|Not a bad night for these two dudes.
After all, Anaheim had gone the last nine games with at least one point, and won outright in six of those. And last night, they appeared to outplay and outchance the Lightning, only to come away with a disappointing 3-2 loss. Tampa had traded winger Steve Downie earlier in the day and also had lost No. 2 goal-scorer and captain Vincent Lecavalier to a right hand. But they still have Steven Stamkos, and that was more than evident last night.
The league's leading goal-scorer struck twice (even though they say Lightning never does) at the very start and near the end of the first period, to put the Ducks in an early hole. “I think he’s a tremendous hockey player,” Bruce Boudreau told the OC Register. ”But I’m glad he’s in this division now and I’m not.”
And even though Anaheim fought back in the second with an early goal by Saku Koivu and a late one from Bobby Ryan, they bookended a Teddy Purcell strike that was enough to bury the Ducks.
Ryan's goal was a thing of beauty, as he redirected a Koivu pass between his own legs with his back to the net. Take a look at his latest edition to the highlight reel:
But while the Ducks generated plenty of chances to get the tying goal, they couldn't get anything else past one-time King Mathieu Garon, whose 28 saves included 11 in the third. (Meanwhile, the Ducks limited Tampa to just 16 shots the entire night.)
So while the Ducks appeared to have the upper hand on yet another opponent on this mammoth road trip, they couldn't make up ground in the standings. And Phoenix's win over LA (which of course came in a shootout) meant the Ducks slightly dropped to six points back of the eighth spot, currently held by the KIngs.
"When you get into that feeling that you're going to win every single game, it's a good feeling," Bruce Boudreau told the OC Register. "But in the end, you're not going to win 35 in a row."
It's true, but there were times it seemed like the Ducks would at least get points in every game from here on out. They'll try to start a new streak -- while sealing off this eight-game trip on a good note -- tomorrow night in Carolina.
"I really believe this team can do it."
- - -
As Jonas Hiller has been in net for each of the last 19 games for the Ducks (and been outstanding in them), there hasn't been much thought about the Ducks' backup goalies. Jeff Deslauriers and Iiro Tarkki have each split time as the guy in the baseball cap while Dan Ellis has been out the last six weeks with a nagging groin injury, but it appears Ellis is poised to return as early as next week.
“He’s getting better,” Boudreau told the OC Register. “I’m hoping by the time we get to practice at home next week that he’s practicing with us.”
Since Hiller continues to be a workhorse for the Ducks, Ellis has only appeared in 10 games this season (2.72 goals-against average).
- - -
|Photo by Rose Palmisano of the OC Register
The Mural depicts a Ducks goalie stationed in front of the net, in classic netminder pose. The face on the goalie is that of Yvonne Jordan.
Behind her, in the stands, are the faces of her husband, Damien, and the Jordans' children, Aden and Gabrielle.
"We have to warn people before they go in that bathroom," Damien says. "It can be a little shocking at first. They say stuff like, 'I don't want to go in there and have Yvonne staring at me.'"Anyone who believes they are the biggest Ducks fan around might need to reset their sights. Whenever Damien's father, Paul, encounters someone who makes that claim, he says something like, "No, you have no idea," and then he reaches into his wallet, where he carries a picture of The Mural.
Make sure you click the MORE PHOTOS link in the story to see the other Ducks-centric stuff in their house. Truly incredible.
(I'm hoping she's a big enough fan that she reads this blog as well.)
As Ducks fans, we're suddenly doing something we never thought possibly a couple of months ago.
No, not just watching our team win at an alarming pace, but suddenly doing some serious scoreboard watching as the Ducks look to make this incredible climb into playoff position.
While the Ducks were 20 points out of the eighth spot as of the morning of January 6, they have gone on a 15-2-4 run over their last 21 games, the most recent being an impressive 2-0 shutout of the Panthers in Florida on Sunday. ("It's made with bits of real panther, so you know it's good.") Anaheim has gotten to within five points of the eighth spot over that stretch, but still has plenty of work left.
That's because the Ducks are crammed into a typically packed Western Conference in which everybody seemingly beats up on everybody else night after night (including an abundance of three-point games that finish in either OT or shootout). They're battling alongside teams like LA, Dallas, Colorado and MInnesota to get into that top eight, with Phoenix and Calgary holding onto playoff spots by a thread.
Should the Ducks win tonight in Tampa Bay (4:30 Pacific puck drop) they would get within three points (three points!) of that eighth spot -- incredible considering where they were six weeks ago. But that could be short-lived as the NHL schedule tonight also includes Dallas at Montreal, Edmonton at Calgary, and LA at Phoenix.
All that being said, you better believe the rest of the West is well aware of the charging Ducks (tip of the cap to Eric Stephens for the "Objects in the mirror are indeed closer than they appear" line in the OC Register over the weekend).
"It's nice to get to the 60-point plateau because then you can at least see the guys and the distance," Bruce Boudreau said in the wake of that win in Florida. "It still a long ways away."
Indeed, the Ducks have been winning, but they need to keep winning, starting with tonight in Tampa, where the Lightning are engaged in their own battle for playoff position in the East (six points short of eighth).
The Ducks will go with the hottest goalie in the league in Jonas Hiller, who just took NHL first star of the week honors with a 3-0-1 record, 0.98 goals-against average, .961 save percentage and one shutout. Meanwhile, the Lightning are likely to start former King Mathieu Garon (18-15-4, 2.84 GAA), who has been in there for all but two games in the last month, as veteran Dwayne Roloson (8-11-2, 3.67 GAA) has struggled.
Anaheim will look to put a lid on Steven Stamkos, whose 40 goals leads the NHL by a mile. "He can really skate, so he can do it from your end to the other end," Boudreau said this morning. "At the same time, he's got a beautiful release on his shot, so you can't give him any space from the blue line in." Tampa's second leading goal-scorer, Vinny Lecavalier, is out indefinitely with an "upper body injury" that emerged in yesterday's practice.
One guy who will be in the Ducks lineup for the first time in awhile is Devante Smith-Pelly, who Boudreau said will be in the lineup tonight after recovering from the foot injury suffered in late December at the World Juniors. With Pelly in there, here are the lineups the Ducks flashed at today's morning skate:
It's stop 7 of 8 on this marathon road trip, which the Ducks need to finish off strong (they're 4-0-2 so far) to keep hope alive. "So far, it's gone as good as anybody could have expected," Boudreau said. "But you'd like to be able to say that at the end of the trip."
- - -
Great news for Ducks season ticket holders who are looking to renew next season: We've just announced that season tickets for next year will either be decreased or remain the same as they were this season. The average season ticket price will decrease 4.8%, while reductions could be as high as 35% per ticket. Among Ducks season ticket holders, 40% will see a reduction in price, with 60% remaining flat to this season.
Click here for more on that.
|"LET'S GET IT ON!!!"|
The Devils have won six of their last eight -- but two of those losses came last week at Prudential Center -- and are locked into the sixth spot in the conference. They're coming off a resounding 4-1 win in Buffalo in which Ilya Kovalchuk had the first New Jersey hat trick since April of last year. It's just the continuation of a hot streak for Kovalchuk, who has 13 goals and 26 points in his last 17 games. Meanwhile, captain Zach Parise has 10 points in his last nine games.
"Kovalchuk is feeling it right now and Parise is feeling it," said Bruce Boudreau this morning. "They're coming to play. They have so much more firepower than they've had in recent years. They can score."
The Ducks have their own hot player, as Jonas Hiller comes into this one having gone 12-2-3 in his last 18 games, with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. He has allowed two goals or fewer in 14 of his last 17 starts, and will be back in there tonight against Martin Brodeur for New Jersey.
There are similarities between what the Ducks are doing this season under Boudreau and what the Devils did last season when they got off to a rough start and turned things around when Jacques Lemaire was hired in late December. (However, they fell short of the playoffs, the first time they missed the postseason in 14 years.)
Ducks winger Rod Pelley was on that Devils team, and said in this story on NHL.com, "It's pretty amazing how similar these turnarounds have been. I thought about it a few different times. It's a can't-afford-to-lose-many-games type of thing. We've been talking about the similarities in coaching styles between Bruce and Jacques, and wondering if they ever talked about it because they're pretty similar in how they approached it. It's pretty cool to see that two different coaches can get their groups to buy into a turnaround like this."
If things go according to the skate this morning, Jason Blake will again be on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, while Bobby Ryan will skate with the two Finns. Here's the lineup from this morning (which doesn't include the newly activated Devante Smith-Pelly):
“For a guy that’s played in the East or coached in the East as well, I don’t know how they do it,” he told the OCR. ”I really don’t. It’s quite a testament to every team in the West’s character for not griping as much as I’m doing right now about it.
“When you have a four-game road trip in seven days, you’re coming home exhausted. We’re at seven days right now and this is just the halfway point in our trip.”
Boudreau said there are times "you don't even know what hotel room you're getting into," and joked, "I haven’t been on a vacation for 15 days. The East has no idea how lucky they are. And I think every team in the West should start with 10 points before the season starts."
Like a lot of the games on this trip, the puck drops for this one at 4 p.m. Pacific, so you might want to start your fake coughing and sneezing now to get out of the office a little early.
One last thing: After scoring at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh the other night, Teemu Selanne has now scored in 53 different NHL arenas. The only two he hasn't scored in? MTS Center in Winnipeg and ... Prudential Center.
|"Fellas, relax. I've done this 656 times."
The Anaheim Ducks are in the playoff race.
And how have they done it? How have they gotten to within six points of the eighth spot in the West after being 20 back as recently as six weeks ago? With an astonishing 14-2-3 sprint that has culminated with what has to be their most impressive road victory of the season, last night.
The Ducks didn't get into Pittsburgh until the early morning, hours after a heart-stopping 2-1 victory in Minnesota. They had to face a very good Penguins team that hadn't lost at home in the last six and hadn't lost to the Ducks there in 11 years. And Anaheim went down early on a beauty of a first period goal by Jordan Staal.
But that hardly discouraged these Ducks, whose defense and the still-scorching Jonas Hiller gave up nothing else the rest of the way, and Anaheim got all the scoring it needed from their usual suspects. Corey Perry, at the end of a long shift for him, undressed Zbynek Michalek before slipping a close-in shot past the previously infallible Marc-Andre Fleury. Then in the third, Matt Beleskey (also laboring at the end of a lengthy shift) made a gorgeous backhand pass on the rush to a barely-onside Teemu Selanne, who beat Fleury with a Selanne-esque backhand inside the near post. Said broadcaster John Ahlers of Beleskey, "He found enough energy to find The Flash!"
(I like that.)
“He’s in shape because it was about a three-minute shift,” Bruce Boudreau said. “I was yelling at him to get off. He positioned himself well and when he got the puck, he made a fabulous backhand pass.”
Added Beleskey: “I think I started losing oxygen and just blacked out for a while. It was good though.”
And of Selanne, Bruce Boudreau said, "There's a reason he's got a jillion goals in this league." Well, not quite a jillion, but the 656th of his career tied him for 12th all time with Brendan Shanahan.
Selanne was asked about the fact Boudreau kept him out of much of the victory in Minnesota the night before, including a good part of the third period. “I missed probably three shifts,” he said to the OC Register (check out more on that here). “That’s nothing. To be honest, I was dead tired for some reason. And it happens. A lot of times when you feel like that, it’s not the greatest place to be.
“This is about team effort. Everybody has done the job. That’s what makes this team special.”
Boudreau was clearly pumped with the win last night, as the TV cameras caught him shaking assistant coach Brad Lauer's hand on the bench, then promptly punching him in the arm (photo at right).
And the Ducks' heart in this one was never better exemplified than in the final seconds, as they nursed a one-goal lead and Toni Lydman went to a knee to sacrifice his body and block an Evgeni Malkin shot.
"This game was huge for us," Selanne said. "We got here at like 3 in the morning. They came out pretty hard and controlled the first period and then we got into the game. This team is playing with a lot of confidence right now, and even though we got behind we believed we could come back."
That's a world of difference for a Ducks team that once owned the worst road record in the league, but is now a remarkable 7-1-3 in the last 11 games away from home. Their 14-3-3 record since the new year is good for 31 standings points, tops in the NHL with Detroit. Anaheim may not be blowing anyone out lately, but its +20 goal differential since January 1 is also first in the league. The Ducks also returned to .500 (24-24-9) for the first time since October 30.
They're just six points now behind Phoenix in eighth (with the same number of games played now), but can't stop now. They need to keep rolling on this mammoth road trip that continues tomorrow night in New Jersey.
"The morale is high," Bobby Ryan told ESPN.com. "We're all realizing there could be something special that happens here for us this year."
|There's a puck in there somewhere.
The latest case in point came last night in Minnesota, when space on the Xcel Energy Center rink was at a minimum and it seemed virtually impossible for the Ducks to get a puck past goalie Josh Harding. Maybe in October-November-December the Ducks might have taken a 1-0 loss and chalked it up to a goalie standing on his head. But not these Ducks.
Instead, a struggling Niklas Hagman managed to force in a gargantuan goal eight minutes into the third period, Corey Perry did what Corey Perry does another four minutes later, and Jonas Hiller did the rest of the work in helping the Ducks hang on by the lightest of threads in the final moments.
The Ducks were 0-21-1 when trailing after two periods going into that game. The Wild, meanwhile, were 16-1-3 when leading after two.
You can't possibly put a price on Hagman's goal and its impact on that game, as well as this marathon road trip for Anaheim. After being denied by Harding right in front, Hagman stayed with the puck and somehow got a stick on it to trickle it deliciously over the stripe as he was knocked down.
"He managed to get a piece of [the first shot]," said Hagman, who hadn't scored since Jan. 18 and had been dropped to the fourth line. "I tried to whack at it but I think one of their guys lifted my stick. I thought it wasn't even going to go in. Just barely went over the line. But that's what it takes."
And it seemed to electrify the previously frustrated Ducks, who got the go-ahead goal from Perry a few minutes later on the rush, a shot that Harding would probably like back. That goal continued the "Hart winners on heart's day" trend that we mentioned yesterday. The last 11 reigning Hart Trophy winners have scored 12 goals on Valentine's Day. (And not for nothing, but Perry is starting to heat up just like he did in the final months of that MVP season. Perry had 28 goals through 56 games last season. He has 27 through 56 this season.)
That goal gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead they held onto through the nail-biting, stomach-churning final moments. The Ducks missed two chances to fill an empty net with Minnesota skating with an extra attacker, and Hiller and the other five Ducks survived a flurry around their net. Here's a look:
While Hiller came up big, it was the Ducks defense that deserves a ton of credit, as they made sure their goalie only saw 17 shots all night. And with that win the Ducks -- who now have the best goal differential (+19) in the NHL since Jan. 1 -- continued to make their charge into the playoff race. They're eight points behind eighth-place Phoenix, six if they can turn around and win another big one in Pittsburgh tonight.
It won't be easy. While the Ducks are playing the second of a back-to-back, the Pens haven't been in action since Sunday. And they've won six in a row at home, the two-year-old Consol Energy Center the Ducks will be seeing for the first time. The Pens are gripping onto the fifth spot in the East, despite the absence of Sidney Crosby (concussion) since December 5. the Penguins have only lost twice in regulation in their last 14 games. The Ducks have only lost twice in regulation in their last 18.
Should be a good one, and you can check it out with other fans on a huge screen in a cool setting at the official watch party at UltraLuxe Cinemas in Anaheim.
|Brother ... pitted against brother ... in the ultimate battle of attrition. (Or, just two Koivu brothers taking a face-off.)
Only problem is, Minnesota isn't in eighth place anymore.
The Wild, who were at one time near the top of the West through mid-December, and more recently gripping onto that last playoff spot in the conference, have hit a major slide as of late. After starting the season with a 20-7-3 record, they have gone 5-15-5 since, which includes an eight-game losing streak and their current three-game skid. They've fallen five points behind Phoenix in the eighth spot in the West. Meanwhile, a win tonight for the Ducks gets them to within eight points of that slot with a game in hand on the Coyotes.
"Just like us, they're a desperate hockey club that needs a win," Bruce Boudreau said this morning about the Wild. "I was just looking at the numbers, I think we were 16 points back of them when I first got here, and now we're five. It's a good chance to keep things going, and if things fall our way, we'll get a little closer."
Minnesota has been hurt by injuries and an inability to find the net. Including their 3-1 loss at home to Columbus last Saturday, they have scored just six goals in their last five games. Among the guys out for them tonight are winger Cal Clutterbuck, who has the rarely reported charley horse, suffered Saturday night. Also sidelined are Clayton Stoner (lower body) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Guillaume Latendresse and Jarod Palmer (all out with concussion symptoms).
To make up for those injuries, winger Kris Foucault will make his debut for Minnesota tonight, the 39th skater and 13th rookie the Wild have suited up this season.
Minny will go with Josh Harding in net (for the first time since January 31) over No. 1 Niklas Backstrom, as Harding beat the Ducks 5-3 in the teams' last meeting, December 4 at Honda Center.
"I think our biggest challenge is to come out in the first period and surprise them, play the way we've been playing -- maybe 10 percent better than that," Boudreau said. "If we can come out and meet their push early, get the lead on them and frustrate them, I think it will be to our advantage."
Since it's Valentine's Day, here's a couple of things for you: The first 5,000 female fans through the gates at Xcel Energy Center tonight will get a free box of chocolates (congrats to their dates for being able to knock that one out).
And if you believe in this sort of thing, look for Corey Perry to continue the scoring run he got on Sunday in Columbus. According to The Score, the last 10 reigning Hart Trophy winners have scored 11 goals on Valentine's Day.
One of the great things about a road trip that covers the midwest and the east are puck drop times that come right around the time we're leaving work (or at least I think it's great). Tonight we get things started at 4:30 p.m. Pacific, and if you're not already getting the game on Prime Ticket, tonight's tilt will be aired on NBC Sports Network (the former Versus). Also, if you have DirecTV (I know I do), you can catch more of the games on this trip (and other NHL action) during a free trial of Center Ice going on now through the 19th.
That's how the weekend went for your Anaheim Ducks, who played well to get that point at Joe Louis Arena (though it was still agonizing that they didn't get two) and followed up with a relatively convincing victory in Columbus last night.
Corey Perry notched his second hat trick against the Blue Jackets this year (the last one coming last month) in a 5-3 victory that somewhat took the sting out of the missed opportunity in Detroit. Yes, the Ducks got a point in a place where few opponents do, but they oh-so-narrowly missed a chance to snap an 18-game home win streak by the Red Wings at JLA. (That streak, incidentally, started way back on November 20, a 5-0 victory against ... you guessed it ... Anaheim.)
Never was that close call more stomach-churning than during a rare 3-on-3 in the middle of overtime, when Cam Fowler looked poised to win the game on a breakaway, but his backhand clanged off the right post (2:10 mark of this video). That was just one of a number of missed opportunities for the Ducks, who went scoreless on seven power play opportunities. They also, it should be noted, killed off a death-defying Red Wings 5-on-3 in the final half-minute of OT. Detroit's 24 shots on the night were the fewest they've had at home all season.
But Anaheim's only goal was George Parros' in the first period, his first since scoring two against Florida in December of 2010. Another apparent goal by Niklas Hagman was waved off when officials determined Parros interfered with goalie Joey MacDonald.
And it was MacDonald who came up big in the all-important shootout, denying Perry and then Bobby Ryan, just minutes after Todd Bertuzzi gave Detroit the lead with a painfully slow approach to Jonas Hiller and a successful backhand.
"It was tough to watch that," said Parros. "We had a lot of opportunities. We certainly played hard. Just couldn't capitalize on some of them."You let a good team like that hang around, it'll burn you eventually. That's what happened tonight."But two nights later the Ducks left no doubt, despite the fact that a snowstorm delayed them to the point where they didn't arrive to their hotel in Columbus until a little after 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Perry's play was a big reason for the win, as his hat trick came on 11 shots, one short of the team record set three times by a guy named Kariya. Meanwhile, after that disappointing night in Detroit, the Ducks cashed in three times on the power play.
Yet Bruce Boudreau was more pleased with how the Ducks played in Detroit than how they did in Columbus. "It was a sloppy game," he said. "I told them to never complain about winning a game. If we want to continue to win on this trip we have to get more like we played in Detroit rather than [how] we played here."
Perry's triple gave him 26 goals on the season through 55 games. Last season he had 28 goals at that point -- on his way to 50.
Perry scoring goals in bunches in nothing new, but Lubomir Visnovsky getting into a fight certainly is. And Ducks fans had to be in disbelief at what they were seeing on their flatscreens when they saw Lubo get into it with Derick Brassard in the second period last night. Visnovsky and Brassard began throwing down in the middle of a pileup behind the Anaheim net, with Brassard getting the better of Visnovsky after his jersey went over his head. Here's some video, in which that young Jackets fan looks just as shocked as anybody that Lubo's fighting:
"Show the team something a little bit, you know," Visnovsky told the OC Register afterward. "It doesn't matter. We win the game. We needed two points. It's perfect for us. The team was a little bit laughing about me because they never seen me fight."Indeed, there is no record of Visnovsky ever fighting before on hockeyfights.com, but he said he's had five in his 11-year career, the last coming against Dustin Byfuglien while Lubo was with the Kings.
This time Visnovsky got five for fighting and another two for roughing, and was actually given a game misconduct for not having his jersey properly fastened to his pants. That left the Ducks a defenseman short for the rest of the game.
"I don't tie up the jersey because I never think I'm going to fight," Visnovsky said. "Maybe I start to tie it up."
It's doubtful he'll need to anytime soon, but Lubo still said he gave George Parros a little warning. "I told George, be careful for next season," he said. "I maybe take your job."
Retorted Parros to the OCR, "He can have it. I'll take his job. No problem with that switch."
The Ducks were able to get in some rare road practice time this morning in St. Paul, to get ready for the Wild tomorrow night. Here's more on that from Dan Wood.
Ducks prospect Emerson Etem is continuing to light it up in juniors, scoring his 50th and 51st goals yesterday (in just his 50th game) for Medicine Hat of the WHL. You can check out the 50th and 51st in this video, starting at around the 2:20 mark.
Etem is the first Medicine Hat Tigers player to score 50 games in a season since a guy named Joffrey Lupul had 56 in the 2001-02 campaign. Etem's also the first WHL player to score 50 goals in 50 or fewer appearances in a season since 2000-01.
The 19-year-old Etem, the Long Beach native who was taken 29th overall by the Ducks in the 2010 draft, was one of the last players to be left off the opening night roster for the Ducks out of training camp back in September. He was sent to to his junior team and is not eligible to be brought up by the Ducks this season. But he would again appear to again have a strong shot to make the team out of next season's camp.
"I got cut the last two years and it was disappointing," Etem told Yahoo! Sports. "It makes me want to make the team next year that much more. I think I'm ready for the NHL. It will be their decision, but I'm going to go to camp in great shape and be motivated to make the team."
This just in: Here's video of all 51 goals from this season so far, which today was tweeted by Etem himself.
|That's pretty much a star-studded faceoff.
Let's just hope when it's all over, we're calling it successful.
Your Anaheim Ducks are launching an eight-game, 15-day voyage that covers just over 7,700 miles and equals the longest uninterrupted road trip in team history (here's more on that). And if you can imagine running the first mile of a marathon up the stairs of the Rose Bowl, that's pretty much how the Ducks are starting this roadie.
Tonight (or this early evening if you're in Cali) they face the Detroit Red Wings, who are not only the typical Red Wings again (first in the West) but have put together a modest little EIGHTEEN-GAME WINNING STREAK at Joe Louis Arena. And it's not like that building isn't tough enough for the Ducks, who haven't won there since the 2009 playoffs (when Todd Marchant won it from the left wing in triple OT).
"Somebody's going to break it. Why not us? " Saku Koivu told the OC Register about that home streak. "A game like that and a challenge like that, it's going to be great for us starting the long road trip. "If we can get two points in that one, that's a heck of a start for our team. And I think if you want to make the playoffs, you're going to have to beat some teams that maybe you're not expected to win against."
Detroit is expected to go with Joey MacDonald in net, as Jimmy Howard recovers from a broken finger suffered in a shootout win over Vancouver on February 2. Ty Conklin was supposed to provide relief, but he was pulled for MacDonald the very next game, an overtime loss in Edmonton. MacDonald has started the last two and gone 1-1-0.
But no matter who is in net, Detroit continues to be Detroit. "You're talking about the elite of the elite," Boudreau said. "When you measure yourself, you measure yourself against the Detroit Red Wings. They're the best in the league and whether they won last year's Cup or didn't win last year's Cup, they're the measuring stick."
The Wings took down Anaheim 5-0 the last time these two teams played there, back on November 5. But as we all know, this is a much different Ducks team.
Anaheim is on an 11-2-2 run that absolutely has to maintain on this trip for the Ducks to have any hopes of postseason contention. Last night Phoenix edged Calgary to leap into the eighth spot with 60 points, 10 better than the Ducks. For the Ducks to stay afloat, they need to do some significant damage on a journey that, after tonight, takes them to Columbus, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Florida, Tampa Bay and Carolina.
But while the road ahead is a long one, the focus for the Ducks is strictly on a tall task tonight. "We want to approach it as one day at a time," Boudreau said. "If you look at it as, Man, by the time we get to Carolina, we're going to be exhausted, then you'll probably be be exhausted tonight. If you look at it as, It's fun to play on the road and play in a great hockey city, then it will be good."
It's somewhat of a new experience for Boudreau after spending most of his NHL coaching career in the Eastern Conference, where road trips like these aren't common.
"I don't how I'm going to feel come the end of it because when you're in the East, you don't get trips like this," said Boudreau, who then flashed his vast knowledge of the rest of the NHL. "But looking around the league, Los Angeles is on a trip like this right now, Detroit just came back from a trip like this, San Jose is on a trip like this next week, Chicago is in the middle of a trip like this. What are we gonna do, cry about it? Let's just go do it."
(Heck, I know I'm pumped now.)
|It's not quite Tebowing, but it works just fine.
On a night when goals were at a premium -- with both Jonas Hiller and Carolina's Cam Ward doing what they do -- the Ducks could have been discouraged by a fluky Eric Staal goal that gave the Canes a 2-1 lead in the third. Instead, they came right back with a Saku Koivu rebound goal a minute and a half later, and a long overdue Perry goal in OT gave Anaheim a long overdue overtime victory.
A couple minutes into the extra session, Perry knocked down Jussi Jokinen behind the Carolina net, hopped on the loose puck and sent it across the ice to Sheldon Brookbank. He gave it right back to Perry, who pierced the net with a drilled one-timer that set the Honda Center crowd into pandemonium.
When Perry was asked about it later, he simply said. "They didn’t blow the whistle, so you keep playing. I found (Brookbank) coming late. He made a great play back to me."
It was the first goal in seven games for Perry and the first overtime victory in five tries for the Ducks this season.
"Right now we have the confidence that we can win those kind of games," said Hiller, who was solid with 31 saves. "To be twice a goal down and we come back, score and win in overtime. That's the difference right now. Two months ago we would have just lost the game.
"Now we just keep going, push even a little harder. You have to believe in being able to win those games. And right now everyone's believing. We found a way and that's what counts."
The win moved the Ducks to within eight points of MInnesota for the eighth spot in the West, thanks to an 11-2-2 run that's better than all but two teams in the NHL.
"It's a telltale sign of a team that won't quit," Bruce Boudreau said of getting that equalizing Koivu goal in the third. "And it's a telltale sign of a team that wants to win. This team has gone from five weeks ago when we were 20 points out of a playoff spot now to eight points."It's a team that's never stopped believing in themselves."
That belief will be tested on a critical eight-game, 15-day road trip the Ducks left for this morning. First stop is Detroit and Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings have won 18 in a row (more on that tomorrow).
"Until that last bell rings, whether they're eliminated or whether they're in," Boudreau said, "they're going to keep going."
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In the wake of Ryan Getzlaf winning the Hardest Shot competition at last Saturday's Skills Showdown at 99.3 mph, and then reaching 102 at Tuesday's First Flight Field Trip, Bruce Boudreau was approached about a longtime topic -- trying to get Getzlaf to shoot the puck more.
"We've been telling him to shoot," Boudreau said. "Coaches long before me have been telling him to shoot. And we wish he'd shoot the puck more. But he is what he is. He's a pass-first guy. He's got a great touch when it comes to passing. He's going to do what he does."
Getzlaf has eight goals this season on 107 shots.
“He knows,” Boudreau continued. “You know what, it’s tough to argue when you’ve been a passer your whole life. And I know the feeling. You’re first option is to pass the puck and you’re looking for somebody to pass the puck to. You’re option to shoot is your last option.
“Whereas a shooter’s option is … Brett Hull would get it and he wouldn’t be looking to pass. He’s looking to shoot the puck. And then at the last moment, if somebody was open, he’d be passing. Ovechkin is the same way. He wants to shoot the puck and then if somebody’s open, he’ll pass it. But his first thing is to shoot it. Ryan’s first option is to pass. And it’s not a bad thing because he’s so good at it.”
|Had to dig through the black and white archives to find a photo from the last time the 'Canes played in Anaheim.
It's true: Thanks in part to a 10-2-2 run -- and the fact that Minnesota has gone 4-7-2 since the new year -- the Ducks can get within eight points of the eighth spot with a win against the Hurricanes tonight at Honda Center.
Carolina is 6-2-2 in its last 10, but still remains in last place in the Eastern Conference. “For the last five weeks, they’ve been playing real good hockey against anybody that they play,” said Bruce Boudreau. “In their division, nobody seems to want it. I think they’re like us that they believe. Everybody keeps losing and we keep winning, there’s a good shot that something good can happen.”
The Hurricanes haven't been to Honda Center since November 25, 2009, a date so long ago, in fact, that there are 10 Ducks in the lineup tonight who have never played Carolina at Honda Center. So long ago that Anaheim's defenseman on that night were Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Whitney, James Wisniewski, Nick Boynton, Steve Eminger and Brendan Mikkelson.
Meanwhile, the 'Canes are one of the few teams from the East the Ducks face twice this year, as Anaheim heads to Carolina later this month at the end of a daunting eight-game, 16-day road trip that starts Friday.
A big reason for Carolina's strong play as of late is veteran goalie Cam Ward. The 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is 6-3-2 with a 1.45 goals-against average in his last 11 starts. Ward will be in there again tonight.
"Cam Ward has given up eight goals in his last seven games or something ridiculous like that," said Boudreau, who faced Ward plenty as coach of the Capitals. "I've seen him like that when he gets on a roll and he's impossible to score against. It's like he has an invisible sheild behind him. So, it's going to be a tough game."
And it's the last chance to see the Ducks at home until February 26, so get your tickets. The first 10,000 fans in attendance receive a package of Ducks trading cards and if you have a Ducks sticker on your car in the parking lot, you could win an oversized autographed Teemu Selanne Topps card.
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Boudreau was asked yesterday by Randy Youngman of the OC Register why he didn't use George Parros at some point during the eight-round shootout Anaheim ultimately won on Monday night vs. Calgary. It's not an outlandish question, considering that Parros won the Accuracy Shooting portion of the Skills Showdown on Saturday, by hitting all four corner targets on four shots. It's the second straight year he's done that.
Boudreau actually did call on Parros in the eighth rounds -- and he was promptly turned down.
"I told him (Parros) he was up next, and he said, 'No way!' " Boudreau said with a laugh. "He didn't wanna go."
Boudreau turned to Niklas Hagman instead, and we all know how well that turned out.