On Nov. 27, 2011, the Ducks lost a seventh consecutive game, to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, and Anaheim’s coach then, Randy Carlyle assessed, “We just seem to be dead between the ears.”
Three days later, after the team won for just the third time in 19 games, Carlyle was fired and Bruce Boudreau was named the new coach.
Tuesday night, Boudreau’s Ducks (7-1), riding a record-tying seven-game winning streak, start an eight-game road trip against Toronto (6-3), now coached by Carlyle.
“Who are we playing?” Carlyle cracked to Toronto reporters at Monday’s practice.
Carlyle, who coached the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup, said the game has special meaning given his past with captain Ryan Getzlaf and veterans Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.
“Of course it does,” he said. “I know a lot of the players, coached a lot of them. A lot of the young players were just starting out, just draft picks. I shook their hand on their draft day and welcomed them to the organization.
“It seems like such a long time ago.”
Carlyle’s run with the Ducks ended two days after Boudreau was fired by the Washington Capitals. Following the Toronto loss back then, Selanne assessed, “There’s no mental toughness right now,” and those around the team believed the players tuned out the coach who was replaced by his former minor-league teammate in Dallas.
Asked about being more “crusty” with the Ducks than he is in Toronto, Carlyle said, “There are things you do and you react. I just don’t think the reactions that took place in my history should have taken place in that” situation “for that many people to see.
“Sure, there are things that you learn and that you take from your experience, things that you did that you might change. I’m with a new group of assistants now, who have different ideas and who have changed my views in a bunch of different things.”
Former Ducks wing Joffrey Lupul, leading Toronto in points, said he recognizes the importance of Tueseday's game to his coach.
“It’s another hockey game, but he wants to put his best foot forward and for us to put our best foot forward against the team that fired him,” Lupul said. “All players can relate to that, teams that have traded them and the different situations they’ve found themselves in. Obviously, you approach it like every other game, but there a little extra in it.”
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