Friday, 10.14.2011 / 11:35 AM PT
We're mere hours away from one of the coolest nights this place sees all year, but this one packs just a little more buzz than your typical Ducks home opener.
Because of their jaunt through Scandinavia for the first two games of the season, it's the first Stateside game of the regular season for the Ducks. And because of the much-needed rest they were granted in the afterglow of that trip, it's the first Ducks hockey game of any kind in six days. And oh, by the way, the teal is in the building.
That rest, while very important for the team in the long run, had been tough for Ducks fans to endure. We're ready for some more hockey, dammit, and we're finally getting it back tonight.
There's all the hustle and bustle of opening night among the staff here at Honda Center as well. A minute ago I asked our building operations guy for a new lightbulb, since the one in my office burned out. He looked at me like I asked him for a unicorn to ride around the arena. (I'm thinking I'll get that lightbulb on Monday).
It wouldn't be a Ducks home opener without some pomp and circumstance. Fans are already arriving for the "Miller Lite Blue Carpet," which will include live music and Ducks player arrivals. Those suit-clad Ducks will stop for interviews, sign a few autographs, shake a few hands, maybe kiss a few babies. (We'll have photos and video of it later, but follow along on our Twitter page as well.)
Once inside, you'll be handed a brand new Ducks Digest (I had to get that plug in)with a couple of pretty important Ducks on the cover. You'll find new and different food, including the Burger Bistro and Outlaw's Smokehouse (I can tell you firsthand that the brisket sandwich with cole slaw on it is fantastic.)
When those Ducks hit the ice for the warmup, you'll notice them wearing a special "24" patch in honor or Ruslan Salei.
And then of course there is a hockey game, a very important hockey game against one of the Ducks' more reviled opponents. (It's true that familiarity breeds contempt, as this is the first of six meetings between the Ducks and Sharks this season, not to mention the two in the preseason.)
Despite the fact their last game was in Phoenix, the Sharks have gotten the same amount of gamedays off as the Ducks have, not having played since beating the Coyotes 6-3. For the second straight game, they will be without their starting goalie (in other words they'll be anti-Antti Niemi) as he recovers from having a cyst removed from his knee. Meanwhile, traditional backup Antero Niittymaki (I definitely copied and pasted that name for fear of misspelling it) is out a few more months following hip surgery.
The Ducks, on the other hand, got some good news in the injury realm, as Toni Lydman is expected to be in the lineup tonight. Lydman hasn't played at all as he comes back from a May surgery to repair a torn labrum, but has been cleared for contact for the past several days now. “He will in all likelihood play tonight,” Randy Carlyle said this morning. ”I haven’t talked to him since he got off the ice. I haven’t been made aware there was any setbacks. We were going along the premise that he would be available to us if everything was fine this morning. That hasn’t changed.”
If he's in there, expect him to be paired (as he was for most of last year) with Lubomir Visnovsky, with Cam Fowler likely playing with Francois Beauchemin again.
Tonight is also the first chance for the home crowd to see the top line of Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan and that second line of Selanne, Koivu and Blake, with both groups looking to get something going after having a quiet two games in Europe. That fascinating unit line of Gordon, Smith-Pelly and Cogliano will likely be together again, and will all be going through something else together -- their first home openers as Ducks.
I stopped Cogliano in the locker room today and asked him if the players feel the same kind of buzz for a home opener that the fans feel. "For sure," he said. "You start your first game here, you want to show yourself well and have a good game. It's going to be exciting. It's something new for me. I'm not used to a home opener here and seeing how the fans react. I can tell there is excitement for the season and they know there is a good team here.
"It's San Jose on a Friday night, so it's even a little more exciting. It's going to be a good night."
Glad we're in agreement on that.