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POSTED ON Monday, 01.09.2012 / 11:53 AM

This guy beat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday, flew across the country and earned his first NHL win on Sunday. How was your weekend?
It's hard to find the most compelling storyline from last night's 7-4 Ducks victory over the last-place Blue Jackets last night:

- 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."


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- Live game updates with box scores, stats and all-new ice tracker, plus out-of-town scores

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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.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 11:34 AM

"Let's hug it out."
The song The Show Goes On by Lupe Fiasco could be heard bouncing off the walls of the Ducks locker room in the wake of Anaheim's gratifying 4-2 victory over the Islanders last night. It's the team's choice of post-victory song this season, and it's one the Ducks have played far too infrequently.



"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.




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POSTED ON Friday, 01.06.2012 / 11:23 AM

The last time the Islanders were here, Cam Fowler was only 18!
You might think a Ducks team desperate for a win would be granted an ample opportunity with the Eastern Conference's 14-place team in town. The only problem is, these New York Islanders are playing pretty good hockey right now.

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.

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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...

and after.




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D'Angelo and an image of the sticker.
You may have heard about high school hockey player Jack Jablonski of Minneapolis, who suffered a severe spinal injury after taking a hit into the boards during a game just before the new year. It was just confirmed Wednesday that Jablonski is paralyzed and has been told by doctors he will never walk again.

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.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 11:50 AM

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."


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There was a touching moment prior to last night's game, when youth players from the Aliso Viejo Jr. Orange County Hockey Club joined the Ducks for the national anthem. Among those kids was Aleksandro Salei, son of the late former Duck Ruslan Salei. All of the players were announced to the crowd by PA announcer Phil Hullett, the last being Aleksandro: "And fans, please welcome the son of the late Ruslan Salei: number 24 , Aleksandro Salei."

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:

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 2:14 PM

(Insert shark metaphor here.)
Jason Blake will indeed be in the lineup tonight as the Ducks try to continue a somewhat surprising streak of dominance over their rivals from NoCal.

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:

Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry
Blake-Koivu-Selanne
Beleskey-Cogliano-Hagman
Bonino-Pelley-Parros

Beauchemin-Fowler
Sbisa-Visnovsky
Lydman-Brookbank

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Congrats to Ducks prospect Kyle Palmieri, who has been named to the AHL All-Star Game for the second straight season.

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?



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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 2:53 PM

Blake back in black.
For a Ducks team looking for good news anywhere it can find it, the impending and long-awaited return of one of its veteran forwards would certainly qualify.

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.
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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."


- - -
The Ducks made a minor deal this morning, trading winger Nicolas Deschamps to the Maple Leafs for winger Luca Caputi. 

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. 
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POSTED ON Friday, 12.30.2011 / 10:48 AM

The indelible images are burned in the memories of most Ducks fans, the unforgettable moments given to us by one of the franchise’s most iconic figures:

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.
Teemu Selanne was asked about Giguere yesterday and could only smile (check out the video). “He was a huge part of our team on and off the ice,” he said. “What he did for this organization was remarkable, unbelievable. He was rock solid every year. He’s going to get a big [ovation] for sure.”

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.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 3:29 PM

Respect your elder, Edler.
Having just won their first road game in two months, the Ducks will tonight look to pull off another feat they haven't accomplished since October -- winning back-to-back games.

Three days hence that gratifying win over the Sharks in San Jose, the Ducks will look to experience a similar feeling against another perennial West power tonight at Honda Center. The Vancouver Canucks have taken residence in their traditional spot near the top of the Western Conference standings, having won five of their last six to secure a stronghold on the 2 slot.

"We're going to try our butts off from now till the end of the year, but we've got to put a run together pretty soon," said Bruce Boudreau this morning. "You have to put a streak together. Quite frankly, there's no better way to start than playing the best teams in the league."

Coincidentally, the Canucks -- like Anaheim -- are coming off a 3-2 win in San Jose, although their win came last night on an overtime winner by former Duck Andrew Ebbett. Roberto Luongo had 33 saves in that game, but he'll get the night off tonight as the Canucks are reportedly going with super-backup Cory Schneider (whose save percentage and goals-against average are actually better than Bobby Lu's).

The Ducks took their previous matchup with the Ducks, a 4-3 game at Honda Center in which the score didn't come close to telling the story. If you'll recall, Anaheim went into the third period that night leading 4-0 and gave up three unanswered to the Canucks before hanging on. Jonas Hiller, who figures to get the start tonight, had 38 saves in that game.

As in that game, the key for the Ducks tonight is the same thing parents tell their children in the days leading up to Christmas: Stay out of the box. Vancouver boasts the NHL's top-ranked power play at a gaudy 25.0 percent. "When they get out there, they feel they can score every time," Boudreau said. "When you have that combination and that kind of confidence, you can come into buildings and dictate the way you want to play. They've got that confidence right now.

"They're so hard to defend because they're so 'non-readable. I don't know if that's even proper English,but they've got so much movement and skill, when you try and cover one thing, something else opens. Being disciplined and being smart is something we'll definitely have to be."

With tonight being the first of six straight at home, the Ducks know this is a crucial time to try and get a streak going.

"They're obviously a good team and they play very structured," Andrew Cogliano said. "I think it's going to bring the best out of ius. Last time we played them, we had a good game against them. You have no choice but to play hard and be ready. Our goal is to match their intensity and match their skill, and I think we'll do that."

Saku Koivu will likely not return tonight, as he's still batting a strained groin and Boudreau declared him "doubtful."
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 2:24 PM

Helmets allow aggressive pats on the head.
After a second straight day of work in preparation for tomorrow night's home match with Vancouver, the Ducks were still in the mood to talk about their last win in San Jose.

Any why not? Monday night's 3-2 victory, in one of the tougher buildings to pull a win from, was among the finest performances of this frustrating Ducks season. And it has a lot of Ducks talking about rolling it into a good "second half" (even though at 35 games played, we're still not to the halfway point of the campaign yet).

"It was a big game for us," Andrew Cogliano, who had a big goal in that game, said today. "It’s a tough building to play in and San Jose is a tough team. It just gets the ball rolling for the second half of the year. We’re looking to win games and put a bunch together hopefully. That was a good way to start and now play another good team in Vancouver."

Indeed, if the Ducks want to make a habit of winning games -- and doing it against the class of the Western Conference -- they'll have to keep it going tomorrow night against the Canucks. It's the start of a six-game homestand for Anaheim, but they're only thinking about the first one.

"The goal is to take one game at a time," said Cogliano, whose play on the third line was praised by Bruce Boudreau today. "Hopefully, we can get a win and build on it from there. You feel good about yourself and playing. I think that started in the last game playing against San Jose, which was good for us. Hopefully, you can go on a little run. There is no better place to have six games at home to start.

Boudreau, too, was all for discussing that encouraging win in SJ this afternoon. "I was really excited about it the last few days because I thought we played really well," he said. "I came away from that thinking we played hard and as well as them. They had a flurry of shots in the last six minutes because they had two power plays and they were desperate. They routinely outshoot every team.

"I was impressed with the way we hung in. We played the way we wanted to play and didn’t give up a lot of Grade ‘A’ scoring chances the first two periods ... We bent a little bit, but we never broke. We got that third goal and hung tough in the third period. That was a good sign. That is probably the reason I am so excited about tomorrow’s game because it’s another great test for us."

Boudreau was also intent to compliment the play of Matt Beleskey, a guy who survived being put on waivers by the Ducks just before Boudreau took over, but has come back to make a huge contribution lately. He's been playing much of the time on the third unit with Cogliano and Andrew Gordon/Kyle Palmieri.

"The last few games from the first few games that I was here, he’s playing hard and competing harder," Boudreau said of Beleskey. "When you compete harder, you get opportunities. He’s getting opportunities to score, creating chances, he’s doing a good job of checking and he’s getting involved. He’s gotten in two fights I think in the last five or six games. When you get involved and engaged in the game, then opportunities come.

"He’s gotten points, been on the ice for goals for and not too many against. The biggest difference is Matt. When Matt is not sitting around watching the play, he’s being proactive on it."

The Ducks practiced for the second straight day former second-line mainstays Saku Koivu and Jason Blake on the ice. Koivu (groin), of course, is much closer to returning than Blake (lacerated arm), but Bourdreau was uncertain on whether that return would come tomorrow night. "It’s up to him. I don’t want to be coy, but it’s day-to-day," he said. "I certainly like him to be able to play. We’ll see how he feels. Probably a better indication will be to see how he feels tomorrow after today."

Blake talked to reporters yesterday after skating with the team for the first time since getting cut just above the left wrist in the third game of the season (a win over SJ at Honda Center). He has been skating on his own for the last several weeks, but only started handling and shooting the puck in the past few days.
 
“Overall, it felt good,” Blake said. “It’s just nice to be out there and be a part of the team again. It was good."

Blake was originally supposed to be out three months, which would have his return scheduled for the middle of next month.

“Right now it’s about getting in game shape," he said. "I have to practice with the guys here for a few days and re-evaluate it, see where I’m at. I’ve got to start strengthening my arm. I’ve been doing a lot with the wrist, but I have to strengthen my triceps and biceps.”


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POSTED ON Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 5:31 PM

"Holiday group hug, everybody."
Like the small, wrapped box you find behind the tree long after everything else has been opened, the Ducks gave us all a late Christmas gift last night.

For the first time in nearly two months the Ducks won a game on the road, an encouraging 3-2 triumph over the Sharks. And it came in the unlikeliest of buildings, the loud and unfriendly HP Pavilion, where the Sharks are again strong this year with a 12-6-1 mark that is among the best home records in the Western Conference.

"To win in this building is quite a feat," said Bobby Ryan, whose breakaway goal in the second was huge for Anaheim (more on that later). "It was nice to get one on the road. It's long overdue."

Indeed it was. The Ducks had gone 0-9-4 away from Anaheim since an October 27 win at Minnesota. At the time, few of us could have had any idea they would go on to have the struggles they've endured over the past two months. "To only have two road wins and the last one coming on Oct. 27 was a little embarrassing," Cogliano said. "That's not the ideal situation."

The Ducks have only 10 wins overall, but remarkably three of them have come against the rival Sharks, who have taken their usual spot near the top of the West, third as of this morning. Two of those wins came during a four-day span -- first in Anaheim and then in SJ -- part of that four-game winning streak the Ducks enjoyed at the beginning of the campaign.

Last night the Ducks did it with timely scoring and a nice 36-save performance by Jonas Hiller. Luca Sbisa gave the Ducks their first lead with a rocketed slap shot (off a nice assist from George Parros) just 2 1/2 minutes into the game. After the Sharks tied it later in the period, Ryan gave the Ducks the lead back with a beautiful steal of a Joe Thornton pass that led to this breakaway snipe that beat Antti Niemi.

And after the Sharks tied it again, Cogliano came through with the eventual game-winner later in the second, wristing a shot inside the far post that Niemi probably would like to have back. That was enough for Hiller, who stopped all 18 San Jose shots in the third period. Also in that third period, a fan threw a dead duck on the HP Pavilion ice, a contrast to a Ducks team that was very much alive at the time. When asked about it after practice today, Bruce Boudreau said, "I'm gonna be honest, I just now got that....A dead duck, we're the Ducks."

And those Ducks, for the first time in ages, were get back on a plane to Orange County feeling pretty good about themselves.

“It’s been a long time," Ryan said. "Obviously it’s frustrating. We had some road trips that we just fell apart on. Had leads and blew. It’s tough when you don’t feel good about yourself going into every building. Hopefully this is a jump start and something moving forward.”

It's going to have to be, as the Ducks need to roll this win into a lot more. They still sit in 14th in the West with a 10-19-6 record through 35 games.

“We all have dreams, right?” said Boudreau before the game yesterday. “You go out every game and you hope that you can win every game. That’s it. I go through the schedule and say, ‘OK, we need a good 10-game win streak or a 13-game winning streak. It’s easier said than done.

“Everything is possible.”

Boudreau, who has shown in his relatively short time here a propensity for other-sport references, did it again when he talked about what he's told his team. “I said, ‘Listen, if this was golf, we shot a 62 on the front nine. But who says we can’t shoot a 36 on the back,’” he said. ”That’s the way you have to look at it and if you look at it any other way, then all of a sudden you’re beaten before you start.

“So that’s the way I’m hoping that they look at it. It’s the way I’m looking at it anyway. Let’s hope the best happens.”

- - -
In a season that has had so many things not go as planned, the Ducks suffered another blow when Devante Smith-Pelly suffered a broken bone in his left foot while playing at the World Juniors. The Ducks had lent DSP to Team Canada for the tournament, and he was knocked out in an 8-1 win over Finland while blocking a shot in the second period.

He is expected to miss four to six weeks and it has yet to be decided whether he will come back to Anaheim or stay with Team Canada.
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SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 77 31 56 28 87
C. Perry 81 43 39 32 82
N. Bonino 77 22 27 14 49
M. Perreault 69 18 25 13 43
A. Cogliano 82 21 21 13 42
C. Fowler 70 6 30 15 36
K. Palmieri 71 14 17 9 31
D. Winnik 76 6 24 6 30
H. Lindholm 78 6 24 29 30
S. Koivu 65 11 18 3 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 20 5 0 .923 2.29
J. Hiller 29 13 7 .911 2.48

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