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POSTED ON Thursday, 10.13.2011 / 2:02 PM

The Ducks have had enough faith in Devante Smith-Pelly to not only give him a spot in the opening night roster but to so far slot him at winger on an increasingly intriguing third forward line. The 19-year-old who played his last three junior seasons in Mississauga of the OHL has meshed well with two linemates – Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon – who are also playing their first regular season games in a Ducks uniform. (For lack of a better term right now, let’s call it the New Guy Line.) The three combined on Anaheim’s only goal in the 2-1 shootout victory over the Rangers last Saturday in Stockholm, with Smith-Pelly’s hustle springing loose a puck that Gordon was able to toss in front to a crashing Cogliano.

Although he was drafted by the Ducks in 2010 and went through his first training camp later that year as an 18-year-old, it occurred to me that I really haven’t had much contact with the likeable Smith-Pelly other than a quick handshake. So after practice today at Honda Center, with Smith-Pelly's first regular season NHL home opener a day away, I re-introduced myself.

He responded with, "Hey, I'm Devante," which really wasn't necessary.

We sat down for a quick chat about how things are going in Anaheim (and Europe, for that matter) so far.

You said recently that even though you were a longshot to make the team out of camp last year as an 18-year-old, you were disappointed when you were sent back to juniors.
Yeah, anytime you come into camp, your goal is to make the team. It was pretty unrealistic for me to play at 18, but when I was sent back, I was pretty disappointed. I wanted to make sure I had a good season and make sure I put myself in position to make the team the following year.

What’s different this year from last year?
I think it’s me just being a year older, a little more mature, a little bigger and stronger. I just know what to expect. Last year I came in here and kind of maybe dipped my toe in, rather than going full in. This year I knew what to expect, what the coaches expected of me. All I had to worry about was that kind of stuff instead of everything else.

As was the case with Cam Fowler last year, Smith-Pelly is too young to be sent to the AHL, so if he is sent down, it would be to his junior team and the Ducks would lose him for the rest of the season. If the Ducks release him before his 10th NHL game, this season wouldn’t count against the Ducks as a first  full season of his contract.

How much do you think about that 10-game mark?
I talked to Bob Murray yesterday and he said the 9-game mark or 10-game mark doesn’t really matter. It’s not really me looking at the 9-game mark to impress. If I want to stay here the whole year, I’m going to have to play well the whole year. It was good for him to kind of make sure I knew that rather than me kind of assuming that I could play well in those nine games and then have to shut it down.

Do you feel pretty comfortable playing with Cogliano and Gordon so far?
We’ve been together a little while now and we’re starting to click and create some chemistry. It was a little hard at the start with Gordon being a right winger, and a couple times he came over to my side. We’ve worked that stuff out, and we’re three guys who click together and our styles complement each other. Hopefully we can continue this.

What’s your living situation right now?
Right now I’m just at the hotel down the street. It’s alright. I have no roommate, just kind of hanging out. I bought an Xbox a little while ago and I’ve been doing that.

I'm a PS3 guy.

Nah, Xbox is better. I play NHL, Madden.

Are you in the current NHL game? I think you are.
Well, I don’t have the online in the hotel, so I can’t download the new roster. I should probably figure that out though.

What else have you been doing?

I’m just doing my own thing in my room, texting Mace (Maxime Macenauer) or Gordon or anyone else who’s there, Mac (Brandon McMillan) or Guenin. We’re all there. We go for dinner or hang out, but mostly I’m in my room just relaxing and doing my own thing.

How messy is that room?
It was a lot messier before we went to Finland, but the maid cleaned it up when we were gone. I haven’t really unpacked yet. I just kind of left all my stuff in my suitcase. Right now it’s looking pretty clean.

At least with hotel life you have a maid and room service.
Oh yeah. I’ve probably had room service 20 days straight now, so I’m definitely taking advantage of that.

How is Orange County different from Mississuaga?
The biggest difference is it’s October and it’s not freezing here. It’s just a suburb of Toronto, a decent-sized community about 20 minutes from Toronto. It’s a lot like I guess Anaheim or Newport Beach without the beach part. The main difference is definitely the weather. Yesterday was so hot, it was probably the hottest day since I’ve been here. I talked to my mom last night and she said it was freezing back home. I don’t miss that at all.

Have you been down to the beach at all?
We’ve been a couple times. Mostly since we came back from Finland it’s been guys trying to get back to the routine. Guys get back from the rink and we make a plan to go do something and everybody just kind of falls asleep. Right now we’re just kind of relaxing.

What was the coolest thing about Finland?
I’d have to say being on Teemu’s boat and going to Sauna Island. It was amazing. I never even imagined anything like that. His boat is amazing.

Is there a point where you’re standing on Teemu Selanne’s yacht, headed to an island in Finland and wondering, What the heck am I doing here?
[Laughs] Yeah. There were a couple of times where I just thought to myself, I never, ever thought I’d be able to do these things. It was all pretty cool.

And of the two of us, the one who said, "Thanks a lot. I appreciate it" when we were done talking? That was Smith-Pelly.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.11.2011 / 2:22 PM

The table in the hallway outside the Ducks locker room -- which usually is topped with a container of coffee, stacks of fresh paper cups and piles of sheets containing the latest news clippings -- sits virtually empty. And that can only mean one thing: No practice today.

The Ducks hit the ice yesterday -- a day after returning from their jaunt through Finland and Sweden -- but were given the day off today. It's a last modicum of rest for a Ducks team that, starting with the home opener Friday night, will play three games in four nights (this time in arenas they've seen before.)

“They are tired,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “You can see it.”

Carlyle, who originally planned to give the team yesterday off and get back to practice Stateside today, had a change of heart after conferring with Captain Getzlaf. “He thought it was better if we skated today and then took tomorrow off,” Carlyle said. “We made the adjustment, we have that ability in this building and I thought it was probably a better move than taking today off. It was good to get them back out there.”

The Ducks have their first game in the States against the Sharks here on Friday night, an evening that will have the traditional glitz and glamour of a Ducks home opener. The usual red carpet will be transformed into the Miller Lite Blue Carpet, where fans can watch the players arriving between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. before going inside for the game. Sunday night is Corey Perry Night, as Perry will be honored for his Hart Trophy-winning season, and all fans in attendance will receive a commemorative poster (as they enter Honda Center) and puck (as they exit).

One thing the Ducks might have this weekend (according to Carlyle) that they didn't have in Europe is the services of Toni Lydman, arguably their best shutdown defenseman last year. Lydman, who continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery, has yet to play at all this season, but saw a specialist in LA yesterday. His possible return is a tantalizing prospect for a Ducks defense that even without him was able to hold the Rangers to just 15 shots in that 2-1 victory Saturday in Stockholm.

Meanwhile, d-man Kurtis Foster is still recovering from having that wire removed from his thigh and was described by Carlyle as "rusty" but “very close to being ready to play some games.” Foster's only ice time with the Ducks so far is a few minutes in the exhibition against Jokerit last Tuesday.

Anaheim made a trade with Colorado for defenseman Kyle Cumiskey -- which sent prospect Jake Newton and a 2013 seventh-round pick to the Avs -- with Cumiskey being sent to Syracuse today. Cumiskey is an enticing pickup for the Ducks, as he's played NHL 132 games and led Avs defensemen with seven goals in 61 games two seasons ago. he also played for Team Canada in the World Championships last year. The 5-10, 185-pounder suffered a concussion last year that limited him to just 18 games.

"He’s a very, very quick puck-moving defenseman," Carlyle said. "At some point, I’m sure you’ll see him here. I don’t know when. Right now, we’ve got lots of defensemen so it’s tough.”

Like Cumiskey, goalie Jeff Deslauriers was also sent to the Crunch, after joining the Ducks for their Euro trip, since they were permitted to carry three goalies. The Ducks caught a break when Deslauriers passed through waivers before his assignment, as the former Oiler promises to be a very strong third option in net.
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POSTED ON Monday, 10.10.2011 / 11:03 AM

It happened 5,600 miles away from Anaheim, but the feeling reverberated through Ducks fans from Orange County to Stockholm:

Stor lättnad. (That's Swedish for great relief.)

When Bobby Ryan slipped that unintentional changeup by nearly unbeatable Henrik Lundqvist in the shootout, and minutes later Jonas Hiller splayed out to deny Artem Anisimov, our biggest fear -- that the Ducks would leave this Euro trip without a win -- were assuaged. The Ducks, after suffering a 4-1 defeat the night before in Finland, pulled off a 2-1 victory that had to make that long flight back to Cali so much sweeter.

Hiller, playing a second straight night only faced 15 shots in regulation and overtime, saving 14 of them and earning his first win since (wait for it) February 13. In the shootout, his stop on Anisimov came just after a beauty of a kick save on Zuccarello (two names, by the way, that get you a ton of points in Words with Friends).

Lundqvist, meanwhile, denied a pretty decent first three in Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne, and it's no coincidence that the only thing the Ducks were able to get by him in the shootout was a shot that definitely didn't go as planned. Ryan, looking to go low glove with the shot, didn't get much of the puck, and the unexpected change of speed fooled Lundqvist enough to get between his leg pads.

“I’m going to label that a fortunate miss,” said Ryan, who had a guilty smile on his face as he headed back to the bench. “I’ll take that lucky break any day ... I think if I would have hit my mark I would have missed because he was already there.”

Lunqvist's 27 saves included a could of stops from point blank on what appeared to be sure Ducks goals, including this robbery on Ryan himself in the second period after a great Getzlaf feed. And Hiller was perfect until a potentially heartbreaking goal from Brad Richards tied the game 1-1 with 2:15 left.

But just as they had done for the rest of the game, the Ducks defense (despite still missing Toni Lydman) shut down the Rangers for the rest of the way, and Hiller did the work on his own in the shootout.

Anaheim's long regulation goal came courtesy of the exciting third line of Andrew Gordon, Andrew Cogliano and Devante Smith-Pelly (we need a name for this line ASAP). After an errant Gordon pass on the rush, both he and DSP chased the loose puck down in the corner, with Gordon unexpectedly sending it in front, where Cogliano punched it in.

First goal as a Duck for Cogliano, first point as an NHLer for DSP, and for Gordon, further validation for the Ducks giving him a chance out of training camp.

The game wasn't a pretty one by any means, with the Rangers and Ducks combining for 19 penalties, 12 of those in the first period alone. All of those penalties could have been partly credited to two tired teams, especially the Ducks, who spent a whirlwind week in Finland before moving over to Stockholm for this game, and arriving at their hotels at 3 a.m. One of the penalties we don't mind, however, was a beauty of a fight won by George Parros over Michael Rupp in that first period.

Parros, according to OC Register writer Jeff Miller, was among the first off the plane when the Ducks landed back in LAX (after two flights totalling nearly nearly 13 hours) at around 6:30 a.m. yesterday morning, tending to his wife Tiffany, who gave birth two twins (Lola and James) last week. The Ducks were mercifully given the rest of Sunday off, but are back at it today at Honda Center to get ready for their first game in the States -- the home opener vs. San Jose on Friday night.

“I would say (we’re) ready to get home, huge,” Ryan said. “It was a great trip…it was a cool thing. But it doesn’t always necessarily put you in the best chance to win. This team is happy to have had the opportunity, but happy to go home, as well.”
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POSTED ON Friday, 10.07.2011 / 12:48 PM

The last few Ducks season-openers have reminded me a lot of the last season of Entourage. You eagerly look forward to them for such a long time -- only to end up disappointed.

For the fifth straight year, our giddy anticipation of the start of the season was mildly spoiled by a rough loss in the very first game. This morning's 4-1 defeat to the Sabres in Helsinki was, oddly enough, the fourth such losing score for Anaheim in those last five season openers (the 4-0 loss in Detroit last year being the only outlier). 

What little the Ducks were able to get going on the attack and the power play (where they were 0 for 5) was thwarted by goalie Ryan Miller, who not unexpectedly had a very strong opening game. Anaheim actually outshot the Sabres 30-25 (including 11-0 in the third) but not enough of those shots posed a viable threat to Miller, and Nate Guenin's goal in the second period was all the Ducks got.

Meanwhile, the Ducks' coverage down low was not sharp, making things tough on Jonas Hiller. That was a major reason for Buffalo's four goals in the first two periods (two on the power play from Thomas Vanek, who had nine shots), which all but put the game away.

The good news? Three of those previous four seasons ended much better than they started -- with a trip to the playoffs. There's 81 more left, starting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. against the Rangers in Stockholm.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 4:06 PM

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?
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.05.2011 / 1:07 PM

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.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 3:10 PM
With so much hoopla surrounding Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Toni Lydman returning to Finland -- and Selanne playing against his former Jokerit team -- the Ducks almost forgot one important thing: to win the damn hockey game.

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.

That goal comes at the end of 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.

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POSTED ON Monday, 10.03.2011 / 12:16 PM

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.

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POSTED ON Friday, 09.30.2011 / 2:52 PM

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.








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POSTED ON Thursday, 09.29.2011 / 11:25 AM

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.
Hiller looked like his old self out there last night, much like he did in saving all 21 shots last Saturday night in Vancouver. That game, however, came against a Canucks team of mostly youngsters, while this one last night was different. This time it was against the most dangerous Canucks scorers, while playing all 60 minutes and doing it in front of the home fans. Hiller saved 31 of 33 shots, while the two Canucks goals (both in the second period) could hardly be hung on him. The first came when a fluttering puck got knocked past him by a crashing Fowler, the second a Sami Salo slap shot that sailed past the screen of a leaping Alex Burrows just as a 5-on-3 had expired.

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. 

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SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 23 14 4 5 63 56 33
2 VAN 22 15 6 1 67 61 31
3 NSH 21 14 5 2 61 45 30
4 STL 22 14 6 2 59 46 30
5 CGY 24 14 8 2 75 64 30
6 LAK 23 12 6 5 64 53 29
7 CHI 22 13 8 1 66 46 27
8 WPG 24 12 9 3 51 54 27
9 MIN 21 12 9 0 58 48 24
10 SJS 24 10 10 4 62 66 24
11 DAL 22 9 9 4 64 74 22
12 ARI 23 9 11 3 57 71 21
13 COL 23 8 10 5 59 73 21
14 EDM 22 6 14 2 51 77 14

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 22 6 13 1 19
S. Vatanen 23 5 13 -1 18
C. Perry 18 12 5 8 17
R. Kesler 23 6 11 -2 17
M. Beleskey 23 10 2 5 12
C. Fowler 22 2 9 0 11
J. Silfverberg 23 1 9 5 10
D. Smith-Pelly 20 3 5 1 8
P. Maroon 15 1 7 -1 8
A. Cogliano 23 3 4 -2 7
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 10 2 4 .922 2.10
J. Gibson 2 2 0 .927 2.28

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