|This photo seemed fitting since the Ducks play both Ottawa and Giguere this weekend.
Saturday is a rare afternoon (1:05 p.m.) affair with the Ottawa Senators, whom the Ducks vanquished in the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. Of course, the Sens have only four players remaining from that team, while the Ducks have five: Getzlaf, Perry, Selanne, Parros and Beauchemin (the latter of whom just signed a new deal).
Sunday the Ducks once again face the goalie from that 2006-07 team, as J.S. Giguere and the Colorado Avalanche return to Honda Center, with Anaheim looking to avenge a 4-2 loss to them on New Year's Eve. (Giguere has played three of the last four for the Avs, and figures to be back in there again on Sunday against his old team.)
The Ducks are an impressive 6-1-1 since that Colorado loss, a mark they'll be testing against an unbelievably hot Ottawa team tomorrow afternoon. The Sens' thorough 4-1 victory in San Jose last night (which came despite losing two forwards mid-game) improved them to a gaudy 13-2-2 since the middle of December. That's pushed them to fourth in the Eastern Conference, and they're riding an 11-game road points streak.
Today, Bruce Boudreau had an interesting take about the young Senators, who are considered among the surprise teams in the NHL after finishing 13th in the East last year.
"They're only a surprise because of where they finished last year," he said, noting that they have several players from the Binghamton Senators team that won the AHL's Calder Cup last year. "If you look at any team that has won a Calder Cup, there are five to seven players on that team that are good players that are going to play in the NHL. That's what's happened there.
"They are young players who were in Binghamton and were brought up last year at the trading deadline when Ottawa realized they weren't gonna make [the playoffs]. They played great last year and it kept going this year. It's not a surprise to me that they're doing what they're doing."
The Ducks held Jason Blake and Matt Beleskey out of practice for the second straight day, as Blake recovers from the lower body injury suffered when he was hit with a Lubomir Visnovsky shot that resulted in a Beauchemin goal on Wednesday night vs. Phoenix. Boudreau said he has high hopes for Blake playing tomorrow, but Beleskey is not as certain with his injured hand suffered when he was hit by a shot Wednesday. Just in case, the Ducks called up veteran Mark Bell from Syracuse, and he was out on the ice today.
"There wasn't a lot of progress for either one, so with the 1:00 game, we had to call up Mark. Blake was still a little sore, but we believe he's going to play tomorrow. We told him to take another day and get better and see how it is tomorrow morning.
If Bell plays this weekend, it will be the 31-year-old's first game since April of 2008.
Boudreau explained the Bell call-up by saying, "You phone down there and you ask the coaching staff, 'Who's the best player for you right now?' We didn't want someone who is in a development stage, we just want the best player who could help our team this weekend potentially. They said Mark Bell was the best player they had, so we said, Let's call up Mark Bell. He fits the criteria right now."
There is a chance defenseman Sheldon Brookbank could move up to a forward spot if both Blake and Beleskey aren't able to go. Brookbank has played some forward for the Ducks in the past and practiced there yesterday and today.
Tomorrow's game will also be t-shirt tiiiiiiiimmmme (and if you don't know that reference, you're a better person than I am), where all fans in attendance will receive a free orange Ducks t-shirt.
|He seems happy|
"I'm really excited to be here another three years," Beauchemin said. "We have a great group of guys and good young players. We're going to have a good team for awhile. It's just a matter of us keeping playing the way we've been playing lately.
"People don't know this, but it is a lot of stress on the players and their families to not know what's going to happen in the future. When you get those extensions, it just feels great. Everyone is a lot more relaxed at home and we can move on and think about the future."
The 31-year-old Beauchemin is Beauchemin has six goals (including two Wednesday night) and is tied with Cam Fowler for the team lead in defenseman scoring with 18 points. He's also playing a team-high 25:44 a game.
"He’s playing great," Boudreau said today. "From the first day I got here. He’s a great character guy, can log a lot of minutes, can play different roles for you at any time, big heart. What team can’t use a player like that? To lock him in for the time that Bob [Murray] did, I thought he did a great job. It’s good for Beauch as well."
Said Murray to the OC Register, "“He’s never going to cheat you. He’s an honest, hard hockey player who shows up to play for you every night. He’s not just going to show up. He’s going to compete. And as with all players, as I well know, some nights you don’t have your ‘A’ game. You have your ‘B’ game. You know Beauch is always going to bring it.”
Last night's 15th annual Anaheim Ducks Casino Night Presented by The Klein Family could have been one of the best of the half dozen or so I've attended. Guests came in their most stylish attire to match the Center Ice White Out theme of the night, which for whatever reason drew the most attractive crowd of any I've seen at that event (I'll decline to elaborate).
A few other highlights from the night:
- Me digging out the too-tight white pants and awful white buckled shoes that I wore for the Casino Night two years ago, when it was a '70s theme. That combined with an untucked white dress shirt made me look like I was in pajamas.
- Arriving at the same time as Teemu Selanne and his wife Sirpa, then watching Teemu lunge for the down button just a half-second too late before the elevator doors closed. I said, "I thought they called you The Flash." He snapped his fingers. The elevator doors opened.
- Watching Jonas Hiller dance impressively to "Baby Got Back" (as well as assorted other songs) with his gal and a few other player WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends).
- This photo (I just think it looks cool). Check out all the photos here.
- Although, sometimes the best photos come before the actual photo. (Courtesy OC Register.)
- The assorted dancers covered in full body suites and surrounded by a giant ... let me just show you the picture.
- George Parros being the only guy to wear something different than the white suit and v-neck t-shirt provided to the players, which you can see in this picture, along with Devante Smith-Pelly artfully incorporating the boot for his broken foot with his ensemble.
- Teemu talking in this video about the night's theme: "We have been too many times cowboys, so it's good." (Taking that quote out of context would confuse a lot of people.)
- Jason Blake, asked in this video about which player looked best, opening with "I probably don't even need to wear a suit. I'm all white." Then saying, "I would proably say Teemu. He's 41 years old and he just glows. Every time he steps in a room, he electrifies. He owns it."
- Just watching the guys pose for every picture, sometimes obliging to be the photographer of said pictures, enthusiastically take part in every conversation with every fan, and just generally be good dudes.
Come back here later today for a preview of a unique upcoming weekend for the Ducks.
|Yeah, 8, we're all smiling a lot more these days.
A 6-2 rout of the Phoenix Coyotes last night at Honda Center gave the Ducks their sixth win in the last seven and a fourth straight win at home. Even better, the emphatic victory over a division rival came on a night when the RPG line registered one point, a night where even their own coach admitted his team was less-than-stellar.
"I thought we were pretty sloppy," said the normally optimistic Bruce Boudreau. "I was biting my tongue most of the night. [Phoenix] missed a lot of chances. We took advantage.
"I thought we were a little loose, but I’m not complaining. We still won over a good hockey club and we scored six goals."
And in a game where usual suspects Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan, Selanne and Koivu were relatively quiet on the scoresheet, Anaheim's unheralded third line of Jason Blake, Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano sparkled. They combined for six points, including Blake's fourth in the last three games. Don't look now, but that trio is a combined plus-11 in the last three games. And how about Blake, who missed 34 games with that horrific arm laceration, but came back to play two weeks ago? The Ducks are 8-1-1 with him in the lineup this season.
Now check this out: Dating back to last season, the Ducks are 15-2-0 in games where Blake scores a goal. (Researched that one myself, and I'm pretty damn proud of it.)
That of course includes last night, where Blake's goal late in the second period was the best display of that third line at work. On the rush, Cogliano made a pinpoint feed through a crowd to Bonino who touched it to Blake on the doorstep for the "slam dunk," as Johnny Ahlers called it on the broadcast. (Just had the image of Blake pulling off an actual slam dunk, and it struck me as a little funny.)
That goal gave the Ducks a two-goal lead, and they never looked back. It also was the second goal in a span of four minutes contributed by that third line. The earlier one came on another beautiful feed from Cogliano to Francois Beauchemin, who had a glorious night with two goals. His first came on an accidental assist by Blake, as a Lubomir Visnovsky rocket kicked off Blake's leg to Beauchemin for the punch-in. (Blake looked to be in pain, but didn't miss a shift, thought he was held out of today's practice.)
Beauchemin also an nice assist on Perry's door-slamming breakaway shorty late in the game. On the play, Beauchemin pitch-forked the puck off the wall to a darting Perry, who was right around the Prime Ticket logo outside the Phoenix blue line when you knew he'd pour it in the net.
That sixth goal -- more than enough to trigger some love from Hooters -- added to the Ducks' recent domination in which they've outscored opponents 31-13 in the last seven games. The only outlier during that stretch is a 1-0 overtime loss in Calgary a week ago today. That regulation shutout was just part of a quietly impressive stretch for Jonas Hiller, who has a gaudy .939 save percentage and 1.50 goals-against average in the last six appearances.
And he had this nice quote to the OC Register: "Every decision we make, we know it's the right one and even if it's not, we know somebody has our back," Hiller said. "A month ago we were wondering if they were right decisions, and we weren't sure, and we didn't know."
Last night, with about 30 seconds left and the game all but over, the crowd at Honda Center got louder and rose to its feet, not only commemorating a convincing victory, but the recent stellar place of its resurgent hockey team. With the win, the Ducks climbed out of 14th place in the West for the first time since November 17. They're 13 points behind eighth-place Colorado (who has played three more games) with 37 games to go.
It's a tall task to make up that ground, but if the Ducks keep winning like this, who says they can't do it?
While the Ducks don't play here over the next two nights, they will be at Honda Center tonight for the 15th annual Anaheim Ducks Casino Night, presented by The Klein Family. To fit with this year's theme, the Ducks will join guests dressed in their best white (and if they have it, orange) outfits. (I'm still deciding if the very-tight white pants I have left over from the '70s-themed Casino Night of two years ago is going to be appropriate.)
We'll have good coverage, including some player video, photos and more. Keep an eye on our Twitter page for updates tonight.
|More of this tonight, please.
And yet their coach goes into a game tonight with Phoenix using the word "nervous."
"I told them I'm nervous about this game," said a typically candid Bruce Boudreau, clad in a casual hoody and jeans following the morning skate."We have no right to ever be complacent in the position we're in, but it can always set in to a team that's had a two-week run that's been pretty good. They know they can bury us when they play us twice in the next five games. They can do some damage to our hopes."
Ryan Getzlaf told reporters yesterday that the mood of the team is noticeably better, but they can't stop pushing. “It’s been a long road," he said. "It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to have a little fun. Losing is not fun. But we’re not taking anything for granted. We need to get back on the ice and get back to work.”
Still, something all the Ducks will tell you they have going for them is confidence, something that has become a sports cliche, but a cliche for a reason: It's an invaluable asset to a winning team. “It’s amazing how easy it looks when you believe in what you’re doing," Teemu Selanne said. "Everyone is confident now; you can feel it inside the locker room.”
"We go out there now and we know we can beat (anyone)," said Jonas Hiller. "You can feel it out there. Something has changed."
Hiller has been one of the big reasons for that self-assuredness, having unquestionably his best run of the season with a 1.38 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage in his last four starts. He's been so good, in fact, his coach was claiming he got robbed of one of the NHL's Three Stars of the Week that were announced Monday, despite a stretch in which he went 6 1/2 periods of regulation without giving up a goal.
“When you're out West, you don't get the love you do when you're out East,” Boudreau said yesterday, despite the fact he's only been a West Coast coach for a couple months now. “There's no way that Hiller shouldn't have been one of the three stars of the week. It's amazing how the Ducks don't get the love from those guys."
Hiller will be back in there tonight against a Coyotes team that is 11th in the West after a rough start to 2012. Their 6-1 win at home Monday night snapped a stretch in which they had dropped five of six to January. They are also 0-2-3 in their last five on the road.
Goalie Mike Smith was the first off the ice at warmups this morning, and figures to get the start for Phoenix. Smith has been snakebit lately, giving up just six goals in his last five starts, but only having won two of those as Phoenix has struggled to fill the other net. That wasn't a problem Monday, however, as Smith had 38 saves in a 6-1 rout of Colorado at home.
This isn't much, but it's something: If the Ducks can get two points tonight, they crawl out of the 14th spot in the West for the first time in a couple of months, and will be 12 short of that coveted eighth spot with 37 games to go.
|"You've got something in your hair, Bob."
The Anaheim Ducks, on the other hand, played some of their best hockey of the season, and pieced together the type of streak we have been awaiting for months.
The Ducks pulled off a triumphant three-game voyage through Western Canada, winning their fifth game in the last six in the process, and coming within a whisker in Calgary of owning a six-game win streak. And they saved their best win for last, a convincing 4-2 victory Sunday night over the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks (back near the top of the conference once again). That win -- in the Canucks' barn, no less -- came two nights after the Ducks routed Edmonton 5-0 in their building (notable for a team that had only three road wins in the season's first half.)
In both wins, the Ducks did it with a stingy defense in front of Jonas Hiller making pretty much all the saves they needed him to make. Meanwhile, the Ducks are pouring in goals at the other end. "I looked up in the second period with five minutes to go and said, Holy crap, they only had five shots on goal." Boudreau said of the Vancouver game. "This is unheard of for the Canucks. So I was really proud of them.
"It was the same thing in Calgary, when they had six shots at the end of two periods. If you keep it up, I'll start to think it's not luck anymore."
For the Ducks, it's the kind of win streak (or points streak) we knew they had in them. We just expected it in November or December. As it is, they're still 14th in the West with a 15-22-7 record. But they're 5-1-1 since the return of Jason Blake (maybe a coincidence, maybe not). They're unbeaten in regulation since George Parros chopped off his hair at his Cut for the Kids event on January 5 (definitely a coincidence).
The Blake stat seems less of a coincidence after the game the 38-year-old Blake turned in Sunday night, scoring two goals and adding an assist. He also had a goal among the five Friday night in Edmonton.
"It was a great night for our hockey club," Blake said. "We know how important it is for us to move forward. We've got to take care of ourselves. I think right now we can't look at the standings.
"The only way we can keep this going is it's up to us in this room."
The Ducks, like a lot of us, got a well-deserved day off yesterday (well-deserved for them, not necessarily us.)
Today they get after it again at Honda Center, preparing for a three-game home stretch that starts with Phoenix tomorrow and continues with a rare home back-to-back this weekend against Ottawa and Colorado.
"We're jumping on it," Boudreau said. "We're hoping it's springing us. It's something where we think we've gotten better every game. To give up three goals on this trip and to start scoring four and five goals a game ... We're a long ways away. But we're making headway."
Jonas Hiller, who came out of Sunday's win over Columbus and missed all of Tuesday's win over Dallas with an injury, wasn't supposed to start against the Flames last night. Bruce Boudreau had indicated after the morning skate that Hiller was healthy enough to return, but would back up Jeff Deslauriers. But there was Hiller in his net when the Ducks came out for the anthem, and it's a good thing too.
He was spectacular in net all night, as the Ducks made things a little easier on him by giving up only 19 shots (just six in the first 40 minutes). But it was the 19th that would bite them, 1:51 into overtime, as Blair Jones' first shot was denied by Hiller, but Jones was able to scoop in the rebound for the game-winner.
At the other end of the rink, longtime Ducks nemesis Miikka Kiprusoff was sharp yet again, shutting out a Ducks team that had scored 16 times in the previous three games. Kipper saved all 23 Anaheim bids, and two potential Ducks goals were cancelled by replay review. The first came late in the first period when it confirmed that Rod Pelley kicked the puck into the net. Then halfway through the third, Kiprusoff stuck out his leg pad to stop a Niklas Hagman try, and his momentum carried him into the net. Unfortunately for the Ducks, there was nothing on the replay that conclusively proved the disc went over the stripe.
"It's a game of inches," Bruce Boudreau said. "It could have gone either way. We didn't win it. We got a point but at this stage of the game, I think we need two."
It's true, but the Ducks (whose three-game win streak was snapped) can take some solace in the fact that came away with a point against a Flames team that is now 10-0-1 in their last 11 at home, and have now won eight straight there for the first time in five years.
"I felt we played well enough to get two points," said Saku Koivu. "We got one, but when you look at our situation, and where we are, in games likes this we can't afford to lose that one point. We've got to get that extra one."
The Ducks turn right around and will try to get those two points tonight in Edmonton, where the Oilers had a great start to the season but have dropped 22 of their last 30. They sit just above the Ducks in 13th place in the West, partly because of injury issues. Their top two scorers -- Jordan Eberle (knee) and super-rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) -- are both out tonight. They are also without defensemen Ryan Whitney, Cam Barker and Tom Gilbert, who are all out with ankle injuries, interestingly enough. (Well, interesting to everyone but the Oilers.)
"The wins on the road have been really tough for us," Koivu said. "We were able to keep them under 15 shots throughout almost the whole game. We did a lot of good things out there. You're trying to build on things with things like this and games like this and grab all the positives for tomorrow's game and then hopefully get the win."
Like with Calgary last night, it's the first time the Ducks and Oilers have faced off this season. The Ducks won three of the four matchups last season, and have taken seven straight at Rexall Place. Jeff Deslauriers could return to the net tonight, against and Oilers team he played with from 2008 through 2010.
|Rare and valuable photo of Corey Perry falling on a goalie.
"We've been successful a little bit the last three games, but I think we've got the worst road record in the league," Bruce Boudreau said. "It's about time we start getting at that a little better. I mean, it's embarrassing, only three wins at the halfway mark on the road."
Anaheim begins a three-game Canadian jaunt in Calgary tonight, where they will have their work cut out for them to improve a 3-10-5 road record. (By the way, yes I'm aware that one of the road losses came while wearing the black third jerseys in Winnipeg.) The Flames are 20-19-5 this season, but an astounding 9-0-1 in their last 10 at Scotiabank Saddledome. That includes a 6-3 win over the Devils two nights ago, in a game where they were outshot 38-14. They're looking to win their eighth straight at home for the first time since 2007.
"They're a completely different team on the road than they are at home," Boudreau said. "They come out hard. They hit. They're a meat-and-potatoes team. They've got a lot of hungry fans there every night, making a lot of noise."
In 12 career home starts against the Ducks, Miikka Kiprusoff is 9-2-1 with a 1.91 goals-against average, even though he lost both home games to Anaheim last season. The Ducks actually took all four matchups last year, including two at Honda Center, where they haven't lost to Calgary in the regular season since January 19, 2004.
Oddly enough, tonight is the first time this season they've faced Calgary.
Boudreau indicated this morning that Jonas Hiller has recovered nicely from the lower body injury that knocked him out of Sunday's game and kept him out of the win over Dallas two nights ago. However, tonight he will backup Jeff Deslauriers, who gave up just two goals in winning that game against the Stars. Here is the rest of the expected lineup:
"It's nice to go on the road with a different feeling," Bobby Ryan said. "Winning three in a row and finishing off the homestand in good fashion leads to a little bit of confidence, and you need confidence going into a building like that."
It's no secret the Ducks need their recent winning ways to snowball into something much more to have any hope of getting into the postseason race.
"If you know me, I'd certainly say it can," Boudreau said. "I'm going to preach it until it can't. You watch the news every day. Miracles happen. So why can't miracles happen in sport?"
Said Teemu Selanne this morning, "We were struggling for a long time and really put ourselves behind the eight ball," said Teemu Selanne this morning. "That's the toughest part, especially when we feel we still have a good team here. If you had a bad team, you could live with that. That's why it's been so tough. We're just trying to stay hot right now and see how far we can go. You never know. It's a half-season. We've done it before. It's not easy, but it's possible."
Also, "My kid's going to have some hockey tournament," Selanne said. “I think it's important I spend time at home, too. I'm looking forward to it."
Perry leads the Ducks again with 18 goals, including his fourth career hat trick on Sunday night. "He says it could be his last year, so it surprised me," Perry said. "But that's the way he is. When something comes up for somebody else, he's going to help them get there, and that's what he did. That's the type of guy he is, and he's always been that way. Going near the end of his career, it means something to me."
Perry has a lot of family from Ottawa, and this will be a chance to play in front of them. “I’m excited,” he said. ”My dad’s side is all in Ottawa. It’s going to be kind of a homecoming for me. It’s special.”
Here's video of them both, courtesy of the Flames:
|Now let's find the three pucks from 2002.
- Ebby Calvin "Nuke" Laloosh (1988)
It goes without saying, everything is better when you win. Food tastes better, the drinks go down more smoothly, sleep is sounder. And in the Ducks locker room last night, following a resounding third straight victory, the team's victory song was blasting and the mood was noticeably jovial.
That was especially true for linemates, good friends and follow Finns Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu in talking about the Koivu hat trick that led the Ducks to an emphatic 5-2 victory over the visiting Stars." In my career, it hasn’t happened too often to get three in one game and get a hat trick," Koivu said. "So, I’ll take that. There's only two of those so you can't forget them."
Indeed, Koivu's only other three-goal night came when he was with Montreal in a game against Pittsburgh on November 18, 2002. Last night the third one came on an empty-netter, after Selanne picked up the puck at center ice with only defenseman Alex Goligoski between him and the abandoned cage. Instead of trying to score it himself, Selanne unselfishly dropped it to Koivu, who poured it in from just behind the blue line. Selanne, by the way, was playing in his 1,300th game and assisted on two of Koivu's second goal as well.
"There's no way I would take a shot myself," Selanne said with a smile. "I knew Saku was going to have a chance to score a hat trick. I'm so happy for him. You don’t see that very often. Usually, he’s the passer."And what did Koivu say to Selanne after that? "I said, 'Thank you. You have enough of those, so you've got to give me one."
Indeed, Selanne still holds the lead in the career hat tricks race, 22-2. Noting the near decade between the 37-year-old Koivu's first and second, Selanne joked, "He's probably not going to get the third one."
Koivu's hatty, which came two nights after Corey Perry had one against Columbus, marked the first time in Ducks history the team had hat tricks in consecutive games. (We need to come up with a term for three straight hat tricks. Maybe the Golden Fedora?)
It also overshadowed a momentous night for one Jeff Deslauriers, who had 26 saves in his first appearance since April 11, 2010, when he was with the Oilers. How's this for ironic? That game was also at Honda Center, a 7-2 loss to the Ducks in which Deslauriers had 38 saves. It was also the last game ever for Scott Niedermayer.
Deslauriers had a strong first period last night, but the Stars tied it on two quick goals by Steve Ott and Goligoski to start the second period. But that was all Deslauriers and the Ducks would allow, as Koivu gave Anaheim the lead back with a pretty move to the backhand on a nice drop pass by Selanne, after he flew so quickly down the left wing I think you can still see the burn marks on the ice. Five minutes later, Matt Beleskey gave the Ducks the all-important insurance goal, banging in a rebound out of the air for his long-awaited first goal of the year.
And In a season in which very little has gone as planned for the Ducks, they've won three straight for the first time since October 8-17, the last two behind goalies who weren't even on the roster a week ago. Sunday evening it was 26-year-old rookie Iiro Tarkki coming in for the injured Jonas Hiller and earning the win against the Jackets. Last night it was Deslauriers doing it in his first NHL regular season game in 21 months.
"Obviously it's been a year and a half since I've played an NHL game so it's been a long time," Deslauriers said. "So I was very happy to be back in. Everybody here makes me feel like part of the family. We won because the guys played hard in front."
And they showed the heart to win the type of game they may have lost earlier this season, not folding after giving up their lead in such quick fashion, but instead fighting back. "It was a character win," Selanne said. "We were up 2-0 and they came back, but today we felt like we were a good team. Nothing really bothered us. We knew that we were going to bounce back and find a way to win the game. That is what we’ve been waiting a long time for."
"That's where you can see the biggest difference at this moment," Koivu said of the Ducks' ability to regain the lead Tuesday after Dallas had pulled even, 2-2, on goals by Steve Ott and Alex Goligoski at 1:39 and 2:43 of the third period.
"A month, six weeks ago, them scoring those two quick goals in the third period, I think we would have been done," Koivu said. "But now we were able to bounce back and got the third goal and then the fourth one, and those are huge goals and really brought the momentum back to our team."
The Ducks have been able to do it at home, now we'll see if they can do it in Canada, where they face Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in the next four days. They practice today before heading out on that trip, when we'll have a better idea if Hiller is ready to return (Bruce Boudreau proclaimed both Hiller and Parros day-to-day this morning). For now though, the delight in creating a semblance of a winning atmoshphere still lingers.
"I don't see any reason why we can't stay hot and make a run," Selanne said. "Anything is possible."
Two straight wins behind goalies who were in Syracuse this time last week? Two straight hat tricks, including the first from Koivu in more than nine years? Anything is possible indeed.
|After tonight, Selanne will have played 1,300 more NHL games than I have. Incredible.|
Jonas Hiller, who was injured in the first period in Sunday night's emphatic victory over Columbus, will not be available, according to Bruce Boudreau. The good news, however, is that he may ready for Thursday at Calgary (a breath of fresh air for those worried he might be out for a significant amount of time, like backup Dan Ellis).
Last night, the Ducks flew in Jeff Delauriers from Syracuse, who may get the nod tonight vs. the Stars, according to Boudreau. His call-up was announced this morning, along with the reassignment of JF Jacques, who received a three-game suspension for his elbow to the head of RJ Umberger on Sunday night.
Iiro Tarkki, of course, was called up over the weekend and got his first NHL win when he made an unexpected appearance after Hiller went down. He was summoned over Deslauriers originally because his numbers at Syracuse were better -- 2.85 goals-against average and .916 save percentage vs. 3.86 and .877 for Deslauriers.
However, Boudreau emphasized that he may go with Deslauriers because he has had past success against Dallas. Deslauriers has played 58 NHL games, all in two seasons with Edmonton, but none in the regular season since 2009-10. Two of those were starts against the Stars, in which he was 1-1-0 with a 2.89 GAA and .902 SV%.
Pete Peeters, the likeable goaltending coach for the Ducks, was working extra with both netminders at this morning's skate. He said yesterday of Tarkki being thrust in there on Sunday, “He got thrown in the frying pan and he did admirable. My hats off to him. Time change, traveling all day. I don’t know what his body was going through. I know as an older guy flying with the team through time zones, it’s tough on your body.”
Peeters also pointed out that Tarkki is not your everyday NHL rookie. "Iiro’s not like an 18-or 19-year-old,” he said. ”He’s played in the Finnish Elite League. He’s definitely made a name for himself in Europe. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable. Once you get comfortable and the confidence comes, you never know what can happen.”
Back to tonight, the Stars (ninth in the Western Conference) are on a mini roll, having won three of their last four, including a New Year's Eve win over the nearly-unbeatable Bruins at home. Seven of their last eight goals have been scored by either leading point-scorer Jamie Benn or Mike Ribeiro, who will be out tonight with an MCL strain. Meanwhile, the Stars have scored exactly four goals in each of their last four games (their only loss in that stretch a 5-4 defeat at home to Detroit).
Goalie Kari Lehtonen, who missed Dallas' last game with the flu (a win Saturday over Edmonton) is expected to go tonight. Dallas is also expected to get back big d-man Sheldon Souray, who has missed the last half dozen games with a sprained ankle.
For the Ducks, George Parros will be out with a tweaked groin, but like Hiller, could be available Thursday at Calgary, the start of a three-game Canadian jaunt in which the Ducks also visit Edmonton on Friday and Vancouver on Sunday.
And while the Ducks hope for a third straight win to end this homestand, the Stars are looking for a third straight over Anaheim this year. The Ducks fell 3-1 at home on October 21 and 5-3 in Dallas on December 19.
Tonight is also the 1,300th NHL game for Teemu Selanne, as he will become the 52nd player all-time, ninth European-born player, second Finnish-born player (Teppo Numminen), 36th forward, and ninth right wing to reach the milestone. He will also be the fourth active player to reach 1,300 games, following Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit (1,535), Roman Hamrlik of Washington (1,346) and Jaromir Jagr of Philadelphia (1,307).
Boudreau was asked about Selanne this morning, and said, "I told him today, 'Gordie Howe played until he was in his 50s, so I don't see what your problem is.'"
He added something we've all know about the Flash for years: "He's a better person than he is a player. And he's a really good player."