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Boudreau bemoans Ducks' lack of urgency

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

CALGARY, Alberta – The dial that operates the Ducks' concern meter has been turned up a few notches.

The first lengthy bit of rest the Ducks had in six weeks produced another run-of-the-mill effort that ended with the Columbus Blue Jackets walking out of Honda Center with a 3-2 overtime victory on Wednesday.

The Ducks are one or two wins away from a Pacific Division title but their overall play isn't inspiring a great deal of confidence. At the moment, they barely resemble the soaring team that was ready to challenge Chicago for NHL supremacy.

Minutes after Fedor Tyutin had the surging Blue Jackets celebrating on the ice, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau emerged from his office with a pained look as questions of his team's playoff readiness bubbled to the surface.

"We talked about it between periods, before the game," Boudreau said. "The desperation. Granted we got a point, but it's not the point. It's the playing more complete that's bugging me. And we're not playing complete."

The Ducks might have wanted a win Wednesday night but it was clear who worked harder for it as the streaking Blue Jackets continually applied pressure and ultimately tied the score twice to force overtime and move into a playoff spot.

More alarming is the Ducks' lack of urgency. Andrew Cogliano said their energy level against the Blue Jackets was there "at times."

"There's lulls in the game where they took the energy back," Cogliano said. "That's the difference with why I don't think we're winning right now. It's because we're letting teams get back into the game.

"When we have opportunities where we're playing well, we're putting a team down but we're kind of letting off and giving them the opportunity to come back."

The Ducks clinched a playoff spot last week and are in the rare position of have their seeding virtually locked in as they entered Tuesday, holding the No. 2 position in the Western Conference with a five-point lead over Vancouver.

But it has been a slowing march to the second division title in franchise history and first since the seminal 2006-07 Stanley Cup team. Their opposition over their final five games won't naturally get them ramped up.

Calgary has only the top pick in the June 30 draft to play for, Edmonton has fallen out of the playoff picture and Phoenix will likely be eliminated by time they reach Honda Center for the season finale. Only Vancouver is playoff bound.

Has the rare occurrence of the Ducks long knowing the postseason awaits for them made it tougher to play with a sense of desperation?

"I hope so," Boudreau said. "Deep down, I hope that's the case. Because if we're playing as good as we can possibly play right now, then we haven't picked it up as much as the other teams have picked it down the stretch.

"We've got teams breathing down our neck now. We've had it pretty easy as far as positioning goes. It's going to be right down to the wire."

The concern level won't be as high if the Ducks get back to scoring goals. They've scored two or fewer in their past four games and 10 times out of their past 14, a stretch that has seen them go 5-7-2 since their once-defining March 20 triumph over Chicago.

"It's hard to explain why guys aren't scoring," Cogliano said. "There really is no answer. We just got to find a way to get through it. I think shooting the puck is the answer. That's the only way you really get out of it.

"If you're constantly shooting, good things happen. Some guys are doing that. Some guys aren't. Right now it's not going in."

MINOR MOVES

The Ducks returned defenseman Jordan Hendry to Norfolk (AHL) but Sami Vatanen remains with the club after scoring his first NHL goal Wednesday.

It remains to be seen if defensemen Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa will be healthy enough to play Friday against Calgary, so that figures to be another reason why Vatanen is being kept around rather than helping Norfolk clinch an AHL playoff berth.

One of Vatanen's strengths is being able to operate on the power play and the 20-year-old displayed that when he found a shooting lane and snapped off a hard wrister that sailed past Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Vatanen said, "It's a good feeling, of course, but it was a tough loss."

Fowler has missed the last two games because of an upper-body muscle injury. Sbisa couldn't take the morning skate Wednesday and sat out because of a lower-body injury. Fowler skated Thursday and could be available against the Flames. Sbisa did not practice and his status is in doubt.

Contact the writer: estephens@ocregister.com


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