LOS ANGELES--What appeared to be a stroke of genius was downplayed by Anaheim Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau.
Boudreau started the season with 22-year-old Kyle Palmieri on the Ducks' first line with high-scoring stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but Palmieri's quiet start (one goal through five games) and the emergence of Daniel Winnik persuaded the coach to tinker.
He'd adjust even more, trying Andrew Cogliano and Matt Beleskey in the Perry-Getzlaf line.
Wednesday, Boudreau reinserted Palmieri on the top line, and Palmieri responded with the sixth natural hat trick in team history -- three consecutive goals -- in the Ducks' 5-1 rout of Nashville.
Asked why Palmieri returned, Boudreau answered, "I don't know. I just wake up in the morning and think up good combinations."
Part of it could have been Palmieri's wicked speed matched against the tired legs of the Predators, who were playing their fourth game in six days and were a day removed from an overtime affair.
Palmieri put that speed to great use on his second goal, racing up ice and getting the puck on long passes from Getzlaf and Perry. Palmieri sprinted past the defense and fired a shot into the lower right side of the net past Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.
Getzlaf and Perry assisted on all three of Palmieri's goals, giving him seven on the season and firming up the first-line role he had earned after the short training camp.
"He'll probably get one more game, but you never know," Getzlaf cracked.
Palmieri said although "It's been a bit of a cycle through the lines," he's hopeful to continue playing alongside "two phenomenal players, two of the best in the world."
"I'd think" Boudreau "wants to go with the hot player," Palmieri said. "So going forward we'll just keep doing what we're doing. You just show up every morning, see what line you're on and do your best to make it work. Everyone has bought into that system."
After a brief Ducks practice in front of an estimated 13,000 schoolkids Thursday, Boudreau said he liked the Wednesday performance of Long Beach's Emerson Etem, who had returned a day earlier from a second stint with minor league Norfolk (Va.).
Etem raced down a loose puck that eluded Rinne behind the net and delivered a superb backhanded pass to Nick Bonino for a 1-0 lead.
"I want to give him credit, but I'm like the 'Show Me' State of Missouri: Do it again," Boudreau said. "His first game up last time he got two assists and was a world beater, and then it tailed off a little bit.... The biggest thing about young kids is consistency."
With the Ducks preparing to play Friday at Honda Center versus Minnesota, Boudreau said he relished the comfortable lead Wednesday that allowed him to insert youngsters in the final seven minutes.
"It's a real treat because if you play to win every game and play your best, with this schedule, it's great to be able to do it every now and again," Boudreau said.
(Staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report.)
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