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Ducks’ Dallas Eakins seeks balance on practice and rest

Ducks’ Dallas Eakins seeks balance on practice and rest

ANAHEIM — The Ducks looked great for about 20 minutes Thursday against the Coyotes in Glendale, Arizona. Then, suddenly, they didn’t. They hardly resembled the same team that took the game to the Coyotes, built a 1-0 lead and looked dangerous with the puck.

They simply couldn’t maintain their high level of play, especially during the second period, and ended up losing 3-2. No question, the Coyotes turned up their game after breaking a scoreless streak that covered two games and one period, but the Ducks looked fatigued and leg weary.

So, with a word or two of encouragement from his assistants, Ducks coach Dallas Eakins called off Friday’s practice and Saturday’s morning skate. After the Ducks had played eight games in 15 nights to start the season, it was probably well past time for an extended rest.

“I had a couple of coaches come to me about that (Friday),” Eakins said of canceling practice. “We talked about that as an organization, as well. That’s on me. I think we’ve got to do a better job there. I’m such a believer in practice. I just am. I think it’s critical to getting better.”

In a normal season, teams usually play three games per week and the NHL has worked to cut back on games on consecutive nights. But with the season trimmed to 56 games from the customary 82 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the schedule has been condensed.

In fact, the Ducks are in the midst of a stretch in which they play five games in eight nights.

“We are playing every other day,” Eakins said. “We’re now going to play back to back. I guess I have to take advice in my words. I’m a big shift length guy. I am huge on it. You cannot play tired on the ice by taking a long shift, so taking my advice, we can’t have tired players to start a game.”

Eakins said he would shorten practices from the customary 40 to 45 minutes to 20 to 25.

“Be fast and furious and get them off the ice,” he said.

MINOR REPORT

Isac Lundestrom made the most of his re-assignment Friday to the Ducks’ AHL team. He scored twice, including the winner 59 seconds into overtime, as the , the San Diego Gulls rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the third period to defeat the Ontario Reign 4-3 in an exhibition at Honda Center.

Lundestrom had five shots on goal, and Jacob Perreault had a team-leading six.

Trevor Zegras had two assists and Lukas Dostal made 34 saves.

“I think he had one shift that stuck out,” Gulls coach Kevin Dineen said of Lundestrom during a postgame Zoom call. “He got the puck in the offensive zone and there really wasn’t a play to be made. He just hung onto it and he kept moving. His feet were grinding.

“He was protecting the puck and he was waiting for an opening. You can just see the patience and the composure. Before, we talked a lot about him taking advantage of offensive opportunities and he obviously did that, scoring two goals.”

The Gulls play their exhibition finale Sunday at Bakersfield and open the regular season with games next Friday and Saturday against Bakersfield at Great Park Ice in Irvine, their pandemic home for 2020-21.

The Gulls and Reign play for real for the first time Feb. 10 at Great Park Ice.


Press Enterprise