Anaheim Ducks: Keys to Opening Night Win

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Win the Special Teams Battle

Sep 28, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Martin Jones (31) blocks a shot attempted by Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) during the first period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

It was no secret that the Ducks’ power-play struggled for major stretches last season. Despite the Ducks’ periodic ineptitude with the man advantage, the team finished with the best record in the Western Conference, accumulated 116 points, and were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. The team also led the league in goals scored, mostly from the team (especially Ryan Getzlaf) dominating at even strength. Imagine the kinds of statistics the players could have put up with a strong power-play.

This year, the Ducks will most likely add Kesler and Dany Heatley to the first power-play unit. That combination of Perry, Kesler, and Heatley up front with Getzlaf and either Cam Fowler or Sami Vatanen manning the points should be improved from last year, when the Ducks utilized Patrick Maroon and either Mathieu Perreault or Nick Bonino on the top unit for stretches.

Against Pittsburgh, the Ducks should try to cash in on the two or three power play opportunities they should get. The Penguins are a team with a lot of offensive talent and firepower, and converting limited opportunities and solid chances against good teams is a component that all good teams must have.

Of course, one cannot talk about special teams without mentioning the penalty kill. The Ducks should be shorthanded more often than they will have the man advantage on Thursday, being on the road. Lost in the shuffle of the offseason was the low-key acquisition of Nate Thompson from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He is a hard-working center that is going to help the Ducks in the face-off circle and when shorthanded.

This should help ease the workload for both Getzlaf and Kesler, who can still be effective, but not required in every situation. Thompson, Andrew Cogliano, Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell need to limit the Penguins opportunities and negate guys like Sidney Crosby. The Penguins are lethal with the man advantage, and neutralizing special teams, an area where Pittsburgh has had tremendous success in recent years, will be critical if the Ducks want to start the season with a win.