In a season filled with low points, the Ducks’ most recent loss felt like a rock-bottom moment.
They wrapped up a 10-game homestand with three straight losses — getting outscored 19-5 — and sit in last place in the Pacific Division and 31st overall in the NHL with 28 points, two ahead of league-worst Chicago. The Ducks (12-27-4) have played two more games than the Blackhawks.
There were far too many passengers and not enough Sam Carricks, who gamely tried to kick-start his teammates with a second-period fight in the Ducks’ 6-2 loss to New Jersey at Honda Center..
“It’s even more important now to show that fight,” Ducks forward Ryan Strome said after Friday’s loss to the Devils. “LIke I said, it’s not an easy league. We’re going to have to go into Pittsburgh, play a good Pittsburgh team. We’ve got to be ready to go.
“This is how you learn. You’ve got to go through hard times to see what you’re made of and see what everyone’s worth. Hopefully we can remember days like these down the road. We keep pushing forward. Right now, it’s hard to look too far ahead.”
Indeed, getting through the dark tunnel of a rebuild feels like a daunting, far-off task for the Ducks.
The Ducks open a six-game trip on Monday night at Pittsburgh. Their road record (4-13-3) includes two shootout wins against San Jose and regulation victories against Montreal and Edmonton.
Their last road game outside California was against the Oilers on Dec. 17.
“The road is always nice. It’s just the guys on the road,” Frank Vatrano said. “We had a lot of road games at the beginning of the year. I think we’ve been home for almost a month now, so it’ll be nice to have some change.”
Ducks goaltender John Gibson has not won on the road this season, going 0-9-3 with a goals-against average of 4.36 and a .889 save percentage. His home split: 7-10-0 at Honda Center with a 4.01 GAA and .897 save percentage.
Backup Anthony Stolarz won the two shootouts against the Sharks, and rookie Lukas Dostal, who is back with San Diego in the AHL, won the two regulation games against the Canadiens and the Oilers.
Injured center Isac Lundestrom is with the team on the trip and took part in practice Sunday in Pittsburgh, according to Ducks PR. Lundestrom has been out since suffering a broken finger Dec. 1 in Dallas, and this first full session was an important step forward for him.
Not on the trip is center Derek Grant, who suffered lower-body injury at Minnesota on Dec. 3, one game after Lundestrom broke his finger.
The Ducks flew to Pittsburgh on Saturday because they usually try to get in a practice after traveling multiple time zones.
“We always try to beat this time-zone thing by leaving a couple of days early. Hopefully that helps us,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said on Friday.
“But in the end, this is about coming to the rink. Having high compete and having high discipline. I don’t mean discipline staying out of the box. Discipline with your game to play the same way over and over and over again. And that’s our challenge.”