Though the Ducks' journey begins in rare air — they have an 8-0-1 streak, and lead the NHL in points with a 15-3-1 record — areas of concern exist.
Boudreau pointed to fatigue as a major concern, noting that the Ducks are in the midst of playing 20 games in 37 days. "I thought we were a little fatigued at times Sunday" in a 3-1 win over Vancouver, he said. "I'm hoping it doesn't catch up to us."
Playing without scoring leader center Ryan Getzlaf (upper body injury) Sunday, the Ducks took an uncharacteristic five first-period shots against the Canucks and had just six more in the third.
Though Getzlaf (10 goals, 12 assists) is expected to return to play against the Panthers on Tuesday, Boudreau said flu symptoms have swept through the Ducks' dressing room and sidelined goalie Jonas Hiller on Sunday.
The journey starts against a struggling Florida team (3-11-4) that Friday fired coach Kevin Dineen and made Peter Horachek the interim coach.
"I hate going to play a team that's just changed coaches and it's their first game at home," Boudreau said.
On Thursday, the Ducks go to Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay, which lost NHL scoring/goals leader Steven Stamkos to a broken leg suffered Monday against Boston.
After the Lightning is a back-to-back test at Carolina (6-7-4). Boudreau teams are 15-15 against the Hurricanes.
The Ducks conclude their run of 12 of 15 games on the road by going to Metropolitan Division-leading Pittsburgh (11-6) and its scoring leader, Sidney Crosby, on Monday.
"We knew this was an important stretch," Ducks center Nick Bonino said. "If we can get our wins in now and put ourselves well above .500 in a good spot, it'll help us later in the year."
Goalie Viktor Fasth (Oct. 17 lower-body injury) and forward Matt Beleskey (broken left thumb) were assigned to play for minor league Norfolk in a conditioning stint Monday. Beleskey said Sunday he'd be there for "a game or two," and could rejoin the Ducks on their trip.
Center Saku Koivu (concussion) did not join teammates on their Monday flight to Florida, and his return remains uncertain. The team signed center David Steckel to a one-year deal Monday, assigning him to Norfolk. He'll be paid $250,000 — $550,000 if summoned to the Ducks.
AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
When: 4:30 p.m. PST.
Where: BB&T Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket. Radio: 830 AM.
Record vs. Panthers (2013): Did not play.
Etc.: The Panthers have lost three straight games and have given up the second-most goals (64) in the league while the Ducks have scored an NHL-best 65.
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