POSTED ON Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 10:32 AM
The first indication that it might not be their night unfortunately came very early for the Anaheim Ducks. A team that has given up an early first goal too many times during the swoon did it again to the Predators last night, and in ugly fashion.
Just 1:20 after the opening faceoff, before many in Honda Center had even found their seats, Nashville rookie Craig Smith made a seemingly innocuous toss on net from below the extended goal line. Ninety times out of 100 (heck 999 times out of 1,000) that puck remains harmless, but this time it kicked off Jonas Hiller's right skate blade and creeped over the stripe behind him, with Hiller looking back in disbelief.
“That’s something that can really take the wind out of your sails, especially when it happens to you early in a game,” Cam Fowler said later. “It’s up to us to battle through that adversity. You can tell on the bench that when those goals go in it kind of deflates us. But it’s up to us to rally around each other.”
As if one fluky goal wasn't enough, a few minutes later a Colin Wilson centering pass went off the stick blade of Saku Koivu and got past an outstretched Hiller, making it 2-0 very early. And you couldn't help but think of a Teemu Selanne quote earlier in the week, in which he said, “When they score one goal, all the heads go down and the body language goes, ‘Here we go again’. We have to change that.”
Things did get better for the Ducks this time, as they got within a goal of the Predators, but never tied it. They did get a big goal in the final minute of the first when a Cam Fowler shot from the point nicked a screening Devante Smith-Pelly and darted over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne. It was an awkward way for Smith-Pelly to get his first NHL goal, since the score was credited to Fowler for most of the game until replay reviews determined Smith-Pelly got a piece of it, which we didn't even find out until much later.
Either way, Anaheim was within a goal and on a power play in the second, offering hope that was tarnished when Martin Erat got on a breakaway, was pestered with a couple of stick slaps from behind by Lubomir Visnovsky and was stoned by Hiller. The official behind the net immediately awarded a penalty shot, a call that was questioned by many and became even more painful when Erat whistled a perfect wrist shot into the top corner.
Francois Beauchemin's got the Ducks within one again when he jabbed at a loose puck and got it behind Rinne. But one more time our hearts were broken by Smith, who beat Toni Lydman and one-timed a Wilson feed to make it 4-2 Nashville. Thanks in part to another strong night by Rinne, that ended up being the final.
The numbers are hard to look at: a sixth straight loss, nine of the last 10 and a loss to the budding rival Predators at home, where Anaheim had owned an 18-3-2 record against them. The more uplifting number: 10 of the next 12 games are at home, a critical time for the Ducks to turn things around. That starts today at practice, and tomorrow night against the Canucks at Honda Center.
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The Ducks made a move this morning, claiming former Winnipeg Jet (still feels weird to say that) center Ben Maxwell off waivers. The 23-year-old Maxwell played in four games with the Jets this season (no points) and is a former second-round pick by Montreal in '06. He played 20 games in two seasons there, and was traded to Atlanta (now the Jets) in a deal that brought defenseman Brent Sopel to the Canadiens. Maxwell played 12 games for the Thrashers last season.
Maxwell is expected to join the team ASAP and be available for tomorrow night's game.
We don't know much about him yet, but we do know he has met Justin Bieber.
POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.09.2011 / 2:09 PM
It couldn't come at a better time, this lengthy stay at home that starts tonight against the Predators at Honda Center.
This stretch -- in which the Ducks play 11 of the next 13 at Honda Center, only leaving town to go to LA and Phoenix -- comes in the wake of a road trip that Bobby Ryan called "an absolute nightmare." It comes to a team that has lost eight of its last nine, went down 5-0 in Detroit in its previous game and is last in the NHL in goals scored at 1.86
The Ducks have also played the fewest home games in the league this season with just four (that "home game" in Stockholm vs. the Rangers doesn't count), making this homestand a welcome respite. And you could hardly find a more intriguing matchup to launch it than the Nashville Predators.
The Preds, who ruined the Ducks' postseason last spring by eliminating them in six games of the first round, also contributed to making that Ducks trip so miserable. And it is that combination, in addition to some other factors, that has suddenly made Anaheim-Nashville an unexpectedly bitter rivalry.
Nashville dominated Anaheim 3-0 last October 29 at Bridgestone Arena, a game that got the Ducks' ire up for more than just a disappointing performance that kickstarted their five-game skid. Ryan Getzlaf was vociferous in his displeasure with Nashville pest Jordin Tootoo and his alleged diving, as quoted by Eric Stephens of the OC Register.
It will be interesting to see the interplay between Tootoo and guys like Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who was called for one of the slashes that Getzlaf referred to. Tootoo told The Tennessean newspaper today, "For me personally I know I'm doing my job, and I'm definitely going to bring that tonight."
The Ducks, meanwhile, have tried to downplay any animosity leading up to this game. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter right now,” said Teemu Selanne. “The main focus has to be (on us). We have to do our things right and get ourselves where we should be.”
David Legwand, the Predators' leading scorer with 14 points in 14 games, won't be in the lineup tonight as he recovers from what is being called an upper body injury. “I don’t think we have a lot of guys who are 18- to 20-minute guys who you can say, ‘go ahead and do it,’ ” said Nashville coach Barry Trotz about filling in for Legwand's absence. “It could be two or three guys picking up five or six minutes each.”
Nashville will have Pekka Rinne, who was tough on the Ducks last postseason and in that October 29 game, between the proverbial pipes tonight. Rinne gave way to backup Anders Lindback last night in LA, as the Predators were edged 4-3 in the first of a back-to-back. That win also snapped a five-game losing streak for the struggling Kings (the term misery loves company certainly has rung true for Ducks fans looking up the freeway at their rivals).
But as Selanne has said, it matters little what other teams are doing. Right now the Ducks' focus is on themselves, and there is no better time than during this friendly stretch of games. "I always believe that before the big success you have to go through some tough times," Selanne said. "Your team has to heal together, and I really believe this is one of those times.
"We have a really important home stretch coming up, so this is the time to take advantage of that and start really enjoying this game. This is the time. I'm really looking forward to playing well for the next month or so and turning this ship around."
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By the way, if you're at Honda Center tonight or Friday night vs. Vancouver, you'll notice a giant tent taking up a good portion of the parking lot on the northeast side of the arena. The tent, to answer some of your questions, is for the big UFC event being hosted at Honda Center on Saturday and aired on Fox.
Speaking of UFC, Dominick Cruz (they tell me he's a big-time fighter) will be at tonight's game signing autographs during the second intermission.
POSTED ON Monday, 11.07.2011 / 2:45 PM
Having just watched them endure a treacherous seven-game, 13-day road trip with only one win and just five standings points, it's not easy to feel great about the Ducks right now. But there is only so much looking back you can do on a stretch where the Ducks lost 8 of the last 9, puntcuated by a disheartening 5-0 defeat in Detroit on Saturday night.
Instead, we can find solace in what's ahead for Anaheim, which has 11 of its next 13 games at home, the road games being relatively easy jaunts to LA and Phoenix.
And if that's not motivating enough, spend a few minutes with Teemu Selanne and things somehow get even brighter.
Selanne spent a good amount of time with a small gathering of reporters today, following the Ducks' first practice after that marathon expedition that ended with the Ducks having lost eight of their last nine. And as only Teemu can, he stayed upbeat while still remaining stern, at times laughing and smilling while also getting serious about what the Ducks need to do to turn things around.
And when he was done talking -- but not until each reporter had run out of questions -- it was easy to think this too shall pass, and see things a whole lot sunnier than we did in the wake of Saturday's disheartening 5-0 loss in Detroit.
"Obviously it’s tough to lose in this league, especially on the road, you have too much time to think about the bad things," Selanne said. "I always think before you have success, you have to go through some tough times together. I really believe this is one of those times. I can’t wait to start winning again, and turn this around and have fun again. We have an important home stretch coming up and it’s the time to take advantage of that and start really enjoying this game."
"I always think before you have success, you have to go through some tough times together. I really believe this is one of those times. I can’t wait to start winning again, and turn this around and have fun again. We have an important home stretch coming up and it’s the time to take advantage of that and start really enjoying this game." Teemu Selanne
Selanne maintained that so much of what is ailing the Ducks right now is between the ears.
"You know what, everything is about confidence," he said while turning to his more philosophical side. "I don’t care who you are or what you do. If your confidence level is not where it should be, it’s tough to do anything great. When you don’t play with confidence, it’s like you’re expecting something bad to happen. When they score one goal, our heads go down and the body language is like, Here we go again. We’ve got to change that. Right now we need a couple good games as a team, like really good games, to get the confidence going, and after that, it’s easy."
There is no better time than the present, with the Ducks staying home (or close to it) for such a prolonged stretch. And it's about time. The Ducks have played nine games on the road (including two in Europe) and just five at Honda Center. "We have this home stretch coming up and this is the time," Selanne said. "I’m really looking forward to playing well in this next month or so and really turning this ship around. I don't think we've gotten close to our best level yet."
Selanne said he took a look at the grease board in the players' lounge that shows the updated conference standings and felt good about where the Ducks were despite that brutal stretch.
"If you look at the standings, as bad as we’ve played, we’re still only two points out of a playoff spot," he said, and it's true. The Ducks' 13 points has then two back of the eighth spot, just three back of fifth. "Everything is in our own hands. It’s not like we’re behind the 8 ball. At the same time, it’s not like we can wait. Everybody in this room has to do the job as well as they can and not wait for anybody else to do it, whether you play 30 minutes or you play 2 minutes."
There is also this: Through 14 games, the Ducks have 13 points. Through 14 games last year, they had ... 13 points. That team finished fourth in the Western Conference. It's cliche to say it's a marathon, not a sprint. But you know what? It's a marathon, not a sprint.
"It’s good to remind yourself, as bad as it is, it’s not that bad yet. We can’t do anything about the games we lost, but there are a lot of things to do before Wednesday’s game. We just need to focus on that, win that and move on."
Just before wrapping up, Selanne revealed that at last night's somewhat late team Halloween party, he went as ... Batman. Seems about right.
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The Ducks were missing a few bodies in practice today, as Saku Koivu and Francois Beauchemin were both out with the flu, Nick Bonino rested that hyperextended knee and George Parros sat out after taking a deflected puck to the face again (this time in practice Friday in Detroit). Parros got hit with a puck that caromed off the crossbar in practice and did damage to the right side of his face. Right after it happened this time, he tweeted: Groundhog day today at practice...guess my left I got jealous of all the attention #thisisgettingold and posted this picture.
It was revealed this afternoon that Parros had laser surgery on his left eye today to correct a torn retina. He is expected to make a full recovery and return to game action in approximately four weeks.
Meanwhile, Randy Carlyle said that yesterday's rain here in Orange County may have affected his team coming off that trip. "Today was a flat day on emotions," he said. "A lot had to do with the rain yesterday. You come back off a long road trip and you're expecting sunshine. They probably laid around, watched football all day and spent the day with their families. Then, the rain comes and that might have put a damper on it."
Carlyle tried to lighten the mood by having the team play a little bit of ball hockey at the beginning of practice, then got much more stern when the pucks hit the ice. He could be overheard saying the Ducks were playing "summer hockey" out there, to which Selanne later responded, "I wouldn’t call it that because summer hockey’s fun. This is not fun. I love summer hockey. Maybe it looks like it, but it doesn’t feel like it.”
Like Selanne, Carlyle was able to paint a more positive picture of the Ducks' plight. "As poorly as we talk about the results of the trip, we lost an overtime game and two shootouts. If we would have won those, then we'd be feeling a lot better about ourselves today," he said. "That is the difference between what is deemed as a successful road trip versus not having one. It's one goal here and one goal there. Two shootouts and an overtime really turned the road trip into a negative for us.
"Everybody needs to feel good about themselves. We're not proud of what is happening on the ice. We want to change the way we are playing. The ownership of our record lies directly with the players and coaching staff ... What we stressed at the end of practice is, we recognize how we've played, where we're at, who is responsible and how can we change it. That is all about us. It's not about anybody else."
POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 11:11 AM
You live by the shootout, you die by the shootout, and for Ducks fans, that method of breaking ties last night managed to break our hearts.
A strong effort by Anaheim in the final period and a half against the Rangers at the Garden was sullied by a crushing defeat in the oh-so-fickle shootout.
Moral victories aren't worth a whole heck of a lot -- one standings point, to be exact -- but the Ducks can take solace in a second-half performance against the Blueshirts that was leaps and bounds better than what they showed in Washington (despite the fact they scored three fewer goals). The Ducks were all over the Rangers net in the last period and a half, but just couldn't manage to squeeze much past a last line of defense known as Henrik Lundqvist. All Anaheim got was this seemingly innocent wrist shot on the rush from Bobby Ryan that managed to dart past Lundqvist's stick.
Meanwhile, the same Jonas Hiller who had a forgettable night against the high-flying Capitals looked more like the Jonas Hiller we're used to, making a number of acrobatic, game-rescuing saves among his 24 on the night. Most notable was this one on a Ryan Callahan breakaway, when the Ducks defense completely lost track of the NYR captain, and Hiller came up big with the leather on a number of other occasions.
But ironically enough, the same shootout that gave the Ducks a 2-1 victory over the Rangers last month in Stockholm did the complete opposite in the Garden. The elation we felt over Teemu Selanne's effortlessly roofed backhand was overshadowed by former Duck Erik Christensen and Marian Gaborik's scores on Hiller.
Still, the one point gained in that game and the one two nights prior in Washington prove valuable for a seemingly struggling Ducks team. Yes, they've lot seven of eight, but they've gained points in four of six games on this grueling journey, and can salvage a .500 trip with a win tomorrow night in Detroit.
Oh yes, Detroit, where the puzzling fortunes of the always-mighty Red Wings has gotten to the point where we're seeing articles entitled What's Wrong with the Red Wings? The Ducks and Wings could probably share some stories, as they too had a hot start to the season, only to see things slow down. They were undefeated after five games, then lost six in a row (including a 4-1 defeat to Calgary at home last night) and are now 13th in the Western Conference (Anaheim is 11th). They're the first team in NHL history to win the first five, then lose at least the next six, a record they're not likely to put on a plaque in the hallways of Joe Louis Arena. But you've got to believe one thing is for certain -- they, like the Ducks, will turn it around. It's just a matter of when.
Let's just hope it's not tomorrow night at The Joe.
POSTED ON Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 1:35 PM
He's been his team's best player, while at the same time its most outspoken critic. And after Anaheim's last game in Washington -- in which he had a four-point night that defied his age for the millionth time -- Teemu Selanne focused on nothing but the miserable result of that game.
Selanne was reportedly livid in the aftermath of a 5-4 overtime loss in which the Ducks surrendered leads of 3-0 and 4-2, and though he was more calm yesterday as the Ducks moved on to New York, his message remained unyielding. He called the defeat "very disappointing, obviously, for everybody..." and went on to define a Ducks team that has lost six of its last seven after a fast start to the season.
“I think it’s time for everybody to look in the mirror, be honest if you can be better and what you can bring for the team,” Selanne told reporters after yesterday's practice. “This is not enough. We all can play better. You have to push yourself. We have to push each other. It’s not time to be a nice guy anymore. Sometimes it hurts, but you have to do it.”
At 41 years old, Selanne leads the Ducks and is tied for fifth in the NHL with 14 points. His four points against the Caps (two first period goals and two assists) made him the oldest player to score that many in a game since 42-year-old Tim Horton had four assists for Pittsburgh against Philadelphia on Jan. 15, 1972. (Yes, that Tim Horton, co-founder of the Canadian coffee giant.)
But that production has done little lately to lift the Ducks out of this mini-slump. "You have to just learn,” Selanne said. “It’s a long season. You’re going to have highs and lows, but it’s a team’s job to find a way to get the job done. You need everybody. There’s no room for passengers right now, especially when the team is struggling. Everybody has to play their best and the effort has to be there every night. If not, it’s bad news.”
The Ducks' next chance to turn on that effort comes tonight at Madison Square Garden, where the Ducks battle the New York Rangers (the mere mention of which always makes me think of Mystery Alaska). The Rangers (4-3-3 and 10th in the East) are coming off a 5-2 drubbing of the Sharks on Halloween night. Despite the defeat, Sharks center Joe Thornton said of the Rangers, "They were probably the softest team we played on the trip. We should have had these two points." Responded NYR coach John Tortorella, "It surprised me, and I've never heard a player say that." Click here for more from him.
Bigger than that news for the Rangers is the return of embattled Sean Avery, who is back on the roster after clearing re-entry waivers. Avery, however, will not play tonight, according to Tortorella. Avery, apparently, approved of that decision. “Really, the guys played pretty good last game,” he said after his first practice Wednesday. “They had a big win, so I wouldn’t change the lineup.”
Good to know. The Ducks' lineup, meanwhile, will be altered slightly since Nick Bonino won't play tonight as he rests a hyperextended knee suffered on Tuesday night. Brandon McMillan reportedly centered the third line in the morning skate with Matt Beleskey and Andrew Gordon.
The Rangers are thinking payback after suffering a loss to the Ducks on October 8 in Stockholm, a game in which Andrew Cogliano scored his only goal of the season so far and Bobby Ryan won it in a shootout. Cogliano, by the way, didn't score a point while playing on a revamped second line at Washington, though he was on the ice for both of Selanne's goals and Saku Koivu's first of the campaign. As he tries to fill the hole left by Jason Blake's injury, Randy Carlyle was very high on how that line performed Tuesday night, and Selanne called Cogliano a "good fit" on the wing. It's expected that the trio will be intact again tonight in New York. “Now we just have to spend more time together and get the chemistry going,” Cogliano told the OC Register. “I’m very excited about this.”
What would be even more exciting is a badly needed Ducks win tonight, and whatever Selanne might have said in the last couple of days has certainly been heard by his teammates. “A guy like that talks, guys listen and he doesn’t talk a lot so it’s nice when he does," Bobby Ryan said. "A lot of guys need to step up and take charge and do what we’re paid to do or expected to do. The pressure’s that come with all the stuff that we get, we need to live up to.”
Said Randy Carlyle of the recovery from that last loss, “It’s time for us to flush that. There’s no better time than the opening faceoff here this evening.”
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It didn't get mentioned here yesterday, but Devante Smith-Pelly's appearance in Tuesday night's contest was his 10th game of the season, meaning if he were sent to juniors this season (and thus wouldn't be eligible to return) the Ducks have burned a year off his entry-level contract. The 19-year-old winger can't be sent to the AHL because he is under 20. The next significant plateau for Smith-Pelly is the 40-game mark, which would start his clock toward his first year of free agency.
Said Bob Murray about Smith-Pelly, "So far he's doing fine. He hasn't regressed at all. He continues to not look out of place out there. Yeah, there's a 10-game decision. But to me the 40-game thing, such as what happened with Luca Sbisa, is as important a decision."
POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.02.2011 / 12:01 PM
Going into the building of one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and coming away with a point would often be cause for celebration.
Last night in Washington was not one of those times.
The Ducks, who looked so in control for much of the game last night against the Caps at Verizon Center, had to be wondering how they walked away with a crushing 5-4 overtime defeat. Anaheim led by as much as 3-0 in the second period and 4-2 halfway through the third and couldn't hold it against a hard-charing Caps team that never stopped firing.
Despite a shot advantage that ballooned to 40-15 in favor of Washington, the Ducks could have still escaped with a tense 4-3 victory if not for Nicklas Backstrom's rebound goal with just 42.0 seconds left in regulation. And while momentum can often be overrated, the ice was heavily tilted in the Caps' direction, making Backstrom's game-winner seemed almost inevitable.
Jonas Hiller, who certainly couldn't have been blamed on that last goal -- as the puck trickled through Toni Lydman to Backstrom right on the doorstep -- nevertheless had a night he'd like to forget. The Joel Ward goal that somehow snuck under Hiller seemed harmless enough, as it made it 3-1 Ducks with 6:37 left in the second. But things got worse when Hiller seemed to have some indecision while playing a puck away from his net, and couldn't recover before Dennis Wideman blasted a slap shot by him.
“I thought one of our guys was coming back,” Hiller told the OC Register. “I was a little surprised that nobody was coming because it wasn’t icing. I thought well we’ll take that icing call and I was surprised that nobody was there. And then I thought I’ve go to play it.
“The puck just wouldn’t want to come back [to me]. If I knew right away, sure I would have played it right away. That’s what I’m saying. The wrong decision at the wrong point.”
Washington got within a goal with 8:18 left when a seemingly benign Troy Brouwer shot deflected straight into the air off Hiller's normally reliable glove and fluttered behind him.
Hiller had a number of clutch saves among his 35 on the night, but said, "In the end, I still can’t be happy. Normally those things happen if you’re not sharp enough. It’s always going to happen, those kinds of things. But, yeah, I definitely can’t be happy with the way I’m playing or the way we’re playing right now. I know I have to step it up. It’s definitely a tough loss.”
A win in that game, would have been a huge boost to a Ducks team that has struggled on this seven-game, 13-day road trip and has now lost six of seven. Part of that struggle had been rooted in their inability to score goals, something that certainly wasn't a problem last night. That was especially true for that revamped second line of Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano, which accounted for those first three Ducks goals -- two by Selanne and Koivu's first of the season. (Selanne, by the way, had a four-point night, making him the oldest player to do so since 1972.)
It was during that time everything was going the Ducks' way, a time when an impending overtime loss seemed almost impossible. You had that feeling again when Corey Perry never gave up on a pinballing puck around the net and jammed it through to make it 4-2 Ducks, giving them some breathing room with 10:47 left in the game.
That goal left Ducks fans (at least this one) thinking, Okay, that was a little scary but we've got this now. That's what made Backstrom's last-minute goal and his stomach-punch in overtime that much more devastating. All I can remember thinking while watching the Caps celebrate was, I feel sick. (I believe those words may have been used in a text message or two.)
And after it all sinks in, the only thing to focus on is what's next. In this case, a date tomorrow night with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. A win there will seemingly turns things around for the Ducks and hopefully make us forget what went down last night in D.C.
Well, not completely forget, but certainly make it a little easier to bear.
POSTED ON Tuesday, 11.01.2011 / 2:03 PM
Having endured a painful end to the first month of the NHL season, the Ducks can only hope the turn of the calendar page -- and the sprouting of some hair above their lips -- can spark a revival.
If it's any encouragement, it's well known the entire Ducks team is taking part in "Movember" this month (check out the photos of their clean shaves to start it yesterday below), something that appeared to inspire them last year. The moustachioed Ducks bounced back from a rough start to the season to go 8-4-2 in November, including a six-game winning streak to start the month.
Of course, any such springboarding this time around is going to require more goal-scoring than the 1.91 per game the Ducks have averaged so far this season, not to mention the single total goal they put up in consecutive losses over the weekend. And Game 1 of November is going to be no small task -- a date with the formidable Washington Capitals in a building where they are a perfect 5-0-0 so far.
While the Ducks are a tick under two goals per game, the Capitals are averaging a number that looks more like a college-bound kid's grade-point average: 3.78. They won their first seven games of the year before dropping two straight in Edmonton and Vancouver, the latter a 7-4 setback. The Caps still sit four points out of the Eastern Conference's top spot, with a whopping four fewer games played than leader Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the one thing that has plagued them in the past (notably in some sooner-than-expected playoff exits) has been incredibly solid so far -- goaltending.
Vetern netminder Tomas Vokoun, the 35-year-old former Panther signed with Washington in the offseason, is 6-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average. He'll be in net tonight, while Jonas Hiller will presumably debut his Movember mask in the Anaheim net.
The Caps are expected to be without top defenseman and power play QB Mike Green for the third straight game, as he nurses a twisted ankle. Washington's fierce power play is just 1 for 8 without him.
Tonight is kind of a big night for what has been the Ducks' third line for a good chunk of the young season (although that is likely changing tonight, as you'll see below). The trio of Andrew Gordon, Andrew Cogliano and Devante Smith-Pelly have only combined for one goal so far this year (Cogliano's in the second game of the year) and Gordon especially would love to get off the schneid tonight. That's because he spent the first four years of his pro career in the Capitals system, only getting called up for 12 games (and 1 goal) total the last three seasons.
Asked about it today, Gordon had a pretty cerebral take on the experience. “Putting together a hockey team’s like putting together a puzzle," he said in a piece in the Washington Times. "You’ve got to find the right pieces. And if they didn’t have a place for me, it’s best for me to go elsewhere. It’s a puzzle and if my piece of the puzzle didn’t fit into the picture that they were trying to build, I understand completely.”
Gordon, a natural right winger, has been playing in the left side of that third line, but Randy Carlyle indicated yesterday that Gordon might be switched back to the right side tonight. In today's morning skate, he was on the right side of the third line with recent call-up Nick Bonino at center and Brandon McMillan on the left. Cogliano, meanwile, is probably being moved up to the second line with Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne.
Meanwhile, a decision will need to be made on whether Smith-Pelly is in the lineup for his 10th game of the season tonight. That would trigger the first season of his entry level contract, and since Smith-Pelly is under 20, he can't be sent to the AHL. If the Ducks do send him down, it would be to his junior team in Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League, and he wouldn't be eligible to return until that season is over.
“I still think he’s feeling his way,” Carlyle said of Smith-Pelly. “The game (in the NHL) is so much quicker. You have to decipher what’s happening and read at a quicker pace, not only with the size of the people but the pace of the game. I think those are areas in which he would admittedly like to improve.
“We still like his size. We like that he’s responsible defensively, along the wall. He does get a little puck-watching when the puck’s down low. His (opposing) defensemen have had a little bit too much freedom up top in his area. We’ve tried to correct that. The biggest asset he brings is his size and his ability to play physical.”
Tonight's game (4:30 p.m. Pacific) is the first of six Ducks games to air on VERSUS this season. If you didn't already see it, DirecTV and News Corp thankfully worked out their dispute yesterday and the Fox Sports channels (for us here in SoCal, that's FS West and Prime Ticket) will remain on the air. (I'm pretty pumped about not losing FX too. Gotta watch The League.)
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take a look at the photos here, including some of the Ducks shaving each other.
Said Teemu Selanne to the OC Register, "It’s funny, I was in the middle seat and there’s a lot of people going around. When you have a knife in your throat, you’re kind of worried that somebody’s going to hit the guy who’s doing that. It can do some damage. “I was a little nervous. But those guys are professionals.”
One photo that struck me as funny is this one of George Parros. If you didn't know he got hit in the face with a puck a few days ago, you would think this is the roughest shave in the history of shaving.
POSTED ON Monday, 10.31.2011 / 12:15 PM
You can talk about strategy, you can talk about special teams, you can talk about faceoffs, puck possession, moving your feet, forechecking, whatever.
Bottom line, the Ducks just aren't scoring any goals right now.
In a rough weekend in Nashville and Columbus, the Ducks scored a total of one goal in a 3-0 Saturday loss to the Preds and a 3-1 defeat to the Blue Jackets last night (okay, you could have done the math without me). And as we're in the last day of October, the Ducks rank near the bottom of the NHL with an average of just 1.91 per game.
It's a pretty eye-opening stat for a team that boasts a roster with a 50-goal scorer from last year (Corey Perry), an 80-point guy from last year (Teemu Selanne), the top scoring defenseman in the league last season (Lubomir Visnovsky), a guy who has scored 30 goals or more the past three seasons (Bobby Ryan) and one of the top playmakers in the game (Ryan Getzlaf).
On the bright side, those credentials are precisely what should reassure us of this: The scoring slump ain't gonna last for long. (My mom would kill me for using that word, but it just felt right.)
Last night's loss to Columbus -- just the Jackets' second win of the season -- was a microcosm of what has ailed the Ducks on the offensive end. Yes, Steve Mason had a strong night in net, and looked as much like Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason as he has in the past couple of seasons. But the Ducks didn't do enough to make it a tough night for him. Of the shots the Ducks did get off, too many of them were blocked or deflected before they even got to Mason, and as a result he only had to make 20 saves to earn the win. The Jackets racked up 18 blocked shots on the night, seven of them by James Wisniewski alone. Anaheim also had just 20 shots on the Saturday playoff rematch with the Predators.
"It's a team game, and to make up a team, you need all the parts pushing in right direction," Randy Carlyle said. "Right now, we're having trouble generating any sustained offense. We've got to go back to a checking game and a workmanlike game. And I don't think we can say that we've played strong enough in those areas."
Carlyle emphasized what us fans are seeing, that the Ducks appear to be trying to make the perfect pass, rather than putting the puck on net and trying to make something happen. "It seems like we want to make the pretty play," he said last night. "We're not simplifying. We try to make plays into the defensive strength of the hockey clubs that we're playing against. And everybody's playing the same way."
The Ducks haven't been able to replicate what they did during that run at the start of this month: win games despite not having their best night. During their four-game win streak near the start of the month, they averaged just 2.50 goals per game. "Everybody's going to win when they play their best," Selanne told the OC Register. "You have to win the games when you're not playing quite there but you still find a way to win. That's what good teams do and that's what we're not right now."
Hopefully that will change as this road trip rolls on, the Ducks having moved to Washington D.C. to take on the Capitals tomorrow night, then the Rangers at the Garden on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Ducks are hoping today's recall of Nick Bonino might add some scoring punch, as he led the Crunch with 11 points in nine games. J.F. Jacques, who finished serving his five-game suspension over the weekend, was sent back to Syracuse.
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Several members of the Ducks, including host George Parros, are getting a clean shave tonight at The Art of Shaving in Washington D.C. in support of "Movember." Georgie tweeted today: Really looking forward to a hot shave today to kick things off right for Movember...I hope they have a razor that can cut through steel.
We plan to have photos from the event on the website later tonight or first thing tomorrow.
“Movember” is an annual charity event during the month of November where men grow moustaches to raise awareness for men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men. As we've mentioned before, all of the Ducks will be growing mustaches during the month of November in support of the cause, except for Jonas Hiller, who is paying tribute in his own unique way.
We'll have more information on the Ducks' involvement later today. But for now, to make a donation visit us.movember.com/mospace/983114/.
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I was a guest last night on the Duck Calls postgame radio show on AM 830 with host Josh Brewster. You can listen to it below or by clicking here (I did my best to include just my segments):
POSTED ON Friday, 10.28.2011 / 10:49 AM
Michael Jordan scored so many points, we sometimes forget he was one of the best defensive players in the game.
Hank Aaron hit so many home runs, we forget that he hit better than .300 for his career.
And so it goes for our own legend, Teemu Selanne, who has scored so many goals (six hundred forty at last count), we sometimes forget he can pass the puck pretty well too.
It wasn't just that Selanne had three assists last night in a gratifying 3-2 win in Minnesota (because let's face it, a hockey assist can come in many ways). It was one in particular that reminded us all why Selanne is so special.
Early in the third period, with the Ducks on the power play, Selanne got the puck down low in his patented spot at the bottom of the left wing circle. As soon as he looked toward the net, he saw Ryan Getzlaf sneaking in from the slot, and he floated a pass over sliding Wild defenseman Justin Falk to give Getzlaf and easy tap-in into a wide open net. Not only did he hover the puck high enough to get over Falk, but he got it to land like a butterfly right in front of Getzlaf.
It was one of those plays you couldn't truly appreciate until you saw it in slow-motion from an ice-level camera. Nine times out of 10, that pass hits Falk and the puck goes skittering away from danger. But in one flick of the wrists, Selanne was able to put a few feet of air under that puck, getting it just high enough to sneak it through to Getzlaf for the cash-in. Take a look:
That play was also a reminder of us just how much hockey is a game of fractions of an inch, and how the greats of the game find their way into those tiny spaces time and time again. That's pretty much what makes them great. Selanne has done it over and over again with wrists shots past a goalie who thought he was in good position. This time, he did it with a feed that created a very important goal for the Ducks in that win.
Selanne also set up the goal that made it 2-0 Ducks in the first period, prying the puck away from goalie Niklas Backstrom to set up Bobby Ryan with the chip-in. Selanne's three points last night gave him nine in his last six games. (By the way, he's 41. Not sure if you knew that.)
Two of those points were on the power play, a place Selanne has made much of his living the past 19 seasons, but not as much this year as his Ducks had struggled with man advantage in this young season. Entering last night, they were just 4 for 35. Last night, they converted twice, though it was in six opportunities, and they weren't able to put the game away on two different PP opportunities in the final five minutes. "We scored, that's improving," said Corey Perry bluntly. “We've still got work to do.”
But they did just enough to snap a surprising five-game losing streak in Minnesota's Xcel Energy Center. Getzlaf was asked about that streak after the game by Ducks TV guys John Ahlers and Brian Hayward. "To tell you the truth I had no idea about that. It's a lot easier if you don't know what's going on," he said with a laugh. Then he joked, "You guys have too much time to read, that's the problem."
Now the Ducks head to another building where they memorably lost their last game, Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, the site of last year's Game 6 loss that eliminated Anaheim from the postseason. Up until last night, that April 24 game marked the Predators' last win at home, as they lost three games there to Vancouver in the second round and their first three home games of the regular season. They finally won their first home game last night, 5-3 over Tampa.
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Ducks winger Jean-Francois Jacques has been a frequent flier on the so-called "Syracuse shuttle," having been sent back and forth to the Ducks' AHL affiliate in the past week. Jacques has simultaneously been playing for the Crunch, while also chipping away at the five-game suspension he was slapped with for instigating a fight in a preseason game vs. Vancouver. He's served three games so far.
Jacques and fellow winger Patrick Maroon, who played his first two career games on this trip, were both reassigned this morning, with the hopes of having them play in tonight's game between the Crunch and (Michael Scott's favorite team) Wilkes-Barre-Scranton. With the Ducks touring through the Midwest right now, it's easier to shuttle those players back and forth than if the team was in Orange County.
It's that type of issue that has team executives from the West meeting about a possible western division of the AHL, according to a story by Darren Dreger of TSN. According to Dreger:
Sources tell TSN several NHL western conference teams are involved in ongoing discussions to improve the geographic challenges some teams face in trying to develop their players from afar.
Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary attended a private meeting with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly earlier this month, where the group conceptually talked about the introduction of a western wing to the American Hockey League to ease the burden of travel on prospect players, as well as provide NHL teams with a more hands on approach in day to day development.
A Ducks affiliate in San Diego or Las Vegas? Yes, please.
POSTED ON Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 12:40 PM
It's ironic that on the very same day Jonas Hiller showed off a new mask that honors all things mustache, George Parros almost got his knocked off his face.
Just before Ducks practice yesterday in St. Paul, Andrew Gordon took a shot that reportedly ricocheted off the goal post and struck Parros in the face. Parros suffered some cuts above the cheek and near his, well, mustache and had to get stitched up before returning to practice. Later he tweeted the photo at right and this message:
Thanks @AndrewGordon10 nothing like getting a puck in the face on a travel day practice….I’ll forgive you this time.
Georgie was able to show off the bandaged version of that face in this video where Ducks and Wild players discuss who rocks the better stache -- Parros or Cal Clutterbuck.
Parros appears to be fine for tonight's game with the Wild in Minnesota, and according to Randy Carlyle, in decent enough condition to do some fighting. “That’s all part of it,” Carlyle told the OC Register. ”They fight with black eyes. I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first time he’s had some sutures in his face and has to play. That’s the way it goes.”
The Ducks and Wild have an unenviable quality in common right now -- a difficulty scoring goals and a power play that just hasn't gotten going yet. Minnesota is 25th in the NHL with 2.00 goals scored per games (though they've always been more of a grind team), while the Ducks are 22nd at 2.13. Meanwhile, the Ducks come in 4 for 35 on the PP, and hope to get it on track against a Wild team that only Kills 76.0 percent of their penalties (the Ducks are at a solid 90.6%). Minnesota is just 3 for 31 on the power play so far.
All of that could be attributed to the Wild still getting used to each other in the early going, as they've brought in a new coach in Mike Yeo (pronounced "YO") and new forwards that include former Sharks Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. Yeo is reportedly trying something new tonight by dropping Setoguchi to the second line and having Clutterbuck join Heatley and Saku Koivu's brother Mikko on the top unit. Clutterbuck is known more as a hitter than a scorer, but the hope for Minnesota is that he creates room for Heatley and Koivu with some physicality and, let's face it, irritation. "He's really good at annoying people," Yeo said. "Hopefully, he can annoy their goalie, too."
If things go the way they did in practice yesterday, the Ducks will again use rookie Patrick Maroon -- who made his NHL debut in Chicago on Tuesday -- on the top line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Bobby Ryan was again with Koivu and Teemu Selanne, while the New Guy Line of Gordon, Andrew Cogliano and Devante Smith-Pelly skated again. Smith-Pelly, who was out Tuesday with the flu is, according to Carlyle, a game-time decision after this morning eating his first solid foods since Monday.
Ducks fans may not realize it, since Xcel Energy Center isn't as terrifying as Joe Louis Arena or The Shark Tank, but the Ducks have had a tough time in Minnesota their last few trips there. The Wild have beaten Anaheim five straight times at home, despite the fact the Ducks have scored first in the last four games.