November Starts in Washington
Tuesday, 11.01.2011 / 2:03 PM
Having endured a painful end to the first month of the NHL season, the Ducks can only hope the turn of the calendar page -- and the sprouting of some hair above their lips -- can spark a revival.
If it's any encouragement, it's well known the entire Ducks team is taking part in "Movember" this month (check out the photos of their clean shaves to start it yesterday below), something that appeared to inspire them last year. The moustachioed Ducks bounced back from a rough start to the season to go 8-4-2 in November, including a six-game winning streak to start the month.
Of course, any such springboarding this time around is going to require more goal-scoring than the 1.91 per game the Ducks have averaged so far this season, not to mention the single total goal they put up in consecutive losses over the weekend. And Game 1 of November is going to be no small task -- a date with the formidable Washington Capitals in a building where they are a perfect 5-0-0 so far.
While the Ducks are a tick under two goals per game, the Capitals are averaging a number that looks more like a college-bound kid's grade-point average: 3.78. They won their first seven games of the year before dropping two straight in Edmonton and Vancouver, the latter a 7-4 setback. The Caps still sit four points out of the Eastern Conference's top spot, with a whopping four fewer games played than leader Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the one thing that has plagued them in the past (notably in some sooner-than-expected playoff exits) has been incredibly solid so far -- goaltending.
Vetern netminder Tomas Vokoun, the 35-year-old former Panther signed with Washington in the offseason, is 6-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average. He'll be in net tonight, while Jonas Hiller will presumably debut his Movember mask in the Anaheim net.
The Caps are expected to be without top defenseman and power play QB Mike Green for the third straight game, as he nurses a twisted ankle. Washington's fierce power play is just 1 for 8 without him.
Tonight is kind of a big night for what has been the Ducks' third line for a good chunk of the young season (although that is likely changing tonight, as you'll see below). The trio of Andrew Gordon, Andrew Cogliano and Devante Smith-Pelly have only combined for one goal so far this year (Cogliano's in the second game of the year) and Gordon especially would love to get off the schneid tonight. That's because he spent the first four years of his pro career in the Capitals system, only getting called up for 12 games (and 1 goal) total the last three seasons.
Asked about it today, Gordon had a pretty cerebral take on the experience. “Putting together a hockey team’s like putting together a puzzle," he said in a piece in the Washington Times. "You’ve got to find the right pieces. And if they didn’t have a place for me, it’s best for me to go elsewhere. It’s a puzzle and if my piece of the puzzle didn’t fit into the picture that they were trying to build, I understand completely.”
Gordon, a natural right winger, has been playing in the left side of that third line, but Randy Carlyle indicated yesterday that Gordon might be switched back to the right side tonight. In today's morning skate, he was on the right side of the third line with recent call-up Nick Bonino at center and Brandon McMillan on the left. Cogliano, meanwile, is probably being moved up to the second line with Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne.
Meanwhile, a decision will need to be made on whether Smith-Pelly is in the lineup for his 10th game of the season tonight. That would trigger the first season of his entry level contract, and since Smith-Pelly is under 20, he can't be sent to the AHL. If the Ducks do send him down, it would be to his junior team in Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League, and he wouldn't be eligible to return until that season is over.
“I still think he’s feeling his way,” Carlyle said of Smith-Pelly. “The game (in the NHL) is so much quicker. You have to decipher what’s happening and read at a quicker pace, not only with the size of the people but the pace of the game. I think those are areas in which he would admittedly like to improve.
“We still like his size. We like that he’s responsible defensively, along the wall. He does get a little puck-watching when the puck’s down low. His (opposing) defensemen have had a little bit too much freedom up top in his area. We’ve tried to correct that. The biggest asset he brings is his size and his ability to play physical.”
Tonight's game (4:30 p.m. Pacific) is the first of six Ducks games to air on VERSUS this season. If you didn't already see it, DirecTV and News Corp thankfully worked out their dispute yesterday and the Fox Sports channels (for us here in SoCal, that's FS West and Prime Ticket) will remain on the air. (I'm pretty pumped about not losing FX too. Gotta watch The League.)
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take a look at the photos here, including some of the Ducks shaving each other.
Said Teemu Selanne to the OC Register, "It’s funny, I was in the middle seat and there’s a lot of people going around. When you have a knife in your throat, you’re kind of worried that somebody’s going to hit the guy who’s doing that. It can do some damage. “I was a little nervous. But those guys are professionals.”
One photo that struck me as funny is this one of George Parros. If you didn't know he got hit in the face with a puck a few days ago, you would think this is the roughest shave in the history of shaving.