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Ducks say they have plenty to play for down the stretch

ANAHEIM — Technically, the Ducks remain alive in the Western Conference playoff race. Realistically, they’re out of it and have been since last month. So, what’s left to play for in their final 11 games, including Thursday’s date with the Coyotes in Glendale, Arizona?
Pride, for one thing. The Ducks veterans aren’t used to missing the playoffs.
“We’re competitive people, so we want to make sure we’re playing as well as we can no matter what time of year and no matter what kind of circumstances,” defenseman Cam Fowler said. “We’ve been doing that here recently. We’re continuing to play for one another, which is the No. 1 makeup of this team. Now we’re starting to get some results.”
Impressions, for another. The kids want to leave good ones before heading into the offseason.
“The coaching staff and general manager believe in me,” right wing Daniel Sprong said. “The guys in the room have been helping me get comfortable. I’m just trying to play my game. I’m playing with confidence. I’m really getting a chance here. I love it here. I’m excited to be here.”
Next season, for one more. Everyone wants to build on what’s gone right recently.
“We’re playing with a different confidence,” right wing Jakob Silfverberg said. “I think you can tell. Guys are moving the puck a lot more tape to tape rather than throwing it away and chasing the game. A lot of times we’re the team that’s controlling the play and controlling the pace.
“I think that’s probably been the biggest difference.”
Playing for each other has its appeal too. There’s a renewed sense of unity.
“We’re believing in each other,” Fowler said. “We’re kind of rallying around each other, trying to lift each other up because it’s been a difficult season. It’s amazing what can happen when you go out there and play for one another. We’re starting to see some results of that now.”
No one wants to talk about the downside of winning, and there is one. The Ducks have won four of their past six games, including a 3-2 victory Tuesday over the Nashville Predators, which could hurt their position in the draft lottery by season’s end. The Ducks were fifth in the reverse standings going into Wednesday’s action.
Lately, they haven’t been losing for Hughes.
That would be Jack Hughes, a center with otherworldly skills who is the top-ranked prospect in the draft. Ottawa is first in the reverse standings, but the Colorado Avalanche own the Senators’ pick and could end up selecting Hughes in the June 21-22 draft in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Kaapo Kakko, a right wing from Finland, has narrowed the gap on Hughes in the eyes of many, based largely on his play during the World Junior Championships in January in Vancouver. Kakko scored the winning goal in the gold medal game as Finland defeated Hughes and Team USA.
The draft selection for the non-playoff qualifiers will be determined by a lottery next month.
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Silfverberg’s first-period goal Tuesday against the Predators enabled him to reach the 20-goal mark for the third time in four seasons. He’s three shy of matching his career best of 23 goals in 2016-17, when the Ducks went on to reach the Western Conference final before losing to Nashville.
“It’s always fun to score goals, but it’s been a tough year,” Silfverberg said. “It’s nice to see a little bit of brightness at the end of the year. It’s the same for me and the rest of the team. I’m just trying to build and create good habits and build for the future.”
Silfverberg has four goals and four assists during a six-game point streak, a career best.

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