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By Adam Brady
Director of Publications & New Media
for the Ducks and Honda Center.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 11:24 AM

This probably won't be happening tonight against Brian Elliott. That's because Jaroslav Halak is starting in goal.
Remember that eight-game, 15-day road trip the Ducks had last month? The one we called do or die? Make or break?

That's got nothing on what the Ducks are facing right now.

Starting tonight in St. Louis, Anaheim faces three games in five days, all three of which come against teams - the Blues, Stars and Avs -- already securely in playoff position or knocking on the door. And at a time when the Ducks can afford few losses with 15 games to go, they need something special on this trip to make that hopeful charge into postseason contention.

Remember how that eight-game day trip started in Detroit, which felt like starting the LA Marathon with a run up the Coliseum bleachers? Even though Detroit hadn't lost at Joe Louis Arena in 18 games (and went on to win a record 23 straight), the Blues' actually have more points at home than the Wings do this season. At the Scottrade Center, they've only lost in regulation four times.

And as much as we've been reveling in the Ducks' stellar record since January 1 (19-7-4 for 42 points), the Blues have been a little better since that time (21-6-2 for 44 points). The difference is, St. Louis was already looking pretty good going into the new year, having made a coaching change in early November that completely turned their season around.

After starting the year 6-7-0, the Blues brought in Ken Hitchcock, a Stanley Cup winner in Dallas who was fired after the 2009-10 season by Columbus. Since he came in, the Blues have gone 36-11-7. Thanks to a stretch in which they've won six of seven, they are now in first place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of Vancouver and two ahead of Detroit in the Central Division.

"They're big," said Bruce Boudreau, who wasn't all that happy with his troops during an early practice yesterday before hitting the airport. "They're strong. Well coached. They've got great goaltending. Other than that, they (stink)."

The Blues have gotten equally good goaltending from both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, both of whom have goals-against averages under 2.00. But Halak will get the nod tonight (obviously in reaction to the bad goal Elliott gave up to Corey Perry during All-Star Weekend). The Ducks will start ... alright, you know the answer to that.

This is the third of four times the Ducks and Blues will play each other, as they both have earned 4-2 victories at home this season. They face off again March 21 at Honda Center, a time Anaheim can only hope they're still fighting for their playoff lives. After this trip, they face a rivalry-laden trifecta of Detroit, LA and Nashville at Honda Center.

They go into tonight six points behind San Jose for the eighth spot.

So we can look at this one of two ways: 1. This is going to be an incredibly difficult road for the Ducks to get into the postseason or 2. If they do pull it off, they'll be the hottest playoff team in the NHL. 

Believe!
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 10:34 AM

When a team is down, when they've hit a lull, when they're struggling to get things going, sometimes it just takes one big play to provide that spark and change everything.

And there is no better guy on the Anaheim Ducks to provide that igniting play than one Bobby Ryan.

He's done it time and again over highlight-filled career, and did it last night at Honda Center. The Ducks had come out of a second period in which they were outshot 22-8 by the Edmonton Oilers and were lucky to give up just one goal. The Oilers continued to have the ice leaning in their favor for the first eight minutes of the third (5-2 shot advantage), and then this happened:



We've seen this kind of thing from Ryan before: the spin-o-rama against the Kings, the cut to the net against the Stars, the thing of pure beauty against the Preds in the playoffs (the one we've seen a thousand times and still aren't sick of). Last night, a trip from behind from former teammate Ryan Whitney sent Ryan flying just as he backhanded the puck past a helpless Nikolai Khabibulin.

And while comparing this:



... to this



... may be a stretch (okay a big one), at least one other writer (and my dad) made the comparison, so I'm going with it. Of course, Bobby Orr's overtime goal to give the 1970 Bruins the Stanley Cup was much more dramatic in the scale of importance. But this one by another Bobby was pretty big for the Ducks in their desperate charge for a playoff spot. It led them to a 4-2 victory over the Oilers that pulled Anaheim to within five points of eighth.

The crowd reaction on Ryan's goal was one of the best parts, a gradually building roar that sounded like an approaching ocean wave as he sprinted up the wing, then a deafening "YEAH!!!" as he sent it off the twine, the noise lasting well after he jumped backward into the glass.

Meanwhile, Selanne's big assist on the play pulled him even with countryman and boyhood idol Jari Kurri for 19th on the NHL scoring list. After the goal, you could see Selanne handing the puck to a Ducks trainer for safekeeping. This one meant something to him.

"... I'm not really a numbers guy," he said, "but obviously any time I'm going to be tied or be at the same company as my childhood idol, it's a big thing."

And how much higher on that list can Teemu climb? Last night he was asked for the umpteenth time when he thinks his career might end. "It's like a box of chocolates," he said with a smile, "you never know."

Now while Ryan's goal gave the Ducks a lead in the third, it was the heroism of Corey Perry that sealed the deal. Perry scored twice in that decisive final period, the first coming off a Whitney turnover, as Niklas Hagman fed Perry for the little wrist shot. After Edmonton made things a little more tense with a goal on their first power play of the night, Perry slammed the door with a steal from Whitney and cruised to the empty net just as Khabibulin was heading to the bench for an extra skater.

And let's not forget the work of Jonas Hiller, who stopped 21 of those 22 Edmonton shots in that second period, and ensured things didn't get out of hand.

"He was all we had in the second period," Bruce Boudreau said. "Where it could have been 4-1 Edmonton, it ends up 1-1."

And it led to an important (heck, they're all important now) win for the Ducks, since they play three tough ones on the road. All three games -- St. Louis on Thursday, Dallas on Saturday and Colorado on Monday -- are against teams either in playoff position or fighting for it.

"We’re going into three pretty tough building here this week," Ryan said. "We have to find a way to come up with some points."

And who knows? Maybe Ryan himself will be the guy providing the spark for some of those points.


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POSTED ON Monday, 03.05.2012 / 12:23 PM

Channelling their inner marching band, the Ducks successfully form the shape of an arrow on the ice.
No doubt about it, Saturday night stung.

When you consider the opponent, the venue, the intensity in the building, and just how badly the Ducks needed that one to keep their playoff hopes alive, the 4-2 loss to the dreaded Kings was like a punch in the stomach. (In fact, when Anze Kopitar found the empty net with 14.5 left, you could definitely feel something in your gut.)

For this Ducks fan at least, it was one of those games where you wake up on Sunday morning, remember what happened the night before and think, Damn

But just like with the win over Calgary the night before at home, the Ducks could only afford to think about it for a few minutes -- maybe only as long as the bus ride from LA back to Honda Center -- and move on.

"Don't overthink losses and wins, and just take one game at a time," Luca Sbisa said this morning. "That's what we did back on that road trip. That was just game after game after game, so you didn't really have time to think about what you did last game. I think that's the way we have to approach the games right now."

And while the distance -- seven points -- between the Ducks and the eighth spot in the Western Conference didn't change over the weekend, the owners of that spot did. The San Jose Sharks, who have seemingly bought real estate in the top three spots in the conference over the past several seasons, have gone into a very un-Sharkslike tailspin that has seen them land in eighth. Dallas, which was entrenched in that slot for the past couple of weeks, beat Calgary yesterday on a Sunday that definitely didn't go Anaheim's way.

The Stars' shootout win meant they got two points (to move into seventh with 75) but the Flames also got a point to move four points ahead of the Ducks. Meanwhile, Colorado downed the reeling Wild 2-0 to move six ahead of the Ducks and one out of eighth. We've said it a million times, but it's clear the Ducks aren't going to get any help in their desperate hope for a postseason charge, and have to win and win often in their final 16.

That continues tonight at Honda Center against the Oilers, a quick home appearance before the Ducks have to play at St. Louis (second), Dallas (seventh) and Colorado (10th)  in a five-day stretch.

The Oilers have had the No. 1 pick in the draft the last two years (Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and appear headed for a high pick again this June. They're 10 points behind the Ducks in 14th and have dropped six of their last nine. The Ducks took them down 5-0 in Edmonton back on January 13, part of Anaheim's torrid two-month stretch. Hall, by the way, has a bum shoulder, but did skate with the team this morning, and is expected to play.

Tonight is actually the first time the Oilers have been to Anaheim this season, as the two teams will face each other three times over the final five weeks of the season.

The good news for the Ducks tonight is that nobody in that crowded bunch of eighth-chasers is playing tonight, so a win puts the Ducks five back.

"I've looked at every team's schedule many times over," Bruce Boudreau said. "If we do what we're supposed to do ... there's still 98 points on the board, and if we win them all, I don't think it will take 98 point to make the playoffs. So that means we're still eligible to play."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 11:23 AM

Somewhere there's a Ryan Getzlaf in there.
The guy who scored the gargantuan goal -- both for his team and for himself -- also had pretty good perspective on how long he could enjoy it.

In the wake of hammering a one-timer inside the far post with 46.0 seconds left to earn a crucial 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames, Ryan Getzlaf was asked how long he and his Ducks mates could savor the win.

"About eight minutes," he said.

Indeed, despite securing a victory that was the 15th straight over Calgary at home -- and more importantly kept the Ducks within seven of the last playoff spot in the West -- the Ducks are in no position to hold onto this one too long. That's because they turn right around and face an equally important -- and probably more daunting -- challenge tonight in LA against the rival Kings.

But before we look ahead to that one, let's appreciate what Getzlaf did, scoring his first goal in the last 18 games at the most dramatic of times. With the Ducks and Flames looking certain to head to overtime (which would have given Calgary a point in this race as well), Corey Perry dropped the puck to his linemate from the right wing and Getzlaf blistered a shot that left goalie Leland Irving helpless.

As great as the goal was, the celebration may have been even better. A crowd of more than 16,000 went absolutely ballistic as Francois Beauchemin wrapped Getzlaf in a bear hug while jumping up and down like a little kid who just opened an Xbox on Christmas morning. Take a look:


Earlier in the game, a vintage Getzlaf play gave Anaheim its first lead, as he emerged from behind the net with an open look at the net, but passed it up to feed a wide open Perry for the tap-in. It was another one of those "Shoot it! Shoot it! Why doesn't he? ... YEAH!!!" moments for Ducks fans, something they've grown accustomed to over the years with the pass-first Getzlaf.

"Everybody in the building is thinking he's going to shoot the puck there," Perry said. "He just is so patient with the puck, and if you keep your stick down and go to the net, good things happen."

It was among a number of good things to happen last night, including a first period fight between Beauchemin and Flames leader Jarome Iginla that was a pretty cool flashback to the '06 playoffs. (That fight almost six years ago was a lopsided Beauchemin win, while this one may have gone to Iginla.)

The Ducks have a pretty good fight on their hands tonight, facing a Kings team that hasn't played since Tuesday. And it's the second straight game against one of those teams in the pack fighting for that eighth spot. Anaheim moved up to 12th (tiebreaker over Minnesota based on regulation/overtime wins) with the win last night, while LA is in ninth, four points ahead of the Ducks.

Jonas Hiller, who last night broke the Ducks team record by making his 24th straight start, figures to be back in there tonight, as Bruce Boudreau said yesterday he planned to start him in every game from here to the finish line.

For those interested, I'll be heading up to Staples Center for a live game log and recap on the website, and I imagine I'll be seeing more than a few Ducks fans up there as well.

LA, by the way, has won three of the previous four meetings this year, including both games at Staples Center in shootouts. The Ducks this time would love to snatch one in regulation for the second straight night, which would push them up the standings while subsequently giving the Heisman to a fellow team in the crowded race.

"We have half the battle done this weekend," Getzlaf said last night. "Tonight was an emotional one. We have to enjoy it right now and get ready for the next one."


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POSTED ON Friday, 03.02.2012 / 1:10 PM

No Miikka tonight, but hopefully a lot more Perry.
Forget about the streak -- the one where Ducks haven't lost to Calgary at home in the regular season since January 19, 2004 -- 'cause the streak doesn't matter. What does matter with the Flames in town is that the Ducks desperately need a win tonight (and tomorrow in LA for that matter) to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Both Calgary (in 11th) and the Kings (ninth) are part of the crowded pack of teams battling with the Ducks for those last playoff spots. Wins for Anaheim in both those games would not only help the Ducks whittle down the seven points between them and eighth, but it would hold back those two teams from climbing the standings as well.

"Obviously right now we know the next two, pretty much next three is going to be do or die," Teemu Selanne said, "because we can’t let those games slip away. Both are against teams that we want to catch.”

But -- and I don't know if you've ever heard this -- you have got to take one game at a time, and that means the focus is on tonight with the Flames, who are coming off a rather impressive road win in Phoenix. Calgary knocked off the Coyotes 4-2, putting a halt to a ridiculous 11-0-1 streak by Phoenix that catapulted them into first place in the Pacific (and third in the West).

The Flames got that win behind Miikka Kiprusoff, who will actually sit down tonight in the second game of a back-to-back. The Flames' shootout loss to the Ducks back on February 6 dropped Kipper to 1-6-3 lifetime at Honda Center. Tonight the Flames will go with Leland Irving (which happens to sound like a very exclusive private school).

The Ducks, of course, will counter with Jonas Hiller, who will break a Ducks team record when he starts his 24th straight game tonight. The old mark was set by set by Guy Hebert (who happened to go on a nice run during last night's Ducks-Kings poker event) in 1997 and matched by J.S. Giguere in 2001.

Hiller has more than earned those starts, going 14-5-4 with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage in that stretch.

"I haven’t played that many games in such a short period of time in quite awhile. I don’t think I ever have," Hiller said this morning. "But I’m feeling good, so why not?"

Hiller was given a day off from practice yesterday, part of a process of the Ducks giving him rest when he can get it. "We’ve been very cognizant of giving him the time off between games because we’re worried about him getting overly tired," Bruce Boudreau said. "The only time I’ve ever seen him with any sense of fatigue was maybe the Colorado game [on Monday]. Other than that, he’s been sharp and he’s strong and I ask every day how he’s feeling to make sure we’re doing the right things for him to stay strong."

Said Hiller, "I definitely have a little better understanding of my body and how to take care of it, to listen to my body and not just try to work through it when something is aching. With massage or treatment, you can get rid of stuff before it really gets serious. Bruce has also given me the opportunity to take my rest on certain days and certain practices. That definitely helps to stay sharp, especially mentally, which is almost as tough as staying ready physically."

The Ducks plan to not only go with him again tomorrow night in LA, but for the duration of the season, with Dan Ellis still out with a groin injury. "Unless something negative happens, he’s probably starting the rest of the games from here on out," Boudreau said.

He also used one of his typical non-hockey references to talk about Hiller's focus these past couple of months. "As a goalie, you can’t let up," he said. "A forward might have a bad shift, but if a goalie has a bad shift, it’s in the net. A goalie reminds me of a golfer. If a golfer lets up, he’s two-over. It’s that focus for 60 minutes or [for a golfer] four hours that is really difficult."

"Goalies are special that way. That’s why they’re all a little weird."
There was another funny moment with Boudreau during today's post-skate session with media. One reporter noticed some cowboy hats on a nearby table -- which are being signed by players as giveaways at tonight's Stampede Day -- and asked Bruce if he would ever consider wearing one.

Boudreau immediately remembered a time he was made to wear one on the bench during his stint as a coach in the ECHL with the Mississippi Sea Wolves.

"I looked like an idiot," he said. "When you're in the 'coast' [a nickname for the ECHL]  and you're down south, you do a lot of weird promotions. This was one of them. The owners wanted me to do it, much to my chagrin."

He was asked if he won the game.

"I can't remember," he said. "I'm too embarrassed to even know if I coached."

He then paused, waiting for a reporter to ask the first question of the scrum, and said. "Anyway, what's up?"


- - -

Last night's Rivalry Hold 'Em Poker Challenge at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, involving Ducks and Kings alumni, broadcasters and fans, was a great event for the second straight year.

Kings fan Greg Smyser came out the winner out of the close to 1,000 people who competed and took home $3,500 in cash and prizes. Among those who won their tables to advance to the final 100 were Guy Hebert (can't believe he's mentioned twice in this blog post), who was among the Ducks alums with Sean Pronger and Jason Marshall. Hebert, who happens to be a heck of a nice guy, told me later that he actually rarely plays poker and had no idea how he managed to win a table. Also winning his table, oddly enough, was Kings mascot Bailey. File this in Things You Don't See Every Day (although he did play last year too):



On a personal note, I actually won the second hand of the night and (thanks to some conservative betting) lasted 40 minutes before being knocked out, doubling my time from last year. I knew when I was in trouble when I sat down and asked which of the fellow players were Ducks fans and which were Kings fans. Three guys said they were neither, just poker fans. (Got the feeling this wasn't their first tournament.)

Here is a gallery of photos San Manuel took during the event, and below are some that I snapped:


Not sure where the "personality" part came from


At our pre-event dinner. That's Kings alumni/broadcasters/staff at the far table and the Ducks people at the near one, with an empty table in between us. Got to love rivalries.


A nice touch on the cheesecake desert. I took a bite out of the Kings logo and left the Ducks one alone.


This guy's not so great with making decisions.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 10:58 AM

This pretty much sums up last night for the Ducks.
When you've won as much as the Ducks have won lately, when you have the league's best record since January 1, it just feels like you're not supposed to lose. When you throw 43 shots on net -- 20 in the third period alone -- it really feels like you're not supposed to lose.

But thanks to the work of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, the Ducks suffered a loss they could ill afford, a 2-0 defeat at Honda Center that cost them a chance to make up precious ground in the Western Conference standings. Miller saved all 43 Anaheim shots on net, earning his 26th career shutout and his first in five appearances against the Ducks. 

And the Ducks showed their frustration in the final minute, as both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry got in fights during play, and several members of the Ducks and Sabres engaged in a brawl after the horn.

It was an ugly way to end a night in which Anaheim could have gotten to within five points of the eighth spot in the West, as Dallas lost 4-3 in a shootout in a game that ended just after we dropped the puck at Honda Center. The Ducks could have moved into 12th place and been just a point shy of Calgary in 11th. (Right now it's not just about getting close to that eighth spot, but passing the cluster to other teams also fighting for it.) 

“We were really counting on tonight because we could have jumped over a team,” Boudreau said. “And then Friday, if things went well, we could have jumped over another team. And then Saturday, we could have tied a team (the Kings).”

Now we can only move on from this one and focus on those games, and try not to engage in the agonizing scoreboard watching in the meantime. For example, three games on the NHL docket tonight involve teams fighting with Anaheim for that playoff spot: Calgary at Phoenix, Minnesota at Montreal and Columbus at Colorado. (For the sanity's sake, it's best to avoid watching those games, and just wake up in the morning to see where the Ducks stand.)

That extra day of February marked the end of an interesting month for the Ducks, as they suffered consecutive losses to Dallas and Columbus at home to start it, then went on a  8-1-2 tear before dropping two in a row to finish it. Now the Ducks have 18 games left in March and April, where they desperately need to go on another torrid run.

“It’s a little bit of a heartbreaker,” Boudreau said of last night's defeat. “But this team hasn’t quit in two and a half months, so I don’t expect them to quit now.”

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 12:58 PM

This is how things looked the last time Buffalo played at Honda Center (January 19, 2010). They've since changed logos, getting rid of the Buffalo that some thought looked like a yellow slug.
You won't find too many regions in the United States with less in common than Buffalo, NY and Orange County, CA, but their hockey teams have followed a very similar path.

Both finished last year's regular season hot (the Sabres winning four straight, the Ducks winning three in a row) to jump into the playoffs, only to fall in the first round. Both had high hopes coming into this campaign, only to dig themselves pretty big holes through the first three months. And both have come on strong as of late to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Buffalo's turnaround is not quite as drastic as what the Ducks have done (but who's is?): a 17-5-4 record since January 1 that is tied for best in the NHL. That has them within six points of a playoff spot after they were once 20 back. The Sabres have points in five straight games (3-0-2) and are within seven points of the eighth spot in the East.

Both teams suffered setbacks to that hopeful climb in the standings in their last games, the Ducks losing in Colorado on Monday night and the Sabres falling in overtime to the Rangers in New York last Saturday. The Sabres, like the Ducks earlier this season, have struggled on the road, enduring a 12-game losing streak that mercifully was snapped January 24. And like Anaheim a couple weeks ago, they're currently facing a road challenge that could make or break their season: a stretch of seven games away from home in their next eight.

But despite their similarities, these are two teams that don't see each other all that much. Buffalo hasn't been here since January 19, 2010, and although the two have faced each other this season, it was under very different circumstances. That was in the opening game of the season, in Helsinki, a 4-1 loss for the Ducks that was their only defeat in the first five games.

And unlike the Ducks, Buffalo was quite active just before the trade deadline, dealing big center Paul Gaustad and a fourth-round pick to Nashville for a first-round pick and sending top prospect Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani to the Vancouver Canucks for rookie  forward Cody Hodgson (who will make his Sabres debut tonight) and Alexander Sulzer.

Ryan Miller will be in net tonight for Buffalo while Jonas Hiller will make his 23rd straight start for Anaheim. (Another thing these two teams have in common: standout goalies who played great in the '10 Olympics -- Miller for the U.S. and Hiller for Switzerland.)

The Ducks did not practice yesterday after getting in late following that loss in Colorado and facing a stretch of four games in six nights starting this evening. With a win tonight, they would pull into 12th place in the West and could get as close as four points to the eighth spot, depending on what the Stars do tonight at home vs. Pittsburgh (4:30 p.m. Pacific)

Bruce Boudreau was asked by a Buffalo reporter this morning if the Ducks still believe they can make the playoffs even though, as he put it, they are still "a ways back" in the standings.

"You say that and I think you're wrong," Boudreau said. "I don't think we're far back at all. If I don't think we're far back, then I'm sure the rest of the guys don't. No matter who's in front of us, it still depends on us. If we do what we're supposed to do, eventually Colorado and Dallas and Phoenix and those teams are going to lose. They can't go 20-0.

"Until our last breath, until we're eliminated, this group is going to believe they can do it. We've come from 20 points back already, so there's no sense in stopping now. "


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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 10:33 AM

One of the few happy photos from a tough night in Denver.
The demands of their recent schedule appeared to finally catch up with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks got little time to catch their breaths after finally completing a 15-day road trip that spanned more than 7,000 miles, having to turn around and play three games in four nights. It didn't seem to take its toll during an emphatic victory Sunday night at home vs. Chicago, but last night in Denver the Ducks appeared to run out of fuel.

Typically when a team plays the second of a back-to-back, you don't see its effects in the first period, but it's the latter half of the second and the third when you can see them wearing down. That's what happened to Chicago (played LA the night before) on Sunday, and it's pretty much what happened with the Ducks last night. Despite giving up the game's first goal, they fought back to tie it on a beautiful snipe on the power play by Bobby Ryan in the second.

But that appeared to be all the Ducks had to give, as a couple of giveaways led to two Avalanche strikes in the first three minutes of the third period, and Anaheim wasn't able to recover.

"I told them, I said I usually don't make excuses for them ever and probably won't again," Bruce Boudreau said. "It looked like we had nothing. For all intents and purposes, it's been a three-week road trip."

Although they allowed Colorado to climb into ninth (same point total as Dallas in eighth), the good news for the Ducks is that they didn't lose any ground on that last playoff spot. The Kings (four points ahead of Anaheim in 10th) lost 2-1 in Nashville, and Calgary (three ahead in 11th) fell 3-1 at home to St. Louis.

Anaheim -- which took today off from practice -- remains six points back with 19 to go, and faces a critical bounceback game here at home Wednesday night vs. Buffalo. Aside from Boston on March 25, that's the last Eastern Conference foe Anaheim faces this year. Of their last 19 games, six will come against teams with whom they're battling for those playoff spots.


- - -
It's going to be a busy week with the Buffalo game Wednesday, Calgary at home on Friday and a huge game in LA on Saturday. Ducks fans will have to wait until then for that always-lively game at Staples Center, but they can battle with Kings fans a little earlier in the week at Thursday's second annual Rivalry Hold 'Em Poker Challenge at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino.

For just a $35 buy-in, you can play poker alongside other Ducks and Kings fans, as well as these Ducks alumni and broadcasters: Guy Hebert, Jason Marshall, Sean Pronger, John Alhers, Jenny Cavnar, Kent French and Brian Hayward.

And yes, I will be playing as well, hoping to top the 20 minutes I lasted in last year's tournament. I'm also prepping myself for the looks of disappointment on the faces of the people at my table when they find out I'm the "Ducks alumni/broadcaster."

The tournament starts at 7 p.m. and players will compete for $10,000 in cash and prizes (all proceeds going to benefit the Anaheim Ducks Foundation and Kings Care Foundation). There is also an after-party that runs from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

The deadline to sign up is tonight at 11 p.m. and there is still space available.

Click here for more information and to register
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POSTED ON Monday, 02.27.2012 / 1:48 PM

Getting prospect Dale Mitchell from Toronto (above) and Sebastian Erixon from Vancouver was the extent of the Ducks' deadline moves. And that's a good thing.
The Anaheim Ducks said so much by doing very little in the hours before the noon Pacific NHL trade deadline.

On a day when the rest of the league made few splashes in terms of major deals, the Ducks made a major statement on the state of their team by only making two minor-league trades. They got defenseman Sebastian Erixon from Vancouver for winger Andrew Gordon and later acquired winger Dale Mitchell from Toronto for defenseman Mark Fraser (more on those guys later).

"Awhile back we kind of challenged this group and they responded," said Murray. "Since January 1, I don’t know who’s been better in this league than our team. They’ve earned the opportunity and they deserve it, and they wanted the opportunity to continue."

The Ducks, again, have the NHL's best record since January 1, and go into tonight's game in Colorado six points out of a playoff spot after having been 20 back as of January 6.

"You look back in late December, we were thinking about selling," Murray said. "Now today, you look at how well they’ve done and you think we could get in here.

"They’ve made it real difficult the last couple of weeks and good for them. I have no problem with that."

Murray acknowledged that he had looked at some other deals, but as is common on deadline day, the asking prices were too high.

"They started out high, and they just stayed that way," he said. "I hoped they might come down today, but they didn’t. I don’t think a lot happened, really. A lot of teams are so bunched up and a lot of them just didn’t want to do much. We looked at a couple things, but the price tag was too high for us."

It's tough to see Gordon go because he was well-liked when he was up here, but he didn't fit into the current forward corps and had been in Syracuse since last month (three goals in 19 games). In Erixon, the Ducks get a young skating defenseman from Sweden who had eight points in 30 games with Chicago of the AHL this season. He played for the silver medal-winning Swedish national team at the 2009 World Juniors.

Mitchell is a stout (5-9, 200 pounds) forechecking winger who played with Cam Fowler and Oilers young star Taylor Hall with a Windsor Spitfires team that won the 2010 Memorial Cup. Fraser came to the Ducks in the trade with New Jersey that also brought Rod Pelley here last December, but he had played only in Syracuse (five points in 25 games).

"Things haven’t gone well in the minors this year and we’re disappointed in what’s gone on down there," said Murray of a Crunch team that's 14th in the Eastern Conference. "We tried to shake a few things up down there and will continue in the offseason."

Meanwhile, another vote of confidence was cast for Devante Smith-Pelly, as Bruce Boudreau announced this morning that the bowling-ball winger would remain with the team for the duration of the season.

"He's up now. This is it, he's here. He's a member of the Ducks for the remainder of the year," Boudreau said. 

Boudreau said the Ducks have liked what they have seen from Smith-Pelly, especially in the handful of games he's played since he came back from the broken foot suffered in December at the World Juniors.

"It was the last couple days, depending on how he played and where we thought we were and where it would best suit him, how important a role he would play with us," Boudreau said. "We think he's developing really well here, and hopefully he'll be a great 19-year-old. He's a big strong body and he can skate. He's learning daily. He's got a lot of energy. Those things are all good.

"Bob made a big statement by keeping him here because he loses that year of eligibility when it comes to arbitration and free agency. We think highly of him."


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POSTED ON Monday, 02.27.2012 / 9:11 AM

Trade Deadline Day is always an interesting one around the Ducks offices. It's more often than not a busy day -- especially as we get closer to the noon Pacific deadline -- and it's usually a little nerve-wracking. Players you may have grown accustomed to or developed an affinity for may be on their way to another team, with new players coming here to replace them.

You remember days when the deadline activity was relatively tame for Anaheim (for example, Brad May in 2007) and relatively frenzied (trades involving Sammy Pahlsson, Travis Moen, Kent Huskins and others in 2009).

You've got your eyes and ears honed in on TSN, to see the action around the NHL. Your attention perks up, and you sit up a little more in your seat, when you hear the words "Anaheim Ducks" mentioned by the commentators.

For those Ducks, their approach to this day has seemingly changed dramatically from what we may have thought it would be back at the turn of the new year. A Ducks team that was once miles out of a playoff spot (20 points as of January 6) is now six points back thanks to an incredible run that has been the best in the league. Anaheim 17-4-4 (38 points) since January 1, just a little better than Detroit (17-6-2) and St. Louis (17-5-2) with 36 each.

The last notch on that scorching stretch came last night at Honda Center against the Blackhawks, where the Ducks just continued the outstanding play that saw them go 5-1-2 on this recent road trip. Aside from an early Patrick Kane goal, the Ducks mostly dominated Chicago last night, cruising to a 3-1 victory in which they outshot the Hawks 38-19 (giving up just four in the third when the Hawks were trying to tie it). And they did it in front of a record regular season crowd of 17,601 (standing room only included).

The Ducks got scoring from a guy with 658 career goals and a guy with just three. They got goals with immediate satisfaction and one they had to wait several minutes to celebrate. The latter came late in the first, when Andrew Cogliano kicked the puck under Hawks goalie Ray Emery and (though it was tough to tell) slapped it behind him with his stick. A six-minute replay review seemed to determine that Cogliano did make contact with the stick and the goal was allowed. Here's a look: 



The Ducks took the lead (ultimately for good) with 7 1/2 minutes left in the second, when a Teemu Selanne pass from behind the net squirted out to Sheldon Brookbank, whose shot deflected off Duncan Keith and got through Emery. After going 167 games without a goal, that one was Brookbank’s second in the last five (he had one on the trip against his former team, the Devils).

That assist and Selanne's insurance power play goal from his office in the lower left wing circle pushed him past a guy named Luc Robitaille for 20th on the NHL's all-time scoring list.

The Ducks badly needed that win (heck, they need them all) to stay within six of the eighth spot after Dallas scored with less than a minute to go in regulation and won in overtime against Vancouver earlier in the day. After the game last night, the Ducks hustled out the door for the airport, where they headed to Colorado for another big one tonight. For the first time in awhile, the Ducks can not only win, but hold back another team in that crowded bunch of teams fighting for that eighth spot, as the Avs are two back of Dallas and four ahead of Anaheim in the standings.

But right now we're looking less at that 6:00 puck drop than the noon deadline for trades, waiting to see what moves the Ducks might make this morning. We'll keep you posted.



- - -

Meanwhile, here's a great quote from Bruce Boudreau in this Q&A in this morning's L.A. Times:

"This is about our hopes and dreams. I've been doing this my whole life and I've learned if your dreams aren't high enough and if you don't think of winning the Cup, you're not giving yourself a chance. If you don't shoot for the moon, you sell yourself short. I haven't won the Cup yet, but it's something I dream of every day.
"

Love that.




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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 23 14 4 5 63 56 33
2 NSH 22 15 5 2 62 45 32
3 VAN 22 15 6 1 67 61 31
4 STL 22 14 6 2 59 46 30
5 CGY 24 14 8 2 75 64 30
6 LAK 23 12 6 5 64 53 29
7 CHI 22 13 8 1 66 46 27
8 WPG 24 12 9 3 51 54 27
9 MIN 21 12 9 0 58 48 24
10 SJS 24 10 10 4 62 66 24
11 DAL 22 9 9 4 64 74 22
12 ARI 23 9 11 3 57 71 21
13 COL 23 8 10 5 59 73 21
14 EDM 23 6 14 3 51 78 15

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 22 6 13 1 19
S. Vatanen 23 5 13 -1 18
C. Perry 18 12 5 8 17
R. Kesler 23 6 11 -2 17
M. Beleskey 23 10 2 5 12
C. Fowler 22 2 9 0 11
J. Silfverberg 23 1 9 5 10
D. Smith-Pelly 20 3 5 1 8
P. Maroon 15 1 7 -1 8
A. Cogliano 23 3 4 -2 7
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 10 2 4 .922 2.10
J. Gibson 2 2 0 .927 2.28

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