Ducks must match their actions to their words
They've got to stay out of the penalty box. They've got to show discipline and teamwork. They’ve got to avoid giving in to the frustration that has mounted during an atrocious 0-3 start.
What's left now is for them to back up their words and stop this runaway freight train before it wrecks their season -- and takes Coach Randy Carlyle with it.
Carlyle was animated on the ice Wednesday but relaxed talking to reporters after the morning skate. Pro sports, he said in discussing what rookie Cam Fowler might learn from the team's awful start, "isn't always a bowl of cherries." But to face such adversity at the start of the season -- after repeatedly saying during training camp that they had to have a good start -- makes the fruit smell all the more rotten and increases the sense of urgency to turn things around.
Especially in the first home game of the season.
"For sure. It's huge. There's a huge amount of pressure on our group right now. You can feel it," Carlyle said. "They don’t feel good about what's transpired.
"And we knew going in we’d have a tough schedule. And you open two buildings, Detroit and Nashville, back-to-back and come back and play a young, energized team in St. Louis. We knew that our work would be cut out for us. And now we’re meeting a team for our home opener that some people would classify as a Stanley Cup contender at the beginning of the season. So there's lots of pressure on us to perform to a higher level.
"The task is not insurmountable for our group. We just haven't played anywhere near the level that we’re capable of playing."
Part of the reason is that wingers Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan are leading the team in penalty minutes -- each has 23 -- instead of in scoring. Ryan Getzlaf, recently appointed the captain, has allowed his frustration to outweigh the need to lead by example. That must stop too. Carlyle said he has talked to his top forwards about holding their tempers and not avenging hits that might be hard but aren't dirty.
"I don't know where it's gotten in the league now where a clean body check or a heavy body check is delivered in the game, it seems like there's an automatic response. And we've been guilty of responding too many times to clean body checks," Carlyle said. "Our message is that we don't want ... Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan dropping their gloves in consecutive games.
"You do it to defend your honor and if somebody challenges you in doing so, but to be out there and playing in a 3-1 hockey game with a chance to get back into it with one power play or if one bounce goes your way, it's not the right thing to do, to take yourself off the ice because somebody says something to you. And the opposition is doing a good job of goading them into those things too. That's something that we've talked about and has to be corrected right now."
Ryan acknowledged that the team's lack of discipline has been a constant and a thorn.
"We've gone down that road before. We’ve certainly had many times where things have not gone well and we've had a parade to the box," he said. "It’s almost like, how many times does it have to happen before it sinks in?
The margin of error's too small. You can't win games in the NHL from in the box. I wish I had a magic answer for that, for when people are going to understand that. Myself included. To win, it's got to sink in on a grander scale for us."
An 0-3 start in which they've been outscored, 13-2, should be enough to hammer the point home.
"Let’s certainly hope so," Ryan said. "I think the guys in here understand it, and their intentions are in the right place going in every game. We channel our energy in the wrong direction at the wrong times. It can't happen for 82 games, that's for sure.
"Hopefully being 0-3 can be a starting point and a turnaround point for the discipline of this team."
Defenseman Andreas Lilja, signed as a free agent, will have to leave the United States to take care of paperwork related to his visa and is unlikely to play this weekend, a team spokesman said. The 35-year-old Swede's work visa expired on Sunday, and he needs new documentation before he can play. However, he has been skating with the Ducks and should be ready to play as soon as the red tape is cut.
Opening-night ceremonies at the Honda Center will begin with red-carpet arrivals at 3:30 p.m. and a video at 6:45 p.m. The opening face-off is scheduled for 7:14 p.m.
More later at www.latimes.com/sports.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Randy Carlyle stands behind winger Dan Sexton, left, and Troy Bodie during Friday's game in Detroit. Credit: Carlos Osorio / Associated Press