Eighteen hours away.
Eighteen hours from the moment we've been waiting for all summer.
Eighteen hours from the ignition of the 2011-12 season, when the Ducks drop the puck in Helsinki against the Buffalo Sabres and we begin to find the answers to so many questions.
- Can Jonas Hiller, who hasn't played a regular season game since a rough outing against Nashville way back on March 24, return to the form that made him the Western Conference's best goalie in the first half of last season?
- Can Corey Perry be as good as he was last year? Can his RPG line be just as good, or even better?
- Can that veteran unit of Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Jason Blake once again defy their ages (41, 36 and 38) and be a productive second line?
- Can the entirely brand new grouping of Andrew Gordon, Andrew Cogliano and Devante Smith-Pelly provide that third line scoring the Ducks have been in search of so long?
- Will the Ducks defense -- made up of a core of guys (Visnovsky, Beauchemin, Fowler, Sbisa, Brookbank and soon Lydman) who return from last year's team -- be the force the Ducks need it to be?
- Will the few new guys on this roster -- Cogliano, Gordon, DSP, Kurtis Foster -- provide a spark?
- Can the Ducks shake the trend of slow starts that has plagued them each of the past four seasons?
- Can a team composed of nearly the same makeup that springboarded to a fourth-place finish in the West do it again?
Most of all, when they drop that puck eighteen hours from now, at just a few minutes after 10 a.m. in California, will any of these questions really matter at first? Most of us will just be thinking one thing: Ducks hockey is back.
Kind of brings new meaning to the words "good morning," doesn't it?
A few notes as the Ducks continue their week in Finland, with the season opener just this far away:
- The Ducks used today to play a little pond hockey (or "shinny") in front of about 150 fans from both Finland and back home this afternoon at Hartwall Areena, where they open the season Friday against the Sabres. Players were split into two teams -- Canada and Europe/USA -- and played a two-on-two scrimmage that, according to Dan Wood's story, also included some three-on-three and even one-on-one. “Being a Canadian, I have to say the Canadians kicked butt again today,” Carlyle said. “The Europeans had all the skill on their side, but the Canadians came through again.”
Of the unusual practice day, Carlyle explained, "With the schedule we’ve been presented, the number of commitments and the people pulling at us in different directions, we felt it was a good day just to have some fun – just kind of like go back to your roots and play a little bit of shinny."
You can watch some video from the day as well as a video recap of the reception for traveling Ducks fans the team took part in afterward. Also, here are some photos from today (there is something about this goalies one that I think is kinda cool).
- Temperatures are in the 50s with some rain in Finland, but the Ducks definitely aren't missing much weather-wise back home. It's in the low 60s here with rain all day. (At least that's what weather.com says. I don't have windows in my office down here.)
- George Parros' wife Tiffany delivered twins earlier this week, a girl named Lola and a boy named James, after which Georgie tweeted: I guess i'm a full blown adult now, my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and girl yesterday.
- Just a reminder we have all Ducks tweets from Finland, as well as a boatload of other content on this NHL Premiere page.
- Jeff Miller, who has done a tremendous job covering the Ducks in Finland so far, had this story on Teemu Selanne's impact on Finnish hockey fans, notably after yesterday's exhibition with Jokerit. Included the great lines in the story:
When the game and the ceremony and the cheering had ended, this is how Teemu Selanne ended the night:
But only after first sending a young girl away shrieking with delight because he posed with her for a picture.
Only after a man in a Ducks jersey, desperate just to get close to Selanne, didn't notice half of his body was being closed in a gate by a security guard assigned to keep the fans corralled.
Only after a kid so in need of an autograph, but with nothing for Selanne to sign, that he removed one of his shoes and handed it to Teemu as he hopped on one leg.
- Corey Perry, the reigning Hart Trophy winner (just needed to mention that again) is featured in a lengthy story by Pierre Lebrun (including video interview) that was on the front page of ESPN.com today.
- The 2011-12 Ducks media guide had been converted into online form.
- The Ducks roster has been finalized at 24 players, with defensemen Toni Lydman (shoulder) and Matt Smaby (thumb) placed on injured reserve to start the season. That means it's official that likeable guys like Andrew Gordon and 19-year-old Devante Smith-Pelly have officially made it to opening night.
According to what we heard on the radio broadcast (unfortunately, no TV for this one) a 3-1 Ducks lead in the third quickly turned into a 3-3 tie when two guys named Riku Hahl and Ben Eaves struck in the third period. But the Ducks pulled out the victory when Corey Perry somehow tapped the puck to Ryan Getzlaf in the slot and he roofed it 1:13 into the extra session.
this highlight package, where you'll see Getzlaf's rather subdued reaction to netting the game-winner. Along with that clinching assist, Perry had two goals in the first to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead. Cam Fowler also scored with seconds remaining in the second to make it 3-1.
Jokerit, which came into the game 6-0-1 on its Finnish Elite League season, actually outshot the Ducks 33-24 in the game, including 27-16 in the second and third periods. But Jonas Hiller (who went the whole way) made a ton of big stops to keep things close, shutting out Jokerit for the first 38:56. (You could tell by the number of times Steve Carroll gave his patented "SHOOTS!!!" yell followed by a Hiller save.)
When Jokerit scored those two goals to send it to OT, and threatened to knock off the Ducks in extra time, I couldn't help but think of the Apollo Creed-Ivan Drago fight when Creed's trainer yells, "What are you guys doing? This is supposed to be an exhibition! You understand? An EXHIBITION!!"
More than the Ducks getting the W, this game was all about Selanne returning to his homeland, and you can see part of the pregame ceremony for him on that video linked above. There's something about that shot of him in the tunnel peeking up at the scoreboard that is kind of cool. Also, this photo to the right is fairly spectacular.
We've got more photos from the game here.
Selanne didn't score a goal in the game -- assuring that the roof of Hartwall Areena didn't literally fly off -- but he did assist on Perry's second goal. "It was a special night," Selanne said. "I really enjoyed being in the game. It was tough for us, but it was a nice experience."
(Still feels weird to hear it referred to as "night" when we were listening to the game starting at 9 a.m. Pacific.)
This was from Corey Masisak's game story on NHL.com:
The 13,349 in attendance got loud when injured defenseman Toni Lydman was announced after Anaheim’s non-Finnish players came on the ice, then it was a roar for national team captain Saku Koivu. Just before Selanne’s name was announced there were some old highlights of him playing for Jokerit on the scoreboard, and the fans began to stand up.
When Selanne’s name was announced, it sounded like a goal had just been scored by the home team in a Stanley Cup Final game. He skated onto the ice and waved to the crowd before joining his team along the blue line -- and then he had to wave again two more times because the ovation lasted so long.
"It was awesome," Selanne said. "I didn’t really know what to expect, but obviously when I stepped on the ice it was unbelievable. The fans were great, and it was something that I will always remember."
The second-best thing about Getzlaf lighting that Helsinkian lamp in OT (aside from the Ducks win) is that it finally signaled the end of the preseason. Now we get into the games that count, starting Friday night against the Sabres in that same arena. That game will be televised locally on Prime Ticket, with the Saturday game in Stockholm against the Rangers (who just put Sean Avery on waivers, btw) airing on Versus.
When Green Day recorded the song "Wake Me Up When September Ends" I'm pretty sure they were talking about NHL hockey.
Over the weekend, the calendar flipped to October -- the month hockey fans wait for all summer -- meaning we can turn our attention from the preseason to the highly anticipated regular season. (Remember that preseason loss Friday night to the Kings? Yeah, neither do I.)
For the Ducks, that regular season begins in Helsinki, Finland, (5,600 miles away and 10 hours ahead of California) where they actually have one more exhibition game before they get into the games that count. That's tomorrow morning (a bright and early 9 a.m. Pacific puck drop) against Jokerit of the Finnish Elite League. Unfortunately, there is no TV for that game, but the radio broadcast will be carried live on AM 830 and on AnaheimDucks.com, where we'll also do our best to have other updates.
Jokerit is the same team Teemu Selanne played his junior hockey with from 1988 through 1992 and they have won six Finnish Elite League championships (1973, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2002). Selanne, who invested in Jokerit in the mid-'90s, currently owns about 2 to 3 percent of the team and their home, Hartwall Areena (not a typo).
Boston goalie Tim Thomas' incredible climb from toiling in the minors and Europe before becoming the reigning Conn Smythe winner included some time with Jokerit. Thomas played there during the 2004-05 lockout, his fourth stint in Finland, and even signed with the team in August of '05. But just before their season started, Thomas signed with the Bruins.
The Ducks will see on familiar face on the Jokerit side, as Jarkko Ruutu signed with them over the summer and has two goals in the seven games they've played so far this season.
This trip hasn't been completely about hockey though, despite the fact the Ducks started practicing almost immediately after landing in Finland Sunday morning (that started after midnight Anaheim time). After that workout the team took a day trip to a place called Sauna Island, half of them via a yacht called "Lucky 8" (see if you can guess who that belongs to) and the rest on a yacht belonging to a friend of the aforementioned lucky 8. (If you haven't heard already, saunas are very big in Finland. Kind of like breathing is big in the States.)
In this story by the OC Register's Jeff Miller (who is along with the Ducks this whole week), George Parros said before the trip, "I'm super excited. This island, it sounds like Shangri-La. We're going across some fjord to some spa. Sounds like a 'Fantasy Island' thing. I'm not sure. Are there going to be gnomes out there waiting for us or something? I don't have a clue."
Said Selanne of the trip, "This is awesome. There's not going to be any hassle or anything like that because we want to keep the low profile. Low profile, low profile. I try to be a normal guy."
Yeah, this photo of the side of Hartwall Areena shows exactly how "normal" Selanne is not over there. (In case you can't tell, that's Teemu's 50-foot-high face hanging from the side of the building.)
We've had coverage of the Ducks' arrival in Finland and their preparation at a practice rink adjacent to Hartwall Areena. You can find all of the features, video, photos and Twitter feed of players and reporters on the trip on the NHL Premiere page.
Meanwhile, here's a video report from Kent French on the first couple days in Finland. More to come later in the week.
It's the final home preseason game for the Ducks, a rematch with the rival (suddenly Doughtyful) Kings, but for some Ducks it's a little more than that.
Tonight could determine whether their next flight requires a passport or not.
The Ducks, after having reassigned defenseman Bryan Rodney to Syracuse this morning, have 27 players on their training camp roster. That becomes 26 if they reassign Patrick Maroon, who was put on waivers today. How many the Ducks plan to take on that charter remains to be seen, but they are presumably carrying all three goalies (Hiller, Ellis and Deslauriers) and a couple of guys who haven't played in the preseason yet in Matt Beleskey and Toni Lydman (both recovering from shoulder surgeries). Beleskey appears to be closer to playing that Lydman, as he has been cleared from contact and there was talk about him debuting tonight against the Kings. Lydman figures to be on the trip whether he's ready to play in Europe or not, since he'll be returning to his homeland, just like Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. Another defenseman, Kurtis Foster, isn't ready to go yet after having a wire removed from his thigh, but he did skate yesterday on his own for the first time since that surgery a week and a half ago.
Most of the Ducks are on that charter to Europe, but there are a few guys who might be auditioning tonight for one final look on that opening night roster. (That roster has to be cut down to 24 by the October 5 deadline.)
Here's some video on that topic, including more from the likeable Andrew Gordon, who says, "I was talking to Bobby earlier and said It feels like I have one game to sort of prove myself, a one-game tryout from here on out. If I was told a month ago that I'd have one game to impress and get on that plane to Europe, I'd take that any day."
The Ducks tonight face Kings team that the Ducks beat last Sunday night in LA while suiting up a prospect-heavy team against a Kings one made up mostly of regulars (can't mention this often enough). Tonight both teams figure to have their October-type lineups in there, though the Kings will probably be without the aforementioned Drew Doughty, who just signed an eight-year, $56 million contract yesterday. Doughty headed to LA from London, Ontario (where he was working out) today, and mentioned tomorrow (against the Avs at home) as a possibility when he talked to reporters yesterday.
Tonight marks the last time you'll be able to see the Ducks in person in two weeks, as they flight out tomorrow morning for Finland, where they'll play an exhibition against Jokerit on Tuesday and then open the regular season Friday morning (I can taste the mimosas already) against Buffalo in Helsinki. Speaking of that Euro trip, Randy Carlyle compared it yesterday to the one the then-defending champions took in 2007 to London, pointing out why this one is much more palatable to the Ducks schedule-wise.
On that trip, the Ducks played back-to-backs against the Kings in London, then three days later faced the Red Wings, Blue Jackets and Penguins in a span of four days -- all home openers for those teams and all Ducks losses.
“We got demoralized in the [Pittsburgh] game,” Carlyle said. “That was a choice we made at that time, which was, looking back on it was very very … What would the word be? Ill-founded?"
This time, the Ducks get home early on Sunday the ninth, and don't play again until opening against the Sharks at home on October 14.
- - -
One last thing, if you didn't see the very cool RPG video yesterday by rollingdux, here it is again.
Preseason schmeseason, that one felt pretty good last night.
September hockey isn't typically supposed to feel that way. You're not supposed to have your heart in your throat over the seemingly endless final minute, frantically swiveling your head between the action on the ice and the slowly ticking seconds on the hanging scoreboard clock. But there were a few factors at work last night that made that game feel more like a mid-spring battle for standings points than the sixth game of the preseason.
For starters, with the regular season getting closer, the Canucks iced much of the same team we saw in the Stanley Cup Final last year, with the Sedin twins and Roberto Luongo making their preseason debuts. The Ducks countered with the guys whose jerseys hang in the team stores: RPG, Selanne, Koivu, Visnovsky, Fowler and the rest. And of course, there was Jonas Hiller, whose every appearance in net is under a watchful eye, and probably will be for a little while this season.
|Hiller was so good last night, he managed to make his spit water change direction in mid-air.
Other than that, Hiller was simply Jonas Hiller, making a series of athletic stops with the leg pads, blocker, trapper and anything else he could get on the puck. There was one particular save with a little over six minutes left in the second that was extra satisfying, as Hiller made that patented glove snatch with flair on a hard Cody Hodgson shot. It's a site we've seen a hundred times over the past couple of seasons, but somehow -- in light of all that Hiller has gone through the past seven months -- this one was extra meaningful.
"I felt pretty good," Hiller said afterward. "It’s great just to feel right, to be out there and get some shots. Everybody was playing good today and we definitely wanted this win at home.
"I feel like I’m really sharp on the puck. I’m going in the right direction. There always room for improvement, but that is what exhibition games are for. That is more the team we are going to face during the season. They had more skilled guys out there."
Of course, the Ducks had to lean on Hiller heavily in those frantic final minutes, when an Andrew Gordon hooking penalty, followed by a Nate Guenin boarding minor, followed by the Canucks sending Luongo to the bench, created a 6-on-3 Canucks advantage for a good minute. Hiller made a handful of saves, while guys like Luca Sbisa and Sheldon Brookbank each blocked shots. And it wasn't until Devante Smith-Pelly chipped the puck out of the Anaheim zone, and chased it into Vancouver's zone as the clock wound down to triple-zero, that we could truly exhale.
Through all that, the somehow were able to hold on to that 3-2 lead, one that was built on the heroics of those big names in the lineup. Fowler got the game's first goal when no Canuck came to him in the bottom of the right wing circle, and he walked to the net before trying a centering pass that clicked off Mark Mancari's stick and got past Luongo. A minute later, Bobby Ryan got his first point of the preseason when he slung a wrist shot between the legs of Andrew Alberts and over the glove of a helpless Luongo.
But while those two Vancouver goals in the second erased the lead, Visnovsky got it back with a move that had to be another site for sore Ducks fans eyes, considering that Visnovsky was hampered last postseason by a shoulder problem. That appeared to be a distant memory as Visnovsky provided yet another tagged one-timer on the power play, this one skittering between Luongo's wickets for the eventual game-winner.
Again, it was a nice win, the third straight for Anaheim after a rough start, but the focus for the Ducks remains more on what the preseason is for -- to get ready for the regular season. The Ducks have a return date with the Kings tomorrow night at Honda Center, then leave Saturday for Europe. Next Tuesday they have an exhibition against Jokerit of the Finnish Elite League next Tuesday and then open in Helsinki against Buffalo a week from tomorrow.
"We’re close," Ryan Getzlaf said last night. "We have to tighten up in a few areas and that will come with playing together. We’re taking the right steps right now and going in the right direction. We had a tough start to the preseason, but we have things going now. We have to continue that on and continue to build."
This was sent to me on Twitter today, a very cool (though somewhat lengthy) video tribute to the RPG line, put together by YouTube user rollingdux. A few goosebumpy moments in this one.
Jerry Seinfeld used to have a classic line when he talked about the difficulty for sports fans to remain loyal to their teams, with players changing teams so often. "You're actually," he famously said, "just rooting for laundry."
I was prompted to remember that line when I think of tonight's Ducks-Canucks preseason game, as compared to the one last Saturday in Vancouver. Anaheim won that game 4-1 against a Canucks team that was resting most of its big names. Tonight, the only similarity about that Canucks team and the one coming into Honda Center tonight is the laundry.
Actually, even that's not true, as the Canucks wore their home blues on Saturday and will be in their whites tonight. But coach Alain Vigneault indicated this week that "quite a few veterans" -- most of whom got the night off last Saturday night -- will be in uniform tonight. That includes the Sedin twins, fellow forward Mikael Samuelsson, defenseman Dan Hamhuis, and for the first time this year, Roberto Luongo in net.
In contrast to that Saturday date in Vancouver, the Ducks left a lot of their household names at home the following evening, when a team of mostly Ducks youngsters took down a veteran-heavy Kings lineup, 3-1 in LA.
"The effort and the tenacity that we showed tonight was a huge upgrade from where we've been the first three games of the year," said Randy Carlyle after that win. "We were pretty good [Saturday] night in Vancouver, but we couldn't really judge because we didn't play against the same quality of lineup we played tonight."
The Ducks will get that lineup tonight from the Canucks. And as we get closer to opening night -- with Ducks roster having been trimmed to 29 -- expect to see a lot of Ducks tonight that don't require the names on the backs of their sweaters. Here is the tentative lineup:
At the skate this morning, the RPG line skated together while Brandon McMillan joined Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne on the second line. Andrew Cogliano, who has been shuttled between the wing and the pivot this preseason, centered the third line with Andrew Gordon and Devante Smith-Pelly. Carlyle said Cogliano's play at center on Sunday against the Kings was a big influence. "We’re probably going to stick with him as a center," he said, "because [his effectiveness there] was very noticeable."
Three players not in the lineup tonight will be Matt Beleskey (getting closer to being activated after shoulder surgery), J.F. Jacques (who was placed on waivers a day after being suspended by the NHL) and Toni Lydman. The defenseman will not play the rest of the postseason as he continues to recover from offseason surgery on a torn labrum. Lydman has been skating with the team, but is still not cleared for contact. He figures to travel with the Ducks to his native Finland, but whether he will play in those games remains to be seen.
“He’s not far away,” Carlyle said yesterday. “There is still nothing like playing in game situations. You can practice all you want. There is going to be a certain amount of rust that we all know. But we trust his hockey knowledge and conditioning level and his compete level, the type of player he is.”
Lydman, of course, missed all of the preseason last year and the first four games of the regular season. But he bounced back to have a very solid year for Anaheim, finishing second in the league with a +32 rating while teaming most of the year with Lubomir Visnovsky on the top defensive pairing.
You wouldn't have thought it late Friday night -- after Anaheim was outshot 49 to 14 in a 5-1 defeat in San Jose -- but we ended up feeling pret-tay pret-tay good about our Ducks by the end of the weekend.
And here's why: Anaheim finally got its first win of the preseason (after an 0-3-0 start) the next night in Vancouver -- granted, against a Canucks team that was missing a lot of its big names. Whether it was Vancouver's A-team or B+ team, it didn't matter, because that game had one shining light that had to be encouraging to Ducks fans. Jonas Hiller, playing his first game since March 24 and just his third since February 2, saved all 21 shots he saw in two periods between the pipes.
“He’s been seeing the puck,” Randy Carlyle said to the CBC after the game. ”There’s been a lot made and there should be about his ailments that happened at the All-Star break last year. It really took him a long time to get back. What we did was just try to monitor it. He worked hard during the summer. He attended goaltending clinics in Switzerland, he was on the ice for over a month and a half there. He came back to Anaheim and he looked sharp and he has had no ill effects.”
Carlyle made it a point to ice a veteran-laden lineup, despite the fact Vancouver hadn't done the same. “We needed a win and we dressed a lineup accordingly,” he said. “We thought we hadn’t played very well in the three previous preseason games. We were doing some analysis of our younger kids. In reality, we were putting them probably in situations that they couldn’t have success at.”
So it was a recipe for a Kings victory, but the Ducks thoroughly outplayed them in their building, scoring three in the second period on the way to a 3-1 victory.
"The effort and the tenacity that we showed tonight was a huge upgrade from where we've been the first three games of the year," said Carlyle. "We were pretty good last night in Vancouver, but we couldn't really judge because we didn't play against the same quality of lineup we played tonight.
"You've got to give our guys credit. They went out and worked hard. It wasn't pretty but they did a lot of the little things it takes to win in the NHL."
Ironically, the guy who drew some of the most attention last night was one who was playing in his third straight game -- one Andrew Gordon -- who was all over the rink, scored his team-leading third goal of the preseason and continued to make a strong push to make this team out of camp.
"My game is simple, it's based on work ethic," said the 25-year-old Gordon, who played on a line with Cogliano and youngster Devante Smith-Pelly (also playing his third straight). "A lot of times, you play with a couple guys who work hard and you get rewarded. As a line we played well and you get opportunities offensively. They've been able to squeeze through for me."
Of playing three games in three nights (and four of the five so far), the likeable Gordon told Eric Stephens of the OC Register, "Minor leagues, my friend. Every weekend I play like that. Four years I've been doing this ..."
Indeed, Gordon (as mentioned in this space previously) has spent most of the last four seasons in Hershey, the AHL affiliate for the Capitals. If he's not careful, his minor league days may be over.
"I want to play every game," Gordon said. "I've played four of the five so far, and I'll play as hard as I possibly can. Every time you put your skates on here, it's an opportunity to impress, and that's what I'm trying to do."
Gordon's goal last night came with 39.9 seconds left in the second period, when he jumped on a puck in the slot and backhanded it just an eyelash inside the left post. Patrick Maroon jammed in a third goal just 11 seconds later, and behind 32 saves from Jeff Deslauriers, that was all the Ducks would need.
“Gordo, you know he can play all the situations and we’ve played him three in three nights,” Carlyle said. ”I think [Devante] Smith-Pelly was another guy, [it] was his third night. Those are great signs for young players. But, still, the step to the NHL is a big one.”
But the Ducks' faith in those two guys was reinforced this morning, when the Ducks cut seven more players from their training camp roster. The list of those being sent to Syracuse included fellow right wingers Dan Sexton and Kyle Palmieri (who had Anaheim's first goal last night).
Here is the updated training camp roster for the Ducks, who are down to 30 players and will have 24 on the active roster when they they leave for Europe this weekend. The Ducks didn't practice today, but will be back at it tomorrow in preparation for their preseason rematch with the Canucks on Wednesday night here at Honda Center.
After opening the preseason with back-to-back rough defeats, the Ducks are looking to see what they can do on the road.
That starts tonight in San Jose, where the Ducks face the same Sharks team that used six unanswered goals to roll over the Ducks 6-1 on Wednesday night. Actually, the uniforms are the same, but it will likely be a decidedly different Sharks team than the one that came to Anaheim. That lineup had no Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, new Shark Martin Havlat, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic or Antti Niemi, and at least some of those guys figure to be in the lineup tonight in what is San Jose's second affair of the preseason.
The Ducks, meanwhile, are traveling with a big group, some of which will suit up tonight and some who will see action tomorrow night in Vancouver. Among the guys on the ice in the primary group this morning were Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Cam Fowler, Francois Beauchemin, Andrew Gordon and Emerson Etem. Here's the entire list, with two of these guys getting scratched by gametime:
4 D Cam Fowler
9 LW Bobby Ryan
10 RW Corey Perry
15 C Ryan Getzlaf
18 C Mark Bell
23 D Francois Beauchemin
25 D Matt Smaby
34 D Nate Guenin
40 D Sean Zimmerman
41 RW Andrew Gordon
45 RW Brian McGrattan
46 D Mathieu Carle
47 D Bryan Rodney
49 C Maxime Macenauer
57 C Nicolas Deschamps
63 C Nick Bonino
64 C Brandon McMillan
65 RW Emerson Etem
74 C Peter Holland
77 RW Devante Smith-Pelly
38 G Dan Ellis
43 G Jeff Deslauriers
Ellis and Delauriers figure to split time tonight, while Jonas Hiller is also on the trip but won't suit up. Randy Carlyle indicated yesterday that either Hiller or Ellis would see their first ice either tonight or tomorrow night. He skated with the second group this morning. Finnish prospect Iiro Tarkki is not on the trip.
That Vancouver game tomorrow night, by the way, will be televised on NHL Network. Tonight's game is radio available on AnaheimDucks.com only. The same goes for next Wednesday's Ducks-Canucks game at Honda Center.
Carlyle indicated the last couple of days that he wasn't pleased with what he saw in the opener against Phoenix and Wednesday night vs. San Jose. "I look at it as it was an opportunity missed for us to establish more tenacity, more of a lot of things in the games," Carlyle said. "We seemed to be on the receiving end and we were very scrambly in our puck-possession game. We didn't really establish a forecheck. Our hockey club has always been known as a strong forechecking team and we didn't do a very good job in the forecheck."
The Ducks did all of their workout off ice yesterday, in preparation for a weekend in which they play three games in three nights -- ending with Sunday evening in LA.
Said Carlyle, “Were we coasting in some situations after reviewing the last night’s (San Jose) game? Yes. And those are the mental things and the dog days of training camp that are on us that catch up with you. It’s not an excuse. It’s how we feel. We’ll address that to the players and tell them that’s unacceptable.”
The Ducks, by the way, trimmed their training camp yesterday by four, sending forwards Joseph Cramarossa and Rickard Rakell (their first draft pick last June) and goalies Igor Bobkov and John Gibson back to their junior teams. More cuts will be coming in the next few days, but for now the Ducks have 43 players remaining on the training camp roster: 25 forwards, 14 defensemen and four goalies.
It was sometime last in the third period last night -- when the San Jose Sharks were in the middle of a six-goal run on their way to a 6-1 victory at Honda Center -- when I reached for the Ducks Training Camp media guide. Looking for some solace during a game that came less than 24 hours after a 7-4 loss in the opener, I flipped to the pages containing the Ducks' preseason records over the years. And here's what I found:
- In 2006, the Ducks lost 5 of their 8 games in the preseason and nine months later were holding the Stanley Cup over their heads.
- In 2008, Anaheim went an impressive 6-1-1 in the preseason, and ended up 3-5-2 in October. (Of course, they ended up making the conference semifinals that spring.)
- Last season, the Ducks went 3-5-0 in September and finished fourth in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
- Also last season, the Boston Bruins lost four of their seven preseason games, while the Vancouver Canucks dropped five of eight. They played each other in the Stanley Cup Final, with Boston winning it all.
The lesson in all this? The preseason means something, but it only means so much. Mostly it's a chance for players to get their game legs going, for coaches to evaluate the hand they've been dealt and maybe try some different combinations. And for players on the fence of making the opening night roster, it's a chance to prove what they can do.
One such guy is 25-year-old Andrew Gordon, a speedy, diminutive winger (listed at 6-0) who can put the puck in the net -- and showed a bit of that last night. Gordon provided a spark for the Ducks on a night when sparks were at a minimum, scoring a goal late in the first period to give Anaheim a 1-0 lead that would prove to be short-lived. After a Matt Smaby shot from the high left wing deflected off a San Jose skate, it rolled to Gordon, who was able to scoop it past drawn-out goalie Thomas Greiss.
Despite that goal, Gordon was understandably critical of the team's performance. "We went about 15 minutes without a shot on net. We were having trouble breaking out of our zone right from the get-go. We have a lot of speed on this team and we weren't really using it because we were stuck in our own end so much. Scoring the first goal doesn't always mean that you're off to a good start. We have to have a better effort off the puck drop. That is one thing we have to take from this.
"We didn't sustain a whole lot. This time of the year is about work ethic. We have to work a little bit harder and prepare as if it's not an exhibition game
Randy Carlyle acknowledged Gordon's impact on the game by saying, "He was a player who showed the determination and fire that he's demonstrated right from the start of camp to impress some people."
And that's big for a guy looking to earn a spot with the big club, something Gordon had trouble doing in four years with the forward-heavy Washington Capitals organization. He played just 12 games with the Caps, instead spending most of his time with the AHL Hershey Bears, where he became immensely popular as the team won two Calder Cup championships. Part of the reason for Gordon's appeal there was his production, scoring 102 goals and 224 points in 267 career games -- including a 37-goal season in 2009-10 and a 28-goal campaign last year. Part of it was for his friendly, enthusiastic and bright demeanor, which has helped garner him 10,789 Twitter followers (with an ever-growing number of those being curious Ducks fans).
Last night after the game, Gordon tweeted, Thanks everyone for all the positivity! Not the way I wanted my 1st game in a #NHLDucks uniform to turn out, but the sun will be up tmrw.
I was able to catch up with Gordon after a mostly off-ice practice today at Honda Center to talk a little bit about that goal, his time in Hershey and his presence on Twitter. Click here for that conversation.