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    Ducks coach Greg Cronin has Arizona on his mind, not Boston
    • October 20, 2023

    The fragrant aromas of lobster tails and clam chowder might waft through the arena Sunday as the Ducks and their New England-made coach Greg Cronin take on the Boston Bruins at Honda Center as part of a back-to-back set of games this weekend.

    Cronin was born in Arlington, Mass., a few miles outside Boston’s center, and he played his college hockey in Maine at Colby (where his brother also played). He started his coaching career there as well and later had multiple stints with the University of Maine, including one season when Ducks legend Paul Kariya played for the Black Bears.

    Cronin returned to Boston to coach Northeastern University, where his father, uncle and cousin had all played hockey. The Huskies went from a three-win season in his first year at the helm to playing in two Beanpot finals in three years under Cronin, including a 25-victory campaign in 2009.

    Now, in his first NHL head coaching job after stretches as an assistant with the Maple Leafs and Islanders, Cronin is also being tasked with a similar turnaround, that of a Ducks team that subjected its goalies to a historically high workload and whose defensive numbers played out accordingly last season.

    So far, they looked respectable on a trip to play defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas on Saturday, much-improved in their 6-3 home victory over Carolina on Sunday and then formidable in defeat after a 3-2 near miss against the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

    With their second back-to-back set of the young campaign upcoming – the Ducks will travel to Arizona to face the Coyotes, who beat them 7-1 in their final preseason game, on Saturday – Cronin eschewed any and all sentimentality about his hometown Bruins or Sunday’s game in general.

    “I’m aware they’re coming into town, but honestly I’m already thinking about Arizona. They booted us pretty hard in the last exhibition game,” Cronin said.

    Former Bruin and East Longmeadow, Mass., native Frank Vatrano and his mates on the second line pumped voltage into the Ducks for two games. The newly formed top grouping of one-time Boston University freshman Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry and Leo Carlsson scored both goals in a hard-luck loss to Dallas on Thursday. Carlsson, who missed the Ducks’ first two contests with a minor injury, ebbed and flowed a bit emotionally during his debut, but was outwardly composed and ultimately effective.

    “His hair could be on fire and you wouldn’t know it. He’s just a very calm kid, very confident,” Cronin said. “He’s a hard guy to read – like Frank Vatrano is a very animated guy and Leo is very even-keel – but he’s obviously a very confident guy.”

    While the Coyotes will be bereft of native New Englanders on Saturday in Tempe when they host the Ducks, they’ve got one of the most exhilarating young players in the NHL. Logan Cooley torched the Ducks for three goals and five points in three preseason meetings and has four points in four games since the regular season began. Cooley averaged two points per game with the U.S. junior national team last year and nearly replicated that pace at the NCAA level with Minnesota.

    The Bruins themselves feature a pair of Massachusetts natives (Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie Coyle, both of whom are also former Boston University Terriers) on the roster as well as players with NCAA connections to New England. They include another Boston University alumnus, top defenseman Charlie McAvoy, and one-time New Hampshire Wildcat James van Riemsdyk, who has three goals in three games after signing as a free agent for just $1 million. Also among them is Kevin Shattenkirk (Boston University), who, like Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm, is a former Duck.

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    When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

    Where: Mullett Arena, Tempe

    How to watch: Bally Sports SoCal


    When: 5:30 p.m. Sunday, 5:30 p.m.

    Where: Honda Center

    How to watch: Bally Sports SoCal

    ​ Orange County Register