|Rare and valuable photo of Corey Perry falling on a goalie.
"We've been successful a little bit the last three games, but I think we've got the worst road record in the league," Bruce Boudreau said. "It's about time we start getting at that a little better. I mean, it's embarrassing, only three wins at the halfway mark on the road."
Anaheim begins a three-game Canadian jaunt in Calgary tonight, where they will have their work cut out for them to improve a 3-10-5 road record. (By the way, yes I'm aware that one of the road losses came while wearing the black third jerseys in Winnipeg.) The Flames are 20-19-5 this season, but an astounding 9-0-1 in their last 10 at Scotiabank Saddledome. That includes a 6-3 win over the Devils two nights ago, in a game where they were outshot 38-14. They're looking to win their eighth straight at home for the first time since 2007.
"They're a completely different team on the road than they are at home," Boudreau said. "They come out hard. They hit. They're a meat-and-potatoes team. They've got a lot of hungry fans there every night, making a lot of noise."
In 12 career home starts against the Ducks, Miikka Kiprusoff is 9-2-1 with a 1.91 goals-against average, even though he lost both home games to Anaheim last season. The Ducks actually took all four matchups last year, including two at Honda Center, where they haven't lost to Calgary in the regular season since January 19, 2004.
Oddly enough, tonight is the first time this season they've faced Calgary.
Boudreau indicated this morning that Jonas Hiller has recovered nicely from the lower body injury that knocked him out of Sunday's game and kept him out of the win over Dallas two nights ago. However, tonight he will backup Jeff Deslauriers, who gave up just two goals in winning that game against the Stars. Here is the rest of the expected lineup:
"It's nice to go on the road with a different feeling," Bobby Ryan said. "Winning three in a row and finishing off the homestand in good fashion leads to a little bit of confidence, and you need confidence going into a building like that."
It's no secret the Ducks need their recent winning ways to snowball into something much more to have any hope of getting into the postseason race.
"If you know me, I'd certainly say it can," Boudreau said. "I'm going to preach it until it can't. You watch the news every day. Miracles happen. So why can't miracles happen in sport?"
Said Teemu Selanne this morning, "We were struggling for a long time and really put ourselves behind the eight ball," said Teemu Selanne this morning. "That's the toughest part, especially when we feel we still have a good team here. If you had a bad team, you could live with that. That's why it's been so tough. We're just trying to stay hot right now and see how far we can go. You never know. It's a half-season. We've done it before. It's not easy, but it's possible."
Also, "My kid's going to have some hockey tournament," Selanne said. “I think it's important I spend time at home, too. I'm looking forward to it."
Perry leads the Ducks again with 18 goals, including his fourth career hat trick on Sunday night. "He says it could be his last year, so it surprised me," Perry said. "But that's the way he is. When something comes up for somebody else, he's going to help them get there, and that's what he did. That's the type of guy he is, and he's always been that way. Going near the end of his career, it means something to me."
Perry has a lot of family from Ottawa, and this will be a chance to play in front of them. “I’m excited,” he said. ”My dad’s side is all in Ottawa. It’s going to be kind of a homecoming for me. It’s special.”
Here's video of them both, courtesy of the Flames:
|Now let's find the three pucks from 2002.
- Ebby Calvin "Nuke" Laloosh (1988)
It goes without saying, everything is better when you win. Food tastes better, the drinks go down more smoothly, sleep is sounder. And in the Ducks locker room last night, following a resounding third straight victory, the team's victory song was blasting and the mood was noticeably jovial.
That was especially true for linemates, good friends and follow Finns Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu in talking about the Koivu hat trick that led the Ducks to an emphatic 5-2 victory over the visiting Stars." In my career, it hasn’t happened too often to get three in one game and get a hat trick," Koivu said. "So, I’ll take that. There's only two of those so you can't forget them."
Indeed, Koivu's only other three-goal night came when he was with Montreal in a game against Pittsburgh on November 18, 2002. Last night the third one came on an empty-netter, after Selanne picked up the puck at center ice with only defenseman Alex Goligoski between him and the abandoned cage. Instead of trying to score it himself, Selanne unselfishly dropped it to Koivu, who poured it in from just behind the blue line. Selanne, by the way, was playing in his 1,300th game and assisted on two of Koivu's second goal as well.
"There's no way I would take a shot myself," Selanne said with a smile. "I knew Saku was going to have a chance to score a hat trick. I'm so happy for him. You don’t see that very often. Usually, he’s the passer."And what did Koivu say to Selanne after that? "I said, 'Thank you. You have enough of those, so you've got to give me one."
Indeed, Selanne still holds the lead in the career hat tricks race, 22-2. Noting the near decade between the 37-year-old Koivu's first and second, Selanne joked, "He's probably not going to get the third one."
Koivu's hatty, which came two nights after Corey Perry had one against Columbus, marked the first time in Ducks history the team had hat tricks in consecutive games. (We need to come up with a term for three straight hat tricks. Maybe the Golden Fedora?)
It also overshadowed a momentous night for one Jeff Deslauriers, who had 26 saves in his first appearance since April 11, 2010, when he was with the Oilers. How's this for ironic? That game was also at Honda Center, a 7-2 loss to the Ducks in which Deslauriers had 38 saves. It was also the last game ever for Scott Niedermayer.
Deslauriers had a strong first period last night, but the Stars tied it on two quick goals by Steve Ott and Goligoski to start the second period. But that was all Deslauriers and the Ducks would allow, as Koivu gave Anaheim the lead back with a pretty move to the backhand on a nice drop pass by Selanne, after he flew so quickly down the left wing I think you can still see the burn marks on the ice. Five minutes later, Matt Beleskey gave the Ducks the all-important insurance goal, banging in a rebound out of the air for his long-awaited first goal of the year.
And In a season in which very little has gone as planned for the Ducks, they've won three straight for the first time since October 8-17, the last two behind goalies who weren't even on the roster a week ago. Sunday evening it was 26-year-old rookie Iiro Tarkki coming in for the injured Jonas Hiller and earning the win against the Jackets. Last night it was Deslauriers doing it in his first NHL regular season game in 21 months.
"Obviously it's been a year and a half since I've played an NHL game so it's been a long time," Deslauriers said. "So I was very happy to be back in. Everybody here makes me feel like part of the family. We won because the guys played hard in front."
And they showed the heart to win the type of game they may have lost earlier this season, not folding after giving up their lead in such quick fashion, but instead fighting back. "It was a character win," Selanne said. "We were up 2-0 and they came back, but today we felt like we were a good team. Nothing really bothered us. We knew that we were going to bounce back and find a way to win the game. That is what we’ve been waiting a long time for."
"That's where you can see the biggest difference at this moment," Koivu said of the Ducks' ability to regain the lead Tuesday after Dallas had pulled even, 2-2, on goals by Steve Ott and Alex Goligoski at 1:39 and 2:43 of the third period.
"A month, six weeks ago, them scoring those two quick goals in the third period, I think we would have been done," Koivu said. "But now we were able to bounce back and got the third goal and then the fourth one, and those are huge goals and really brought the momentum back to our team."
The Ducks have been able to do it at home, now we'll see if they can do it in Canada, where they face Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in the next four days. They practice today before heading out on that trip, when we'll have a better idea if Hiller is ready to return (Bruce Boudreau proclaimed both Hiller and Parros day-to-day this morning). For now though, the delight in creating a semblance of a winning atmoshphere still lingers.
"I don't see any reason why we can't stay hot and make a run," Selanne said. "Anything is possible."
Two straight wins behind goalies who were in Syracuse this time last week? Two straight hat tricks, including the first from Koivu in more than nine years? Anything is possible indeed.
|After tonight, Selanne will have played 1,300 more NHL games than I have. Incredible.|
Jonas Hiller, who was injured in the first period in Sunday night's emphatic victory over Columbus, will not be available, according to Bruce Boudreau. The good news, however, is that he may ready for Thursday at Calgary (a breath of fresh air for those worried he might be out for a significant amount of time, like backup Dan Ellis).
Last night, the Ducks flew in Jeff Delauriers from Syracuse, who may get the nod tonight vs. the Stars, according to Boudreau. His call-up was announced this morning, along with the reassignment of JF Jacques, who received a three-game suspension for his elbow to the head of RJ Umberger on Sunday night.
Iiro Tarkki, of course, was called up over the weekend and got his first NHL win when he made an unexpected appearance after Hiller went down. He was summoned over Deslauriers originally because his numbers at Syracuse were better -- 2.85 goals-against average and .916 save percentage vs. 3.86 and .877 for Deslauriers.
However, Boudreau emphasized that he may go with Deslauriers because he has had past success against Dallas. Deslauriers has played 58 NHL games, all in two seasons with Edmonton, but none in the regular season since 2009-10. Two of those were starts against the Stars, in which he was 1-1-0 with a 2.89 GAA and .902 SV%.
Pete Peeters, the likeable goaltending coach for the Ducks, was working extra with both netminders at this morning's skate. He said yesterday of Tarkki being thrust in there on Sunday, “He got thrown in the frying pan and he did admirable. My hats off to him. Time change, traveling all day. I don’t know what his body was going through. I know as an older guy flying with the team through time zones, it’s tough on your body.”
Peeters also pointed out that Tarkki is not your everyday NHL rookie. "Iiro’s not like an 18-or 19-year-old,” he said. ”He’s played in the Finnish Elite League. He’s definitely made a name for himself in Europe. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable. Once you get comfortable and the confidence comes, you never know what can happen.”
Back to tonight, the Stars (ninth in the Western Conference) are on a mini roll, having won three of their last four, including a New Year's Eve win over the nearly-unbeatable Bruins at home. Seven of their last eight goals have been scored by either leading point-scorer Jamie Benn or Mike Ribeiro, who will be out tonight with an MCL strain. Meanwhile, the Stars have scored exactly four goals in each of their last four games (their only loss in that stretch a 5-4 defeat at home to Detroit).
Goalie Kari Lehtonen, who missed Dallas' last game with the flu (a win Saturday over Edmonton) is expected to go tonight. Dallas is also expected to get back big d-man Sheldon Souray, who has missed the last half dozen games with a sprained ankle.
For the Ducks, George Parros will be out with a tweaked groin, but like Hiller, could be available Thursday at Calgary, the start of a three-game Canadian jaunt in which the Ducks also visit Edmonton on Friday and Vancouver on Sunday.
And while the Ducks hope for a third straight win to end this homestand, the Stars are looking for a third straight over Anaheim this year. The Ducks fell 3-1 at home on October 21 and 5-3 in Dallas on December 19.
Tonight is also the 1,300th NHL game for Teemu Selanne, as he will become the 52nd player all-time, ninth European-born player, second Finnish-born player (Teppo Numminen), 36th forward, and ninth right wing to reach the milestone. He will also be the fourth active player to reach 1,300 games, following Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit (1,535), Roman Hamrlik of Washington (1,346) and Jaromir Jagr of Philadelphia (1,307).
Boudreau was asked about Selanne this morning, and said, "I told him today, 'Gordie Howe played until he was in his 50s, so I don't see what your problem is.'"
He added something we've all know about the Flash for years: "He's a better person than he is a player. And he's a really good player."
|This guy beat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday, flew across the country and earned his first NHL win on Sunday. How was your weekend?
- Ducks play a desperation game and win it for a second straight victory?
- They lose Jonas Hiller to injury in the first period?
- They score a season-high seven goals?
- Perry notches his fourth career hat trick?
- They have to kill a five-minute power play with a two-goal lead in the third and survive it without a shot on goal?
- Iiro Tarkki makes his first NHL appearance and wins it?
All of it and more happened last night at Honda Center, in a game the Ducks desperately needed to avoid a rather unappetizing fate. "We knew this morning when we came to the rink what their record was and what ours was," said Perry. "Where we are is unacceptable. We have to keep playing. We’ve had two great games, but we have to continue to keep pushing and doing the right things."
Said Teemu Selanne, "We realized that if we were going to lose tonight, we were going to be rock bottom. We didn’t want to do that."
(Columbus, by the way, fired coach Scott Arniel not long after the game.)
Perry and Selanne had five of the Ducks' season-high seven goals, with Perry grabbing the hattie with 43 seconds left in the game, picking up the puck in the faceoff circle in his own end and sending it into the empty Blue Jackets net. That goal came not long after the Ducks escaped a five-minute Columbus power play set up by a JF Jacques elbow to the head of RJ Umberger, which drew a major penalty. With Anaheim holding a tenuous 6-4 lead at the time, Nikita Nikitin's shot off the crossbar turned out to be the only viable threat during what could have been a harrowing sequence.
As it was, things were already tenuous after the Ducks lost Hiller with about a minute and a half left in the first period. After he made a sprawling save on Rick Nash, Hiller was slow to get back to his feet and appeared in obvious pain. After Saku Koivu scored at the other end of the rink to make it 4-1 Ducks, Hiller gingerly went to the bench and then to the locker room. And with backup Dan Ellis already out four weeks with a groin strain, the 26-year-old Tarkki (just called up from Syracuse that morning) was thrust into the first NHL action of his life.
The first shot he faced? A slap shot goal on the power play from Derick Brassard. “That didn’t feel good,” Tarkki said. “But after that I still felt pretty good and confident.”
He'd give up two more before the night was through, one a little bit fluky as the puck snuck under him during a scramble in the crease and the other a Nash rifle off the turnover that veteran NHL netminders would have trouble stopping. His Ducks teammates helped him out by only allowing 10 Columbus shots in the final two periods -- not to mention pouring in seven goals at the other end -- and Tarkki earned his first NHL win. That came just one day after he beat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a Syracuse Crunch uniform. He flew to Orange County from the East Coast early Sunday morning.
"I didn't expect this to happen so fast," Tarkki said. "Scary. Of course I was a little bit nervous (when) I heard that I'm going in. Actually I felt pretty good going in."
We'll have more on Tarkki on the website later today, as he spoke to reporters at length after practice.
The good news for the Ducks is that Hiller was proclaimed as "day to day" (aren't we all?) by Boudreau after the game. "He wasn't feeling right," Boudreau said. "When he made that save, he looked a little awkward there. With about a minute to go, he said he'd just wait until the end of the period and I wasn't going to take the chance. So we took him out."
And in a season where so many things have not gone as planned for the Ducks, they won consecutive games for the first time since taking four straight October 8-17 -- on a night when they were wondering just who would be put in net if Tarkki got hurt. Even Selanne joked afterward that goaltending coach and frequent practice participant Pete Peeters, who spent a successful 14 years as an NHL netminder, would suit up.
Thankfully, they weren't faced with that conundrum last night, but the Ducks will have to figure out what Hiller's status is starting tomorrow night against Dallas, as the Ducks finish their six-game homestand. That's when the Ducks will hope a modest and long overdue win streak begins to snowball into something much more.
"We want to start climbing up and try to find a hot streak," Selanne said. "I still believe that we have all the pieces here. The last couple of games there have been a lot of bright things."
If you haven't done so already, download the dramatically new and improved Ducks Mobile App for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry. There is no better way to follow the Ducks when you're away from home. Among the new and enhanced features:
- Live game updates with box scores, stats and all-new ice tracker, plus out-of-town scores
- Brand new Fantasy Five game, allowing you to select Ducks players for upcoming games and compete against other fans for prizes (available on iPhone and Android only)
- Up-to-the-minute Ducks news
- Photo galleries from Ducks games and events
- Video from Ducks events and behind-the-scenes features, plus exclusive content like intermission interviews and pregame and postgame shows
- Pregame analysis of every Ducks game, including key matchups and What to Watch
- Interactive game schedule, allowing you to buy Ducks tickets right from your smartphone
- Ducks promotions, including tickets, merchandise, concessions and more
- Ducks player bios with personal info, action photos and updated stats
Meanwhile, we're always making improvements and adding new features (the latest of which are brand new Power Players bios and photo galleries). So, make sure you have it on your phone.
|"Let's hug it out."
"We haven’t heard our win song in awhile," Bobby Ryan said. "It’s a nice feeling."
And Ryan himself was a big reason for it, scoring two goals, including an absolutely sick one in the third period that tied the score at 2-2. With the Ducks fighting off an Isles power play, Corey Perry did Perry-like work in taking the puck the other way, dropping it to Ryan at the New York blue line. That's when Ryan did his thing, losing Andrew MacDonald with a deke to the backhand then cutting sharply in front of goalie Evgeni Nabokov before dropping it into the open net.
It was a move words can't do justice to, so here's a better description of it:
Honda Center erupted as Ryan jumped into Perry's arms, who he was quick to give credit to afterwards. "Pears did most of the work on it," Ryan said. "He held on to that puck through two guys up the wall. He displayed some great patience with it all the way up the ice. For me, I just tried a one-on-one move and tried to get back to my forehand. Generally, I miss those. It’s nice for me to pull one back to my forehand and get one to go. It was huge. You could see the emotion on the ice between us."
That emotion had to play a part in Ryan Getzlaf's go-ahead goal a few minutes later, as no one came to the Ducks captain on the right wing, so he made his way to the net, cutting to the backhand before beautifully roofing it in the top corner. Getzlaf's reaction to that goal was not just a man thrilled to put his team ahead in the third, but one relieved to get his first point in the last seven games. "It was a good feeling," Getzlaf said. "We’ve been working really hard the last little bit here and trying to get results. Tonight was one of those nights where we were able to."
There was also something to like about Teemu Selanne's celebration following his crucial insurance goal, a rebound he punched in from the slot, that made it a comfortable 4-2 with under four minutes left. The 41-year-old Selanne, in the spirit of guys like Ryan and Washington's Alex Ovechkin, did a little jump into the glass, something we may not have seen before. Sure he's been known to fire his stick like a rifle at a thrown glove, but a jump into the glass is a new one. (And the fact you could hardly fit a nickel between Teemu's skate blades and the ice on that "leap" doesn't matter.)
That goal all but sealed the deal on a well-earned win, one the Ducks hope is the start of something good. "At the end of the day, it’s two points and a starting point," Ryan said. "Hopefully, we can string some things together here and move forward. It was definitely refreshing and like a monkey off our back."
As has been the case the last few seasons, the performance of the Ducks' big line dictated the play of the entire team. Ryan had two goals, Getzlaf had his first in 12 games, Perry had two assists and was +2.
"There were a lot of good things about that game that we were looking for," said Bruce Boudreau. "We got mad instead of hanging our heads when we got behind. The big guys got mad and it showed. When they are playing well, everybody else just rides along."
The Ducks can only hope that ride carries on, as they look for a second straight win for the first time since October, against the Blue Jackets tomorrow night.
In other words, it sure would be nice if The Show Goes On.
|The last time the Islanders were here, Cam Fowler was only 18!
The Islanders have just 14 wins this season, but three of them have come in a row (granted, against three teams not currently in the playoff race). Since a 3-0 loss to the Rangers on the day after Christmas (which was covered on the HBO 24/7 show), the Isles knocked off Calgary, Edmonton and, last Tuesday night, Carolina.
In the net for all three of those games (and likely in there tonight) was a goalie the Ducks may have seen a time or two -- former Shark Evgeni Nabokov. The veteran was let go by San Jose following the 2009-10 season and as NHL teams went for less expensive options in net, he ultimately signed with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL in Russia. His contract was ultimately terminated by mutual consent and he signed with the Red Wings in January of last year. He never played a game for Detroit and was claimed off waivers by the Islanders. He refused to report to Long Island and was suspended by the team for the remainder of last season.
He ultimately reported to training camp last fall and has posted a 5-8-0 record and a 2.49 goals-against average for an Isles team that has played four different goalies this year. That includes oft-injured franchise mainstay Rick DiPietro, who has been out more than a month with a groin injury.
Bruce Boudreau was asked about the Islanders yesterday and said, “Don’t underestimate them. They’ve got a lot of good young players." The most famous of those is John Tavares, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft who leads NYI with 34 points.
"The one thing about them is they go in streaks," Boudreau said. "They either get really hot and beat everybody, a little bit of what they’re going through now, or they had those situations where they’ve had these long periods of not winning which has put them out of the race basically early on the last couple of years. But then they play everybody hard and even.”
The Ducks can hopefully get something going this weekend with NYI here tonight (for the first time since November 2010) and Columbus in the building Sunday.
"The hardest thing is to keep pushing through when things seem to be going against you," Boudreau said this morning. "I keep telling tellig them it can change in a hurry. Losing streaks follow winning streaks, and winning streaks follow losing streaks. It doesn't take much. You win a game and then you play another game soon after and you win that game. All of a sudden, you forget how you felt five days ago.
"Confidence is so much a part of that. It's whether you believe you're gonna win or, What's gonna happen for us to lose? We have to change that mindset, and the best way to change that is to go out and win."
The Ducks, by the way, placed both winger Andrew Gordon and defenseman Matt Smaby (out all year with a thumb injury) on waivers yesterday. Both cleared, and Smaby was sent to Syracuse, while Gordon remains on the Anaheim roster and skated this morning.
George Parros took part in his fifth annual Cut for the Kids yesterday at The Rinks - Huntington Beach Inline, in which he and other participants got their hair sheared for donation to the Childhood Leukemia Foundation.
Here's a photo of Georgie before...
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|D'Angelo and an image of the sticker.
An outpouring of support for Jablonski has grown through social media and is now hitting close to home.
Vincent D'Angelo, who plays for Damien High School in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League, took the sobering story to heart, and is was compelled to do something about it.
D'Angelo created stickers honoring Jablonski, and the entire Damien team will be wearing them on the backs of their helmets starting Saturday when they play at Orange Lutheran.
With the help of Anaheim ICE General Manager Art Trottier, D'Angelo was successful in encouraging players from the other teams in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League to wear them as well.
D'Angelo's hope is for players to make a fitting tribute to Jablonski, while also being reminded to think before making a check from behind.
If you would like to lend your own support, the Jack Jablonski Fund has been established at Wells Fargo Bank. Donations can be sent to:
Jack Jablonski Fund
P.O. Box 16387
St. Louis Park, MN 55416-2618
You may also make your donations at any Wells Fargo Bank by mentioning the Jack Jablonski Fund.
The potential silver lining of a fourth straight win over the rival Sharks was pretty much dashed in 27 seconds last night.
That was the time (in hockey seconds, that is) it took the Sharks to turn a 1-0 Ducks lead into a 2-1 deficit, and the Ducks never recovered. In a microcosm of how the 2011-12 season has gone for Anaheim, twice they had just-missed goals quickly countered by San Jose scores.
There was Bobby Ryan's pretty spin move and cut to the net that was denied at the last instant by Antti Niemi, then compounded 30 seconds later by Brad Winchester's goal at the other end. There was Nick Bonino's clean shot in the third that loudly rang the very inside of the post, which was followed about 40 seconds later by Joe Pavelski's rebound goal that all but put the game away.
It was the seventh loss in the last eight for Anaheim, the only blip in that run coming in that day-after-Christmas win in San Jose.
And it was before last night's game that Ducks boss Bob Murray spoke to the OC Register and L.A. Times about the state of the Ducks. He made no bones about the fact he is incensed at the team's performance and is considering any and all options to make it right for the future. Murray said Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu -- both of whom have no-trade clauses -- are the only Ducks not available for trades. "And the rest of the players in the locker room," he said. "I thought they'd figure it out when we changed coaches. They (thought) that time was running, well the clock is running quickly here."
"I still believe we have some core players. Now whether we have to change a few core players, so be it. They're deciding who's staying and who's not staying at this point. They're the ones deciding."
Bottom line, the Ducks are not rebuilding. They will not trade core players for draft picks, but rather other team's core players. ("We will not go to draft picks. It's not my intention," he said.) And while Murray was hesitant to concede this season, he did indicate that they are looking at what moves they can make to ensure a return to playoff form in 2012-13.
"I think this team can be turned around to make the playoffs next year," he said. "I think it's going to be hard to do it this year but I do want them to make a run. But it's got to happen quick. Everybody knows that. … Let's start playing better hockey."
Through last night, the Ducks are 10-22-6 and 14th in the Western Conference, which remains a confounding position considering it's much the same group that surged to fourth in the ultra-competitive conference last year.
"Everybody in pro hockey knows we have good core players and explaining why they're playing the way they are and why we've had the year we've had so far it's just frustrating and unexplainable and it's not good enough," Murray said. "It's unacceptable."
- - -
That brought a loud ovation from the crowd, and players from both the Ducks and Sharks benches applauded and tapped their sticks on the boards. (Salei and his wife Bethann also had a daughter Alexis and a daughter Ava born in March.)
Here's a photo:
|(Insert shark metaphor here.)
Anaheim has only 10 wins this season, but three of them have come against the San Jose Sharks, including a 3-2 win in San Jose on the day after Christmas. For whatever reason, those Sharks have brought out the best in Anaheim this season.
"It's a team like LA that we don't like to lose to," said Nick Bonino, who was drafted by the Sharks, but came to Anaheim in a trade deadline deal in 2009. "So far we've won every one and tonight is going to be just as hard, if not harder, than the last. You kind of know their tendencies and they know ours. They don't want to lose to the Ducks four in a row. They're definitely going to come out wanting to beat us."
Anaheim has for the most part pulled off those previous three wins without second-line winger Blake, who was knocked out of the 1-0 win on October 14 when defenseman Brent Burns stepped on his arm, causing ligament damage above the left wrist. After missing 35 games, Blake confirmed this morning what was already assumed -- he'll be back in there tonight.
"It feels good, it feels strong," he said following the morning skate. "I guess you'll never know until you get into a game. You look back three months ago, this is the team is happened against, so it's kind of ironic.
"It's nice to get back and play hockey and obviously being around the guys. That's what you miss most. We have such a good group of guys here, you just want to get int there and contribute and play well."
Bruce Boudreau was asked if Blake's presence will add a much-needed "boost" to the Ducks tonight and he laughed when he replied, "That's the oldest line in pro sports, I know that." But, he continued, "he'll give us a boost. You know Jason, he's full of energy. He'll play hard. He always does."
Blake will presumably return to his second line spot with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, with whom he's skated the last couple of days. Boudreau said he'll try to limit his minutes, but will let the flow of the game dictate just how much. "We'd like to not have to play him more than 14 or 15 minutes, but we'll see how the game goes," he said. "The one things about Jason is he's always in tremendous shape. If he's feeling great and playing great, I'm not going to hold to that. I'll let him go as long as he can."
Blake has had to watch the Ducks' struggles mostly from afar, but seems so happy just to get back on the ice, he's keeping a good perspective.
"We've got a lot of hockey left and strange things can happen," he said. "The biggest thing for the Ducks is to worry about the Ducks and not anything else. Don't look at the standings and just play. You've got to win hockey games. The onus is on the players. We have to make sure we're ready to play. You can draw the Xs and Os all you want, but you've got to go out there and perform. It's a new year, and it starts tonight."
The Sharks, by the way, were still in third in the Western Conference after that defeat to Anaheim on December 26. They go into tonight's game ninth in the West, despite an overtime loss and a shootout win (both to Vancouver) since then. Of course, they're only one point short of LA in the Pacific Division race and third in the conference. (Only in the Western Conference could a team have points in eight of its last nine games and still be in ninth.)
Jonas Hiller will be in net tonight for the Sharks, a team he has played well against lately with a 5-0-0 record, a 1.71 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last six appearances against them. The Sharks will be with Antti Niemi.
The rest of the line combos appear to look this way:
The 21-year-old Palmieri remains tied for the AHL lead in goals with 19, despite playing seven games with the Ducks this year (1 goal, 1 assist). He was reassigned to Syracuse last week.
The AHL All-Star game is Jan. 30 at Atlantic City, N.J., and you can vote Palmieri into the Eastern Conference starting lineup by visiting theahl.com or facebook.com/theahl and completing the official Reebok AHL All-Star Fan Ballot. You'll be entered to win a grand prize of a team-signed authentic 2012 AHL All-Star jersey. Five more winners will each receive a pair of tickets to the 2012 AHL All-Star Skills Competition and All-Star Game.
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And finally, who doesn't like a little slice of Selanne?
|Blake back in black.
Jason Blake, who has missed 34 games with tendon damage above his left wrist, has deemed himself "ready to go" as soon as tomorrow night's game with the San Jose Sharks. "It’s the coach’s decision. I think I’m ready to go," said Blake, who has been back practicing with the Ducks for the last week and a half, including full contact. "It feels pretty good. You’re not going to know how you feel until you get into a game. I hopefully will play tomorrow night. I’m definitely looking forward to it.
"It’s been a tough, long road that I had to go down. It’s been an uphill climb. I feel like I finally got to the top of the hill and I’m hopefully back and will be able to play."
Bruce Boudreau didn't indicate yet whether Blake would be in there tomorrow night, but did say, "We don't really know what we're gonna see tomorrow. I know he'll have a lot of energy and we'll see how long that lasts. It's tough to come back. It's almost like training camp revisited for him. It will be interesting to see."
Teemu Selanne was a linemate of Blake's with Saku Koivu before the injury, but won't necessarily be with him when Blake returns. "I'm so happy for Blake. It's a tough injury, and he's worked extremely hard to come back. It's nice to see the 'bunny' out there. He brings a lot of energy and spark and speed. I'm very happy."
If Blake is cleared to play tomorrow, it will be against the same Sharks team in the same arena as when the horrific injury occurred. That came last October 14, when Blake went down to the ice in a fight for the puck, and San Jose defenseman Brent Burns inadvertantly stepped on his arm, causing a deep gash just above the wrist.
So much has changed with the Ducks since the time of the injury. The Ducks ultimately won that game and the next two (including a rematch with the Sharks in San Jose) to start the season a promising 4-1-0. It's a little more of a coincidence that they've struggled without Blake, as he brings constant energy and a veteran presence to an all-important second scoring line. Without him, the Ducks have had to do some shuffling to find the right fit for their forward combinations.
"I look back at the last three months of watching a lot of hockey, not only our team, but every team. I look at our team and the talent we have, it is tough," Blake said. "You’re not in the position you want to be in. It’s a new year. We haven’t lost in this year yet. We want to keep moving forward and try to put some wins together.
Like the rest of the Ducks, Blake is trying to find optimism in this new year.
"There are a lot of games left. I think right now it’s just about us and what we need to do, what we have to do. We can’t afford to be losing in bunches. We have to start winning some hockey games. It’s a big game tomorrow night. San Jose is a great hockey club. We have to be ready."
Without a doubt, Blake will be ready after an agonizing last three months. His return, if it does come tomorrow night, is actually a little ahead of the three full months he was supposed to miss.
"I have been skating for five or six weeks now. Basically, conditioning every day," he said. "That’s about all I could do. It wasn’t fun. At the end of the day, you just hope it paid off. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. I’m just going to go out and try to do my best, work hard and take short shifts. It’s not going to be like you feel like you’re in midseason form by any means. I’m just going to take it shift by shift. That is all I can do. We’ll see how it goes. I'm ready to play."
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Also on the injury front, defenseman Matt Smaby, who has missed all of this season with a torn ligament in his thumb, appears poised to return and has been practicing with the Ducks. "I’m just happy to see him back here," Boudreau said of the former Tampa Bay Lightning...member ...signed by the Ducks last summer. "I don’t know his progress or the plans for him right now. He’s here. Let’s skate him and get him in game shape.
Boudreau said that (s)maybe (sorry, couldn't resist) he'll be going to Syracuse on a conditioning assigment. "He hasn’t played and missed camp," Boudreau said. "The sure bet would be that he’d have to go down on a conditioning basis and play some games, I would think. That would be the first thing I would think would happen, unless it was such an emergency situation where you had to stick him in. Let’s see where he is after the fifth day of this.
Here's Boudreau from today and keeping things positive for his Ducks: "You have to make short-term goals. I know the cliché is one game at a time. I like to look at it one week at a time. You try to win the week. If you win the week, after a couple of weeks then you look start looking at the standings.
"Right now, we’re about it’s a new year. Let’s start everybody at zero and let’s see how we do in the new year. Let’s look up at the end of January where we are. If we are closer, then let’s look up at the end of February. Then, all the sudden if things go our way, everything gets shorter and it’s less time to sit there. It’s not as daunting, is what I guess I’m getting at.
"If you look down and go ‘Geez, you have to win 36 out of 44 games. That is a pretty daunting task.’ But if you just sit there and say ‘Let’s let one and then win two.’ Then, all the sudden you don’t have to win as many. I can only go by experience and that is the way we’ve done it in the past and it’s been successful. It has to start with one, then you have to win two in a row and go from there.
And on whether he even looks at the standings these days: "I definitely try not to right now. I know where we are. I don’t have to look at where other teams are. If we win three or four in a row, then I’ll start looking. That’s just me. I’m ridiculous that way."
Caputi (aside from having one of the more fun names to say in hockey) is a big 23-year-old who has played all of this season with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Last season, he spent some time with the big club, getting in seven games with the Leafs and going scoreless. He debuted three seasons ago with Pittsburgh, and played 23 games with the Pens and Leafs in 2009-10, scoring eight points. He has a respectable 100 points in 154 career AHL games between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Toronto, including 44 goals.
Deschamps was a former second round pick of the Ducks in 2008, who had seven points in 31 games with Syracuse this season.
Interestingly enough, Deschamps and Caputi will switch locker rooms when Syracuse plays at Toronto tonight.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere carrying an upstart Mighty Ducks team all the way to Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup championship before that improbable run came to a heartbreaking end in New Jersey. A heavily bearded and downtrodden Giguere accepting the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP, just the fifth player from a losing team to win it.
Giguere backstopping the Ducks through a magical 2007 Stanley Cup run, despite missing the start of that postseason when his first son Maxime was born with an eye condition. That Stanley Cup Final Game 5 in Anaheim, the seconds winding down to zero as a young Ryan Getzlaf and then Corey Perry leap into Giguere’s arms, soon joined by Scott Niedermayer and the rest of that Ducks team to celebrate a glorious Cup championship. And there's the majestic photo to the right, Giguere skating with Maxime in his arms on ice sprinkled with black, gold and orange confetti -- a man and his son seemingly alone, basking in the glory of reaching the ultimate goal in team sports.
More Giguere photos
But the last couple of years, the images we’ve seen of the man we call “Jiggy” have been in something that was once unthinkable: a different uniform. Two seasons ago, with Jonas Hiller’s emergence relegating Giguere to mostly a backup role in Anaheim, he was traded to Toronto on January 31, 2010 for Jason Blake and goalie Vesa Toskala.
Giguere spent the rest of that season and another in Toronto, battling through injuries for much of that time. Over the summer, he had surgery on a sports hernia and was signed by the Colorado Avalanche. Tomorrow night, when the Avs come to Honda Center to face the Ducks, it will be Giguere’s first time back in Anaheim since the trade.
“I’m very excited to go back,” Giguere said during a cheerful conference call with media this morning. “It’s been almost two years since I played a game there in Anaheim, and I never really got a chance to say thank you to people who meant a lot to me there. I got traded when I was on the road, and it was a quick exit.
"It’s nice to be able to go where I feel is my second home and where my kids were born. It’s a special place for me and a place where I’ve had the most success in my career. I’m just real thrilled to go back. This game has been on my mind all year.”
Giguere will be honored during the first TV timeout tomorrow night, a game with a special New Year's Eve start time of 5:05 p.m. (tickets are still available.). The video board will show a montage of his greatest moments as a Duck, and the home crowd will no doubt stand and cheer the man who holds all of the major goaltending records in franchise history and made 13,820 saves in a Ducks uniform. Most of all, they’ll be cheering for the memories he gave us.
“I’m hoping the reaction is going to be good,” said Giguere modestly. “I think people have always respected me there and I’ve always tried to present myself professionally, so I’m hoping for a good reaction. Hopefully it’s going to be a good night.”
|My other all-time favorite Giguere photo (mostly because of the anthem lyrics), taken during the '07 Stanley Cup Final. My dad has this framed in his den.
Giguere was brought to Colorado as a backup to young Semyon Varlamov, but he has logged significant time in net this season – 15 games to Varlamov’s 26 -- while posting strong numbers in net.
“I think the situation has been perfect for me here,” said the 34-year-old Giguere. “I knew at this point I wasn’t going to get a No. 1 job somewhere, so the next best case scenario was to go somewhere with a young guy that I can help out and push him. It becomes a competition for ice time, but at the same time that’s how you make yourself better. I can show him some tricks of the trade, be a good teammate to him.
“Obviously Denver is a great city to live in and raise kids, and that was part of the decision too. I was excited when they called and I haven’t regretted it, that’s for sure.”
Having been traded three times in his NHL lifetime, Giguere knows full well the harsh realities of the business of pro sports, something he acknowledged today. “I always tried to be a good teammate, a guy that’s positive around the room,” he said. “I just wanted to be remembered as a good guy, a nice person. You know these guys a long time and they become your friends, and then from one minute to the next, you’re saying goodbye. But trades are part of the business. You say your goodbyes and go to work again.”
“It’s something you have to face sometimes as a professional athlete that’s not always fun. You’d like to stay in one place your whole career, but there are only a handful of players who get to do that for their career. As much as I loved my time in Anaheim, I feel like it was a good trade for me at the time.”
So, there are certainly no hard feelings from either side when Giguere makes his return tonight. He says he’ll have a pregame meal with Francois Beauchemin (a former teammate in both Anaheim and Toronto) at the team's old favorite spot in Tustin. “And I’ll obviously get to see the guys before the game, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Before Giguere got off the phone this afternoon, he was asked what he thought his legacy was in Anaheim. He had difficulty answering, and paused before finally saying, “Winning the Cup and going to the Finals in 2003, those were things that don’t happen all the time, and I obviously didn’t do that on my own. A bunch of guys contribute to that. Those are the things I’m most proud of, what we did as a team, as a group. No one can take that away from us.”
They can’t take away the memories either, and we’ll all be pleasantly reminded of them when we see Jiggy one more time tomorrow night.
The Ducks go into that game coming off a disappointing 5-2 loss last night to a very good Vancouver team. It's a tough one to take, especially after the Ducks looked so good in taking down the Sharks in their building on Monday night. But the Ducks had a few too many giveaways, and Vancouver is too good a team not to take advantage.
"The one thing we said is we can’t give them easy plays and we can’t beat ourselves," said Bruce Boudreau. "You could look at all five goals as being based on turnovers. You can’t turn the puck over against a team that is that offensively gifted."
There is not a whole lot more to say about the game than what is in the recap, which you can read here.