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Perry steers Ducks toward Cup run

| Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Although Corey Perry has won a Stanley Cup, an MVP award and an NHL goal-scoring title in his short career, the Anaheim Ducks' star forward remains hungry for more hardware.

Another NHL title with the Ducks is his first choice for the collection.

After a tumultuous season of impressive highs and ugly lows, the Ducks return with largely the same core in search of improvement on last spring's first-round playoff ouster.

Perry spent the summer absorbing congratulations for his 98-point season, which included a stunning array of late-game heroics during Anaheim's sprint to the playoffs. Largely on the strength of that clutch play, he won his first Hart Trophy in a mildly surprising vote, and he claimed the Richard Trophy with a career-high 50 goals -- 18 more than his previous career high.

"It was a different offseason than I'm used to, that's for sure," Perry said. "It's great to get individual honors, but I'm always thinking about what we can do to get better in Anaheim before anything else. I think we've got a team that can play with anybody, but trophies won't help you do that."

Perry and his linemates, captain Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, lead the Ducks into another season likely to feature impressive offense and up-and-down defense from one of the NHL's most exciting clubs. Perry's line is among the NHL's best, yet the long-standing combination isn't resting on the laurels of last season's remarkable play.

"We're always experimenting, always trying different things," said Ryan, who's coming off his third straight 30-goal season. "We're not there yet, but we've been playing together for too long for it not to happen."

Despite their first-round playoff loss to the Nashville Predators, the Ducks ended last season with a wealth of reasons for optimism. Anaheim surged back from a mediocre start with a fantastic finish featuring multiple heart-stopping victories in the regular season, winning 15 of its final 20 games.

The Ducks even did it without Jonas Hiller, the Swiss netminder who played just 83 minutes after his first All-Star game appearance with an apparent bout of vertigo. The Ducks' long summer benefited Hiller, who took much of the summer off to heal, returning to workouts several weeks ago in Switzerland with no symptoms.

"I'm going to keep working and trying to get back, but I'm feeling really good," Hiller said. "It's going to take a while to say for sure, but I'm happy and confident."

Hiller is the Ducks' most important offseason addition, and he appears to be back on his formidable game. He allowed just three goals on 67 shots in 130 minutes of preseason action, showing no apparent signs of last season's still-unexplained head injury.

Teemu Selanne's return was less certain, but the 41-year-old Finnish Flash bounced back from early offseason knee surgery and decided shortly before training camp to return for a 19th NHL season. He was the NHL's eighth-leading scorer last year with 80 points, and he'll be the guest of honor when the Ducks visit Finland in a few days for an exhibition against Jokerit, his former club in the Helsinki area.

"It's going to be fun, especially for me," Selanne said. "There's already a lot of people calling me and asking for favors. It's going to be a great experience to go into the (Jokerit) building and play in that atmosphere, but you've got to keep focused on what you're really there to do, and not try to do anything extra that gets in the way."

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