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By Adam Brady
Director of Publications & New Media
for the Ducks and Honda Center.
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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.



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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.)


- - -


As mentioned above, several of the Ducks got a clean start to their Movember moustache-growing last night professional shaves at The Art of Shaving in Washington, D.C. You can 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.


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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.


- - -


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/.

- - -


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):



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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.

- - -

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.


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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.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 2:08 PM
You may recall that last year the Ducks took part in "Movember" a month-long initiative to raise funds and awareness for men's health issues by growing moustaches throughout the month (even George Parros shaved his and re-grew it). The Ducks are doing it again next month, and last we heard, Parros got every player involved -- except Jonas Hiller.

Then came this piece of news: Hiller may not be actually growing the 'stache, but he's paying tribute to Movember in a whole other uniquely awesome way -- through his goalie mask.

A website called The Goalie Guild has released photos of a brand new mask designed for Hiller, a white matte that features black-and-white headshots of every Ducks player with different styles of moustaches drawn on their faces. On the back of the mask, a full shot of Hiller himself sporting a fake moustache (see below).

This from Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild, who talked to mask artist Alec Voggel of Airxess:

Airxess came up with the idea, as we needed a game-used Hiller mask that would later be for sale because of the big demand. Hiller came up with the Movember idea himself, so as always, he gave us the input, and I had to create the design. Besides the concept, the whole testing to place all the portraits on the mask (it's not only done by airbrush) and the painting itself I have done, while Dan "The Man" gave the mask a nice flat finish and left some parts shiny."

I used the style of moustache seen on the Movember website, but in a completely different technique as other airbrushed masks out there. It must be visible that the moustaches are painted with an edding that people can see is added afterwards, just like the guys growing their own moustaches. Each player has a different look, as usual.


Meanwhile, Hiller tried on the mask and talked a little about it in this OC Register story, saying, "I just wanted to do something different. I talked to my painter and he said, ‘Yeah, what do you think? We should just do a couple of masks this year. I sent him the whole theme about Movember and guys growing a mustache.

“He said, Oh yeah, let’s do something like that. And that’s what he came up with. I think it’s definitely funny.”

The Movember folks, by the way, are absolutely thrilled, and one of them emailed that he heard it called "The Holy Grail of Movember." There's more (and larger photos) on this page on The Goalie Guild website. We'll be announcing more on the Ducks' participation in Movember soon. 

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 12:12 PM

The shootout, she can be a cruel mistress, a quick and constant exchange of elation for one side and displeasure for the other. An affair that can make one side quickly forget the 65 minutes of work that led into it, and can make the distance between one standings point and two seem like miles apart.

The Chicago Blackhawks endured that last Saturday night, when a two-goal comeback against the Avalanche was spoiled by a late tying Colorado goal and the subsequent shootout loss. Three days later, Chicago enjoyed the opposite sensation, their shootout glory becoming Anaheim's anguish. 

Here's how the night went for the Ducks: They led the Hawks 2-1 in the third period, gave up a tying goal, had chance after chance to re-take the lead and couldn't do it, and nearly lost the game in overtime at the very last second. A lost faceoff in their own end with 2.4 seconds left became Marian Hossa's last-dash shot, the sounds of the puck hitting the far post and the horn piercing the air in United Center almost simultaneously.

That would have been a harsh way to lose that game, but the subsequent shootout wasn't any more palatable, as only Teemu Selanne connected on his attempt while Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf were each denied by Corey Crawford. At the other end of the rink, Jonas Hiller was able to stonewall Dave Bolland, but couldn't stop Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the latter clinching it for Chicago.

Granted, the Ducks played well for the most part and gained a valuable point on the road against a very strong team in a hostile building. But some frustration came from the opportunities the Ducks had to put the game away and didn't capitalize. The team that last year was third in the NHL in power play percentage, wasn't able to convert on three different opportunities in the third period, including one that lasted nearly the entire final two minutes of regulation.

"I'm not very happy about our power play so far," Teemu Selanne, who scored his 640th career goal on the night, told the OC Register. "We've been in the top three in the league the last, how many years? We got the one power play goal tonight, but the PP can win games and we have to do a better job. We have all the tools. It's just a matter of time to get the job done."

Indeed, the Ducks are just 4 of 35 on the power play so far this year. It's a mystifying number for a team that trots out a first unit that includes a future Hall-of-Famer with 640 goals (Selanne), one of the best playmakers in the game (Getzlaf), the reigning MVP (Perry), one of the hardest shots in the game (Visnovsky) and a young D who sees the ice so well (Fowler). Meanwhile, a guy who has scored 30 goals in three straight seasons (Ryan) and another premier playmaking center (Koivu) is on the second unit.

It's that type of personnel that makes it imminent that the Ducks power play will turn it around. It's just a matter of when. "We just have to take more pride and make it work because we know how important it is," Selanne said. "We've just tried to make too many passes. I think it's time to get back to the simple stuff and get more quality shots, more action around the net. That's one area where we really want to improve. It's going to be very important."

Said Ryan to the OCR, "That top unit obviously carried us to that third ranking. They may not be clicking right now but you just keep the faith in them. Obviously they move the pucks around and they get that one chance. When the pucks moving for those five guys, they’re going to go in the net eventually.”

We can only hope that comes soon on this seven-game trip, which carries on tomorrow night in Minnesota.


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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 12:48 PM

It's a mother of a road trip the Anaheim Ducks are currently on, and it's not the easiest place to start it. Sure, Chicago is a great town to visit, but this is a work trip for the Ducks, who open this seven-game extravaganza against a good Blackhawks team in a tough building.

Those Hawks are coming off a disappointing 5-4 loss to Colorado on Saturday night, in which they spoiled a big comeback by giving up the tying goal with 1:48 left in regulation and fell in a shootout. Still, they have scored at least a standings point in six straight games.

The Ducks, of course, have some recent disappointments of their own, having dropped their last two games, to division rivals Dallas and Phoenix. And Randy Carlyle has responded to those losses by doing some line shaking, incorporating the recently recalled Patrick Maroon into a pretty high-profile spot. Maroon, who joined the team in Chicago after coming up from Syracuse, skated yesterday with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the top line. Bobby Ryan was moved to the second line with the Finns.

When asked yesterday if the big Maroon would indeed be in the lineup to make his NHL debut against the Blackhawks, Carlyle said, "”We usually don’t bring a player up and not play him. Now is it tomorrow night? Well, maybe. He will see some action on the road trip.”

Said Maroon, who had four goals and four assists with the Crunch in just six games, told the OC Register, “It’d be really exciting. Obviously it would be my first NHL game. Playing my first NHL game with Getzlaf and Perry would be pretty cool too. If I play, I know what I need to do. If I don’t, things happen. Maybe next time. I’m out there to fight and show them I want to be here.”

Whether Maroon stays on that line to start the game remains to be seen, and Carlyle has never hesitated to do some mid-game jumbling too, as he did against Phoenix on Sunday. Tonight, by the way, is Carlyle's 500th NHL game as a coach (all with Anaheim).

As far as that third line of Gordon, Cogliano and Smith-Pelly goes, they were together in practice yesterday and there was some discussion of how long DSP will stay with the big club. The 19-year-old has two more games before hitting the noted 10-game mark. If the Ducks did send him to juniors after the 10 games, it would burn a year on his existing three-year contract. (A demotion to juniors would mean he couldn't come back up until his season with Mississauga ended.)

Randy Carlyle spoke about that topic as well yesterday, saying, "I think there’s a misconception that he has to go back. So there’s always this barrier thats put on the 10-game mark to save the organization a year before free agency. Let’s wipe that out. We try to do an analysis. Is he making a contribution to our group?

“He’s been a steady player. He’s had some up and downs. He’s been in some situations where he does excel at if he stays on the body and plays that neat and tidy game. The other thing, as I’ve stated before, is he has to make a contribution on the offensive side of it at some point. And that’s not any different than any other member of our third and fourth lines.”

After tonight, the Ducks continue a trip that, while daunting, is friendlier than it could have been schedule-wise. Aside from a Saturday-Sunday back-to-back at Nashville and at Columbus, the Ducks have a day off between every game on this trip, which finishes with Washington on Nov. 1, Rangers on the third and Detroit on the fifth. Then it's another four days before taking on Nashville at home on the ninth.

For a closer look at each of the destinations on the trip, take a look at Matt Vevoda's piece here on the website.
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POSTED ON Monday, 10.24.2011 / 10:53 AM

The game giveth and the game taketh away
- Gretzky 1:99


The euphoria of a four-game winning streak in the early part of this season was quickly replaced by the despair of a rough, two-loss weekend for the Anaheim Ducks.

And oh yeah, we were reminded of just how brutal the Pacific Division is going to be once again.

Coming off two straight wins against the team that's usually firmly planted atop the Pacific -- the San Jose Sharks -- the Ducks suffered defeats to two teams that weren't considered by most to be division title contenders. A 3-1 loss to Dallas on Friday night was followed up by a 5-4 defeat to Phoenix yesterday evening, two games that had something in common for the Ducks -- a goalie that may have stolen the game.

Friday night it was the Stars' Kari Lehtonen, who would only "let one in" in stopping 35 shots. Last night it was Mike Smith, Phoenix's answer to the departure of Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 29 saves on the night. At least two of them were absolute robberies of apparent Ducks goals, like this one on Bobby Ryan halfway through the third. It says something that Smith was named the game's Second Star, despite giving up four goals. It's a tribute to the Ducks attack, which unlike Friday night, made a game of it until the final seconds.

That was thanks in part to the work of Ryan Getzlaf, who the uninitiated Honda Center spectators might think is nicknamed "Shoot It!" judging by what the fans scream every time he touches the puck. Getzlaf showed why last night, when he displayed that lethal wrist shot of his and got the Ducks within a goal at 5-4 with a 1:08 left and their own net empty. (It was the second of the night, and the season, for the Ducks captain.) Unfortunately, the Ducks would get no closer despite a mad scramble in the final minute, and suffered the rare fate of scoring four in your own building and taking the L.

Jonas Hiller, who had been spectacular during Anaheim's four-game streak, was in there for that three-unanswered ambush by the Coyotes that all but put the game away. The backbreaker was Keith Yandle's strike that made it 5-2 Yotes, which came seconds after Hiller put his arm up to signal an impending icing, only to have none called when the Ducks touched it. On the bright side, backup Dan Ellis looked very solid in Hiller's place, giving up no goals in his period and a half of work.

"Jonas has been a stalwart for this hockey club and he's been probably our MVP in a lot of games, so it's hard to point the finger," Randy Carlyle said. "I'm sure he'd like to have some of them back."

In Hiller's defense, he didn't have the D in front of him that shined so brightly in the early going for Anaheim. In those games, it was all about a stingy defense while the Ducks scorers tried to find their way. Last night, the attack flourished (even defenseman Kurtis Foster got a goal in his first game of the year) while the backend gave up five goals.

Now the Ducks will look to get both of them sharp at the same time, but they'll do it far away from the friendly confines of Orange County. The team left this morning for Chicago, part of a seven-game, 13-day road trip that starts tomorrow night against the Blackhawks. And has been the case in the past, the Ducks are hoping that the comraderie that life on the road brings will be a boost for them in this still-young campaign. It's a trip that includes those Stanley Cup champs from two seasons ago, the team that knocked the Ducks out of the playoffs last year in Nashville, the undefeated Washington Capitals and a little squad called the Detroit Red Wings. The Ducks are back here on November 9, also against Nashville.

"I wish we would have had a better game to send us off," Getzlaf said. "Maybe that is what we need is to get out on the road as a group, take advantage of this time together and work toward a bigger goal."

Andrew Cogliano told the LA Times, "I know it's still early; we've only played seven games. But this is a trip you can definitely use to see what way your season is going to go. Like I said before, you tend to play more simple on the road. Less complicated is exactly what we need right now."

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In between those two games last weekend was a Saturday practice at Honda Center, which blended into the annual Face-Off Fest. The event held exclusively for season ticket holders included the chance to meet Ducks players, get autographs, skate on the ice, tour the locker room and other assorted goodies.

A couple highlights included this woman's tattoo of Teemu Selanne, which he signed (I assume she'll get the signature tattooed as well.) Selanne, by the way, stuck around for a good 20 minutes after other players had left to sign more autographs for those who had been too far back in his line. (Honestly, it's little wonder why this guy is so popular. Bobby Ryan was also great with each person who came to his table.)

Another popular Duck, George Parros, had this exchange with me during the event as I noticed his line was moving slowly because he took so much time with each fan.

Me: "Georgie, your line is moving too slow. Pick it up a little."
George: "It's quality, not quantity, Brady. Each fan gets a unique experience."

Then he proceeded to drag his Sharpie across the back of my hand. For a guy who punches people in the face for a living, I suppose it could have been worse.

Check out some more photos from the event.


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POSTED ON Friday, 10.21.2011 / 8:52 PM

If you haven't seen it yet, this video was played at Honda Center during the home opener, featuring some of the Ducks' most passionate fans getting ready for a game. The tennis balls (husband and wife who attend every home game clad in flourescent yellow hoodies) are prominently featured.



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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 7 6 1 0 25 14 12
2 NSH 6 4 0 2 16 11 10
3 CHI 5 4 0 1 16 7 9
4 LAK 6 4 1 1 15 10 9
5 SJS 7 4 2 1 23 20 9
6 CGY 8 4 3 1 20 19 9
7 DAL 6 3 1 2 21 20 8
8 VAN 5 3 2 0 16 16 6
9 STL 5 2 2 1 12 9 5
10 ARI 5 2 2 1 16 22 5
11 EDM 7 2 4 1 17 29 5
12 MIN 4 2 2 0 10 4 4
13 WPG 6 2 4 0 11 16 4
14 COL 7 1 4 2 12 24 4

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Perry 7 8 2 6 10
R. Getzlaf 7 2 8 3 10
R. Kesler 7 3 3 1 6
S. Vatanen 7 2 3 -2 5
M. Beleskey 7 4 0 3 4
J. Silfverberg 7 0 4 2 4
C. Fowler 7 0 4 4 4
D. Smith-Pelly 7 1 2 3 3
P. Maroon 3 0 3 -1 3
N. Thompson 7 0 3 -1 3
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 6 0 0 .951 1.32
J. Gibson 0 1 0 .846 6.00

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