There might be a magic formula to what Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau does to get his teams off to a fast start, but maintaining that trend will be remarkable if it happens again this season.
While the Ducks are still stacked with a talented roster that won the Pacific Division last season, training camp injuries have disrupted some of that chemistry and a grueling eight-game trip this month highlights a taxing schedule that has the Ducks playing 15 of their first 23 games away from Honda Center.
"You look at his track record and how he gets 'em to come out hot and you just trust what he's doing," Ducks wing Kyle Palmieri said before Wednesday's regular-season opener in Colorado. "I hope we can get off to one of those hot starts again this year."
It's hope vs. reality.
The Ducks have been hit by defensive losses, with veteran Sheldon Souray (wrist) out probably until the end of November and Luca Sbisa missing this opening three-game trip after spraining his ankle in the first exhibition game.
Boudreau wasn't pleased with the Ducks' defensive effort in Saturday night's exhibition finale, when he said San Jose played like "men against boys," scoring six goals with 38 shots on goal.
"We have a lot of young talent," Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "It'll give some guys an opportunity to play a bigger role. We'll find out if people are ready."
Boudreau's second and third lines have been altered because off-season acquisition Jakob Silfverberg and Long Beach's Emerson Etem suffered lower body injuries.
"It's a concern that we haven't had a chance to put the lineups we wanted in" during exhibition games, Boudreau said. "We're mixing and matching."
Silfverberg returned to skate Tuesday, and is now set to join center Mathieu Perreault — who was acquired Sunday from the Washington Capitals — and 43-year-old Teemu Selanne on the Ducks' second line.
Etem has been replaced by Daniel Winnik on the third line with Andrew Cogliano and Saku Koivu, and center Nick Bonino moves to the fourth line with Matt Beleskey and Palmieri.
Boudreau's teams in Washington and Anaheim have started strong in the season's first 10 games, with a combined record of 33-13-4. And in his four seasons in Washington, his teams were a combined 27-11-4 in October — but a more mortal 11-9-1 on the road.
There's comfort in knowing that key players (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin) remain from last season's 20-3-3 sprint to the division title.
That leaves Boudreau to rely upon his proven method of getting his team to win right away — a combination, he said, of a tough training camp and establishing the right mind-set.
"That was the hardest skating camp I've ever been through," said Lovejoy, formerly a Pittsburgh Penguin. "Guys have pushed through … their legs are back. We're [opening] in Colorado. We're going to need our legs."
As for the psychological part, Beleskey said of Boudreau, "Bruce motivates you. He wants us to start off where we were last year. He wants us to be a dominant team. The only way to do that is come out hard and play like we're supposed to do. He bangs his points into us."
Despite the obstacles that his team faces, Boudreau said after Tuesday's practice, "We're ready to go. I have great belief in the group I have.
"It's a challenge. You're either afraid of the challenge or you embrace it. We choose to embrace it."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun