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Ducks welcome back fans in series against Knights

Updated April 16, 2021 - 8:37 pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The last time the Golden Knights played at Honda Center in late February, the arena was quieter than a college library during finals week.

There was considerably more noise Friday. A few boos, too.

The Ducks played in front of their home fans for the first time this season, with a limited capacity of close to 2,000 on hand for the start of the two-game series against the Knights.

“Any of the buildings that we’re going into that have fans, or like tonight, it’s going to be the first night with fans, I think it’s exciting, even for us as visitors,” coach Pete DeBoer said following the morning skate. “Our players want to play in front of crowds. Even if they’re hostile home crowds and we’re on the road for games. That energy always helps us.”

Anaheim hadn’t played in front of fans at home since March 11, 2020, when it hosted St. Louis in the final game before the NHL paused the regular season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ducks have four home games remaining after Friday, two of which are against the Knights.

The majority of teams in the West Division did not have fans in attendance when the Knights visited. The series at Los Angeles this week was played at an empty Staples Center.

Minnesota was allowed 3,000 fans starting April 5, and San Jose announced Friday it will host a limited number of fans starting with the April 26 game against Arizona. The Knights have trips remaining to both of those arenas.

Colorado welcomed fans back April 2 and is hosting approximately 4,050 fans inside Ball Arena.

Arizona played in front of home crowds all season, and St. Louis recently saw its capacity bump to 4,100 at Enterprise Center.

“Obviously, any chance you get to have fans on the road and play in front of people, you take that chance any day, any time you get,” defenseman Zach Whitecloud said. “It’s nice they get to have fans. Good for them. Just look to take the fan noise out of the game right away.”

Right of way

One of the benefits of playing newly acquired Mattias Janmark on the left wing with the third line is it allows Alex Tuch to play in his natural position on the right wing.

Tuch noted the most difficult part of playing his off wing was receiving breakout passes on his backhand and having to open up his body to make a pass off the rush. He cited Wednesday’s goal against Los Angeles as an example of being able to pull the puck to the inside while still on his forehand before shooting.

”Just a little bit more comfortable for me personally,” Tuch said.

Tuch scored in each of the past two games after a 14-game drought and showed instant chemistry with the speedy Janmark in their first game together Wednesday.

“I think that’s important,” coach Pete DeBoer said, “because there are very few guys that skate like Alex and Janmark’s a guy that can keep up.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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