POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:12 PM
Not much to say going into this Ducks-Les Habitants game tonight at Honda Center other than:
- Ducks badly need a win
- Nobody got traded
Let's go, Ducks.
POSTED ON Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 5:39 PM
Two days after looking as down in the dumps as he seemingly ever has, Teemu Selanne was more optimistic in his talk with reporters after a second straight day of practice at Honda Center.
“Believe, that is the word,” said Selanne today. “You just have to look forward. You can’t do anything about the past. There is no time to feel sorry for ourselves because nobody else does.
"We are going to turn this around.”
The Ducks, looking to snap a seven-game skid, put in two good days of training on their home ice. Meanwhile, as is often the case when a team gets into a losing trend -- more so than ever in this current Twitter world -- rumors have been circulating about potential Ducks moves. Obviously, nothing rumor-wise will be addressed here, but Randy Carlyle did broach the subject today.
“Being a former player, I was traded a few times and the rumors were rampant when I was playing that there were going to do this or that, this trade was gonna happen and this guys was gonna get fired.” said Carlyle with a grin. (He played with the Leafs, Penguins and Jets in his 18-year career.) “If you believe every rumor that is put out, then I guess you believe them. You recognize that those types of situations develop when you don’t have success. That is part of the business. If you understand that, then you move on, you control what you can control and you go forward.”
Go forward they will, to a date tomorrow night with their third straight Original Six opponent, the Montreal Canadiens. The Ducks, mired in a funk that has stretched to almost six weeks, could badly use that one elusive victory to break this exasperating string. But Carlyle says it's about much more than just one win.
“Winning alleviates and makes everybody feel a little bit better,” he said. “One win is not going to be enough. We don’t look at it as one win and it’s all over. We have a mountain to climb here. It doesn’t start until you build a foundation. What we’re trying to do is build a foundation that our hockey club is going to play to a higher level than it has and more consistent. That's what we're asking.”
POSTED ON Monday, 11.28.2011 / 10:58 AM
He's the most famous and most beloved figure in the history of the organization, the owner of pretty much every major team record, the first person who comes to mind when you think of the Anaheim Ducks. He's the face of the franchise, a face that so often reflects what the team and its fans are feeling -- in the good times and the bad times.
Last night, after a disheartening 5-2 loss at home to the Maple Leafs, was one of the bad times, and you could see it in the eyes of a dejected Selanne in the Ducks locker room.
Approached by a gaggle of reporters in front of a wall next to his locker, Selane was asked by Eric Stephens of the OC Register if the Ducks have begun to gain acceptance of their losing stretch. Selanne paused, looked into the distance, gathered his thoughts and took a deep breath. "I hope not," he said, his face drained of emotion and still decorated with a mustache that has grown throughout this frustrating month of November. "A lot of talking, a lot of meetings ... there is no answer. It seems to me that nothing works. You try and stay positive and find some bright sides, but ... it's just unbelievable right now. I know everybody hates this situation."
He paused again. "Enough talking. Out there, you know, there are the answers," he said, pointing to the ice. "The last couple of games we've scored the first goal, come out with a lot of energy and them boom."
That boom hit the Ducks in a 19-second span last night, when they got on the board first on a Francois Beauchemin first period goal, then gave up two to Toronto in a flash later in the period and never recovered. Friday afternoon against Chicago, Anaheim took a 4-2 lead into the third period and gave up four unanswered in losing 6-5.
"The only thing you can do is, everybody just has to do their own job and believe and trust that the guy next to you can do the same thing. We need everybody right now."
Everybody (aside from Dan Ellis, who is still nursing that groin injury) was on the ice this morning for practice at Honda Center, in which the line combinations were shaken up a bit. Matt Beleskey skated on the right wing of the top line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, while Bobby Ryan was moved to the third unit with Niklas Hagman and Ben Maxwell.
We'll have more later today.
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On a personal note, thanks go out to Ducks team dentist Dr. Rick Morimoto and his assistant Alice, for coming in on a Sunday and fixing my chipped tooth yesterday (not going to elaborate on how it got chipped). Awesome guy, awesome dentist, awesome staff.
POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 10:53 AM
|Yeah, Smith's tall.
Anaheim's only trip outside of SoCal in a 30-day stretch that started earlier this month is a quick flight to Phoenix and a bus ride to Glendale, where the Ducks will try and turn things around against the Coyotes tonight.
"As nice as it is to be at home and be around family and things like that, it's a nice reprieve when you get to go on the road and get a little rest and some time with your teammates," Bobby Ryan said. "That's an important part of the process throughout a season. Guys will get together and talk about things, and hopefully it's a starting point for us tonight."
The Coyotes, as they've done so often the past few seasons, have risen above expectations in their first season without Ilya Bryzgalov since 2007. Former Star, former Lightning (bolt?) and current boring name guy Mike Smith has filled in nicely, with a 9-3-3 record, 2.16 goals-against average and a gaudy .936 save percentage. The 6-foot-4 Smith is a major reason the Yotes are hanging around the eighth spot with a 10-6-3 record despite a loss two nights ago in Washington.
The Ducks have seen Smith already this season, scoring four goals against him in a disappointing 5-4 loss at Honda Center back on October 23. That defeat was the second straight in a weekend stay at home, and two days later the Ducks began that fateful seven-game, 13-day road trip that made it easy to forget about their hot 4-1-0 start to the season.
Now the Ducks are 6-10-4 at the (mixed metaphor alert) quarter-pole of the NHL marathon and looking to right the ship immediately. And if you think your favorite team is making you lose sleep, imagine being their coach. Randy Carlyle broached that subject after practice yesterday, just before he and his troops headed up to LAX for the quick flight to the desert.
"There’s a buzzer that goes off in my brain somewhere around 3 in the morning and it’s always about what’s going on at work and what’s going on with the hockey club," he told reporters in his familiar spot in the Honda Center hallway. "Then there’s a toss and turn for sometimes two hours, sometimes it’s three hours and sometimes it’s one hour.
"And then you want to sleep till 10 because you’re tired and you’ve just gotten back to sleep at 5. Those are the things that happen. Part of the stress and the pressure that comes with not having the success you feel you’re capable of."
More than sleep habits, Carlyle also talked about his hopes for relatively new Duck Ben Maxwell, the former Winnipeg Jet waiver wire pickup who should be getting some time on the third line tonight. Maxwell centered that unit a bit in the third period Sunday night against Detroit and in yesterday's practice he skated there with other new Duck Niklas Hagman and young Duck Devante Smith-Pelly.
“I thought he displayed in a couple of instances, his hockey sense and his ability with the puck,” Carlyle said. “We think that we’ll give him a look in the middle right now with Hagman and Smith-Pelly. We’ve experimented and tried other people there and I don’t think we were really comfortable with that."
Maxwell has limited NHL experience -- 36 NHL games in four seasons with Montreal and the Thrashers/Jets -- but he put up good numbers with Hamilton of the AHL (142 points in 177 games).
“I played in the NHL parts of the last three or four seasons,” the 23-year-old Maxwell said. “I just never really stuck around. I think now, I’m not taking it for granted. I don’t have infinite chances. I have to take advantage of one of these. I’m hoping to do that here.”
Despite playing them (and the rest of the Pacific) six times a season, the Ducks have not been to Glendale since last January 15.
Tonight's game is at 6 p.m. Pacific time on Prime Ticket, a nice way to start a holiday weekend that includes the Ducks' traditional day-after-Thanksgiving matinee with the Blackhawks on Friday at Honda Center.
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Meanwhile, in case you need a good hockey-related chuckle right about now, this one actually made me laugh out loud:
POSTED ON Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 1:02 PM
George Parros was recently interviewed in ESPN the Magazine about his mustache and the progress of his teammates during Movember. Here's that piece:
Q: When we think George Parros, we think wild goatee. How did it feel to shave it all off and try a new look?
For one, I instantly looked 10 years younger, and some people didn’t recognize me. But I have an affinity for NHLers from the 1970s and ‘80s who grew fantastic mustaches. I think I was meant to have a mustache.
Q: Any surprising benefits to your mustache?
It adds character and a swagger you might not have without it. It’s funny because I’m even seeing my teammates who are sprouting ‘staches in a different light now.
Q: What does your wife think about your ‘stache?
She tolerates it. She prefers me to have a sparse one.
Q: How are your teammates doing in the Ron Swanson department?
Andrew Cogliano and Luca Sbisa are off to good starts, as is Sheldon Brookbank, who grew the team’s best mustache last year. Corey Perry is pathetic at growing a mustache, but at least he tries.
Q: What does this year’s winner receive?
Last year, I gave an incredible secondhand leather jacket that complemented any mustache. This year, it’s going to be a surprise. Ask me again on Dec. 1.
POSTED ON Monday, 11.21.2011 / 10:35 AM
The details of Thursday night vs. the Kings and last night vs. the Red Wings were eerily similar -- and that's not a good thing.
Both were bitter rivalry games in which the Ducks tied to try it on a late 6-on-4, only to be stomach-punched by a clinching empty net goal. It happened in that 5-3 defeat to the Kings and history repeated itself last night in a 4-2 loss to the Red Wings.
The Ducks were put in an early hole when they gave up early-in-period goals to some familiar faces. It was Henrik Zetterberg 1:26 into the first and Johan Franzen just 14 seconds into the second. A few minutes after Franzen's tally, Brad Stuart piled on with a goal from the right circle to make it 3-0, leading Ryan Getzlaf to say, "I thought we came out of the gates okay. We still dug a hole. There is no doubt about that. The score doesn’t lie. At some point during the game, we let ourselves get down and get behind."
But to the Ducks' credit, they didn't hang their heads, getting one back on an odd-man rush one-timer from Saku Koivu and then a power play goal by Teemu Selanne set up by a nifty backhand pass through the crease by Corey Perry.
That drew Anaheim within a goal, which is where it stood when they were handed two power play opportunities late in the game. They didn't get the goal they needed off Justin Abdelkater's boarding call with 5:46 left, but they had another chance when Jonathan Ericsson was whistled for hooking with 2:34 on the clock.
As was the case when they desperately tried to tied the score against the Kings, Randy Carlyle pulled his goalie (Dan Ellis Thursday; Jonas Hiller last night) to create a 6-on-4. And for the second straight game, a giveaway on that power play did the Ducks in. The Ducks let the puck slip away into the slot, where Stuart picked it up and artfully banked it off the wall and into the middle of the abandoned net from 120 feet away. (Watching that puck slowly roll along the ice toward that net with no one in front of it was a little like watching a car crash transpire with no way of stopping it. Too dramatic? I don't think so.)
The 4-2 final on the scoreboard didn't reflect how close the Ducks came to tying that game. It didn't reflect the close calls, like Bobby Ryan's rebound try 13 minutes into the second, where Jimmy Howard dove across the crease to knock the puck away with his glove, Ryan raising his arms in the air thinking he'd gotten his long-awaited goal. Replays showed the puck got ever-so-close to crossing the stripe in the air, but not definitively enough to reverse the call on the ice. There was another near-miss with less than a minute to go in the second, when an apparent Devante Smith-Pelly goal was deflected away by the handle (the handle) of Howard's stick. Seconds later, Ryan roofed in a loose puck, only to have the whistle blow as soon as he touched it because of a Smith-Pelly cross checking penalty.
When you're winning, those are the kinds of things that go your way. When you're struggling, they all too often go against you. And that's what the Ducks are dealing with right now.
"It’s tough. It’s a new experience for us here," said Getzlaf of the Ducks' continued struggles. "We have to find a way to dig ourselves out of this thing."
They were given a day off today, and their next chance comes on the road, Wednesday night in Phoenix.
"We are in a situation where we have to play ourselves out of it and that includes me," Getzlaf continued. "I just have to keep playing and we have to lead by example. Our group here, who I have been with for a little while, we have a great core of leaders and we just have to keep pushing."
POSTED ON Thursday, 11.17.2011 / 11:02 AM
I've never been much of an "at least we got a point" kind of guy. But as disappointing as that shootout with the Kings ended up last night, you had to feel a little fortunate the Ducks came away with something from that night at Staples Center.
The Ducks, by their own admission, were not strong in the first half of that game, and didn't generate a ton offensively until the third period (outshot 29-12 through two). But thanks to the work of Jonas Hiller and the guys in front of him, they were able to keep it a 1-0 game until late in regulation. That's when they caught a break (after being on the wrong side of the breaks earlier in the period), when Justin Williams got his stick blade into Cam Fowler's skate blade and got whistled for the tripping minor. That opened the door for a power play in which the Ducks took quick advantage, Teemu Selanne firing from his familiar left wing circle spot, sneaking the puck past a previously perfect Jonathan Quick.
There was some thought that the puck nicked Corey Perry's shin before squeezing under Quick's arm, but the goal was credited to Selanne. More importantly, it was a Ducks goal, and it forced overtime at a late stage in the game.
For a team stuggling to find the net, even that which seemed like a goal wasn't a goal. Earlier in the third period, Selanne's shot from the right wing kicked off Quick to Ryan Getzlaf, who batted the puck in with his left glove. The goal was waved off on the ice, and replay reviews confirmed that Getzlaf missed touching the disc with his stick by no more than a few inches.
Thankfully for the Ducks, that disappointment didn't sway them from eventually getting the equalizer, ultimately giving way to overtime and a marathon shootout that the Kings took in the seventh round. Both Hiller and Quick were sharp in the tiebreaker, each giving up one conversion (Stoll for LAK; Getzlaf keeping things alive for ANA) before Williams wristed a shot over Hiller's shoulder in the top of the seventh inning. Randy Carlyle countered with defenseman Kurtis Foster, whose wrist shot was denied by Quick for the win.
That dropped the Ducks to 1-3 in the shootout, their only success coming in that second game of the year, against the Rangers in Stockholm. Those three defeats have come in a tough stretch in which the Ducks have won just twice in the last 13 games. Those are the types of numbers that wouldn't need to be thrown about if things had just gone a different way a couple times in that finicky tiebreaker format.
"It's tough to lose a point in that kind of fashion, but I thought the boys played a hard game," Bobby Ryan said. "We had so many chances and Quick was standing on his head, really sucking pucks in and not letting any rebounds or chances for us." Quick, by the way, is reportedly starting in goal again tonight. No word from the Ducks, but there is speculation from Eric Stephens of the OCR that Ellis will be in net.
Just like with "at least we got a point," I'm not a big believer in momentum in sports, especially when it's supposed to be carried from one game to another. That being said, the way the Ducks played in the second half of that game has to be a boost for them going into Game 2 of this Freeway Face-Off home and home, a highly anticipated rematch tonight at Honda Center.
"We got the point and we worked hard for it," Carlyle said. "It’s one shot away in the shootout from being a difference maker. Right now things aren’t going our way, but if we work as hard as we did in the last half of this hockey game, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel."
And that's the beauty of the way this schedule worked out. As much as the Ducks and their fans would like another shot at those Kings after last night, they won't have to wait long for it. It should be a fun one tonight in our building.
POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 2:15 PM
If ever there was added motivation for the Ducks to return to their winning ways, it comes this week.
Starting tonight in Los Angeles, the Ducks will play back-to-back home-and-homes with the Kings in the renewal of the Freeway Face-Off rivalry. Then Sunday it's a rematch with another familiar foe, the Red Wings, who spoiled the end of that difficult Ducks road trip with a 5-0 victory in Detroit on November 5.
The Ducks (and their fans, for that matter) would love nothing more than to turn things around in those games, which could prove critical in determining how things go the rest of this important month. "The games are always spirited with LA," Randy Carlyle said this morning. "We need something good to happen with our group, but we're going to have to earn it. If we're not prepared to go to battle with the group they have up there in LA, we'll be embarrassed. We have to be ready."
The Kings have similar motivation in these next two games, as they haven't exactly been lighting up the world so far this season. They're 5-2 decision over Minnesota on Saturday night was just their second win in the last eight games. They're currently 10th in the West with 19 points (four more than Anaheim). The plights of both teams are a far stretch from where they were last time they battled on back-to-back nights, last April when the Ducks won both games to end the regular season and catapult into the fourth slot in the West.
It's an understatement that scoring first will be important tonight. The Ducks are 6-0-2 when they get the first goal, 0-8-1 when they don't.
Carlyle said this morning that both Bobby Ryan (who missed yesterday's practice with the flu) and Dan Ellis (who left practice early with groin issues) will be available tonight. Center Ben Maxwell, who the Ducks plucked off waivers last week, is also available after securing his work visa and getting into Orange County yesterday. But as Carlyle said yesterday, "It’s a little bit unfair to expect him to jump into your lineup off an airplane tonight.”
Niklas Hagman, whom the Ducks claimed off waivers yesterday, will not be in the lineup tonight and probably not tomorrow night back at Honda Center, as he too has to get his work visa. Hagman, like Maxwell, will have to fly to Canada and fill out the proper paperwork at a U.S. consulate.
Hagman, who has skated with the team the last two days, said yesterday, "I'm happy to be here. Obviously I need a little bit of a fresh start for my career. It's a good place to come. ... Hopefully I'll get my visa thing settled and I get to play."
Teemu Selanne, Hagman's teammate on a number of Finnish national teams, said of Hagman, "He’s an unbelievable skater. Fast. Strong like a bull. Brings a lot of energy. And you know what? He can score goals. He has really good skills and sometimes doesn’t get enough credit. I believe it’s just a confidence thing. He’s going to be a big help for us.”
That help will have to come later, as right now Hagman will be watching these two crucial games with the Kings like the rest of us. (I will, by the way, be at Staples Center tonight doing a live game log if anyone is interested.)
As far as the importance of these next two nights, this comment came from Cam Fowler came after the Ducks fell to Minnesota Sunday night, but it's worth repeating: "We should be going into those two games like Stanley Cup Game 7. It's a big rivalry. Playing those guys back-to-back, home-and-home, it could get us going in the right way or it could set us back again. We have to be ready."
POSTED ON Monday, 11.14.2011 / 11:26 AM
It can be a finicky game, this hockey. And the Ducks proved that during an up-and-down weekend.
Friday night Anaheim played two good periods against the Canucks and came away with a 4-3 win. Last night they played two good ones against the Wild, and lost 3-2. But it was the timing of those two good periods, not just the end result, that made those two games seem worlds apart.
Friday night, following a scoreless first, the Ducks raced out to a 4-0 lead (thanks in part to a game-changing elbowing major by Aaron Rome on Devante Smith-Pelly) and barely hung on for dear life through a three-goal third period by the Canucks.
Last night, a rough first period in which the Wild scored three unanswered left the Ducks in a hole they could never recover from, and Cam Fowler goals in the second and third periods were not quite enough. Fowler scored the second one (his second of the year) with less than a minute left in the third and the Anaheim net empty, but the Ducks couldn't repeat the feat over the last 52 1/2 seconds. (Meanwhile, the clang of the left goalpost is still ringing in our ears as two Teemu Selanne efforts to get the Ducks closer in the second chipped the red paint but didn't go in.)
After another tough loss, it was Fowler -- the 19-year-old with the poise of a man twice his age -- who encapsulated the sentiment surrounding this team and its tendency to get off to bad starts. "It’s up to us in here to figure out what is going on with the start of our games," a downtrodden Fowler said. "Especially with this big home stretch here, we should be excited to play and ready to go in the first period. It just seems like one bad bounce after the other. We just put ourselves so far behind. The next thing you know, the next two periods we have to claw out of it.
"On paper, you look at this team and we should be doing a lot better than we are. Paper only says so much. It’s up to us right now to rally around each other."
While the Ducks erupted for a four-goal second period Friday night against the conference champs, their season-long lack of goal-scoring was addressed this morning when they claimed veteran Niklas Hagman off re-entry waivers. The 31-year-old Hagman is a three-time 20-goal scorer who was off to a slow start in Calgary, with just a goal and three assists so far this year. But he's a proven scorer who had 27 goals with Dallas four seasons ago and 25 with Toronto and Calgary in 2009-10. Last year he had 11 goals in 71 games with the Flames.
Hagman was originally placed on waivers last Thursday, went unclaimed and ended up in Abbotsford of the AHL. When he was placed on re-entry waivers, the Ducks nabbed him, meaning they will take on a prorated half his salary and the Flames will pick up the other half.
Hagman is already familiar with a few Ducks, having played on a couple of Finnish Olympic teams with Selanne and Saku Koivu and on Swiss team HC Davos with Jonas Hiller during the lockout.
We'll have more on Hagman later today, including how soon he can join the team. To make room for him, the Ducks reassigned Peter Holland, who had his first NHL goal Friday night vs. Vancouver, eliciting one of the cooler quotes of the season. "I don’t think I could feel my legs when it went in the net," Holland said. "It was pretty cool. I kind of decided that I want to do that again. It was pretty special and something I will never forget. To score it on Luongo, one of the best goalies in the league, that adds to it as well."
Meanwhile, it was another Ducks youngster, Fowler, who vocalized how the Ducks need to approach their next two games -- back-to-back Freeway Face-Off battles with the Kings on Wednesday at Staples Center and Friday back home.
"We have to put some wins together now, and it starts on Wednesday," Fowler said. "We should be going into those two games like Stanley Cup Game 7. It’s a big rivalry. Playing those guys back-to-back in a home-and-home, it could get us going in the right way in a position direction or it could set us back again. We have to be ready."
POSTED ON Friday, 11.11.2011 / 1:29 PM
As friendly as the Ducks' upcoming schedule already is over the next three weeks -- with 10 of the next 12 in Anaheim -- it's a little more helpful when you consider the road their opponents face before coming into Honda Center. And that may help matters as the Ducks once again try to steer out of their skid.
For the second straight game, the Ducks are taking on a team playing the second of a back-to-back, having played the Kings in LA the night before. Of course, that didn't help matters Wednesday night when the Ducks fell to a Predators squad that had lost to LA the previous night. Though Nashville rested top goalie Pekka Rinne that night (his first night off of the season) and he was back in there to thwart the Ducks in a 4-2 victory.
Tonight the Canucks come in here less than 24 hours after beating the Kings 3-2 at Staples Center behind No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo, who will reportedly be in there again when the defending Western Conference champs take on Anaheim tonight. Luongo had a solid night in what has been a slightly off-kilter season for him in which he's sporting a 2.96 goals-against average and a .898 save percentagein 11 games. Backup Cory Schneider, who got some serious time in net when Luongo struggled in last year's postseason, has had better numbers in his six appearances. He was the only goalie on the ice (along with five skaters) at the Canucks' optional skate this morning, but then surprised reporters afterward by telling them he wasn't starting. Winger Alex Burrows, who has been out with back spasms, also skated this morning and will reportedly be a game-time decision.
The Ducks also had an optional skate this morning that saw the majority of the roster hit the ice for at least a little time in what was a casual atmosphere. Things were a lot more intense during a lengthy practice at Anaheim ICE yesterday, which was preceded by a nearly hour-long meeting that aimed to find answers.
Randy Carlyle was mostly vague about what was discussed, but offered, “You have to eliminate any confusion, any doubt before you can take the next step forward. If there’s any doubt on what we’re doing or what we should be doing in this situation or that situation that they’re presented with, then you try to deal with that right away. And that’s what you always do when you’re in those. You clarify, and try to focus again on moving forward.”
Teemu Selanne said a number of players made their voices heard in the meeting. “I think it’s important to get input from so many different guys, forwards, defensemen, centers, wingers, about the system. A lot of guys were talking and giving their opinions about how they feel about this and why it doesn’t work, really.
"A lot of times the coach is talking and nobody says a word and then you go on the ice and you think, Well, I don’t know if it’s working. So everybody has to buy into the system. It’s important that the players can give their input. It was good. It was really honest conversations ... a huge step forward.”
The Ducks can only hope that translates into a win tonight against a Canucks team that is averaging exactly three goals a game (dwarfing Anaheim's 1.87) and has the league's second best power play percentage. They're currently eighth in the West at 8-7-1.
A reminder, tonight's puck drop comes at 7:35 p.m. rather than the standard 7:05 p.m. start, a change that was made for TV purposes.