Randy just ducky

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:49 PM ET

The voice on the other end of the line was as sarcastic as ever. Southern California, it seems, has not mellowed Randy Carlyle.

The long-time Winnipegger, a former Jets loyalist and the face of the Manitoba Moose all those years, is nearing the end of his first regular season as a head man in the NHL.

And the biggest difference between coaching in Anaheim and coaching in Winnipeg?

"I just wear shorts to the rink," Carlyle told the Sun the other day.

Other than that, it's the same grind, apparently. You drive to the rink, park your pickup, roll up your sleeves and try to put a winning team on the ice.

"It's not like you're sittin' out, havin' lunch on the patio that many times," Carlyle said. "The job description doesn't suit that."

Neither does the man in the job, for that matter.

If Carlyle is anything as a coach, it's driven. And no-nonsense. He was that way with the Moose, and we imagine he's that way with the Ducks.

For a rookie, he's not doing too badly, either.

With a victory in Vancouver earlier this week, his team clinched just the fourth playoff spot in the franchise's 12-year history, setting team records for wins, points and goals along the way.

Having survived an eight-game losing streak in November, the Ducks have the second-best winning percentage in the Western Conference since the Olympic break.

They're 15-5-1 in their last 21 games, 23-9-5 since Jan. 13.

"It's been exciting," Carlyle said. "Lots of pressure. But that's what pro sports are about."

Pressure or not, Carlyle says he's having a ball.

He's tried to make sure his players are, too.

Continuing a practice he began with the Moose, Carlyle has found some interesting ways to break up the monotony of the season.

During an earlier trip to Vancouver, he replaced practice with a team cycling expedition through Stanley Park. On a trip to Ottawa, the Ducks practised on the Rideau Canal.

"Those things are real important," the coach said. "We got lots of media coverage on it, but we didn't do it for that reason. We did it because we thought it would be fun for our players. The bottom line is ... the games we came out of them, we won."

One of the primary reasons for Anaheim's resurgence has been the stirring comeback of Carlyle's old Jets teammate, Teemu Selanne.

The two got to know each other well when they played together for the first 22 games of the 1992-93 season ("I was summoned to the press box at that point in my career," Carlyle said). That was Selanne's rookie year.

Last summer, when Selanne was thinking of signing with Anaheim, the rookie coach sat down with the veteran player and told him what their new relationship would entail.

Bottom line: if Selanne took care of his responsibilities, at both ends of the rink, he'd get the kind of ice time he's been used to.

"He's been real good," Carlyle said. "He's worked hard, and he's committed to our team. He's one of our leaders. The one thing he always could do, he could fly. And he's flyin'. That speed is back."

Two years ago, it appeared the Finnish Flash was done. He scored just 16 goals and 32 points with Colorado.

This season, enjoying a healthier knee and a more wide-open game, Selanne has 39 goals, 88 points.

"He reported back in the best shape he's possibly been in his whole career," Carlyle said. "He went back to an area that loves him and he loves. It was a fit for him to come back into Anaheim."

Oddly enough, it's been a good match for a blue-collar guy like Carlyle, too.

Hey, if the shorts fit, wear 'em.


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