Critical Week for Ducks
Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 11:15 AM PT
If ever there was added motivation for the Ducks to return to their winning ways, it comes this week.
Starting tonight in Los Angeles, the Ducks will play back-to-back home-and-homes with the Kings in the renewal of the Freeway Face-Off rivalry. Then Sunday it's a rematch with another familiar foe, the Red Wings, who spoiled the end of that difficult Ducks road trip with a 5-0 victory in Detroit on November 5.
The Ducks (and their fans, for that matter) would love nothing more than to turn things around in those games, which could prove critical in determining how things go the rest of this important month. "The games are always spirited with LA," Randy Carlyle said this morning. "We need something good to happen with our group, but we're going to have to earn it. If we're not prepared to go to battle with the group they have up there in LA, we'll be embarrassed. We have to be ready."
The Kings have similar motivation in these next two games, as they haven't exactly been lighting up the world so far this season. They're 5-2 decision over Minnesota on Saturday night was just their second win in the last eight games. They're currently 10th in the West with 19 points (four more than Anaheim). The plights of both teams are a far stretch from where they were last time they battled on back-to-back nights, last April when the Ducks won both games to end the regular season and catapult into the fourth slot in the West.
It's an understatement that scoring first will be important tonight. The Ducks are 6-0-2 when they get the first goal, 0-8-1 when they don't.
Carlyle said this morning that both Bobby Ryan (who missed yesterday's practice with the flu) and Dan Ellis (who left practice early with groin issues) will be available tonight. Center Ben Maxwell, who the Ducks plucked off waivers last week, is also available after securing his work visa and getting into Orange County yesterday. But as Carlyle said yesterday, "It’s a little bit unfair to expect him to jump into your lineup off an airplane tonight.”
Niklas Hagman, whom the Ducks claimed off waivers yesterday, will not be in the lineup tonight and probably not tomorrow night back at Honda Center, as he too has to get his work visa. Hagman, like Maxwell, will have to fly to Canada and fill out the proper paperwork at a U.S. consulate.
Hagman, who has skated with the team the last two days, said yesterday, "I'm happy to be here. Obviously I need a little bit of a fresh start for my career. It's a good place to come. ... Hopefully I'll get my visa thing settled and I get to play."
Teemu Selanne, Hagman's teammate on a number of Finnish national teams, said of Hagman, "He’s an unbelievable skater. Fast. Strong like a bull. Brings a lot of energy. And you know what? He can score goals. He has really good skills and sometimes doesn’t get enough credit. I believe it’s just a confidence thing. He’s going to be a big help for us.”
That help will have to come later, as right now Hagman will be watching these two crucial games with the Kings like the rest of us. (I will, by the way, be at Staples Center tonight doing a live game log if anyone is interested.)
As far as the importance of these next two nights, this comment came from Cam Fowler came after the Ducks fell to Minnesota Sunday night, but it's worth repeating: "We should be going into those two games like Stanley Cup Game 7. It's a big rivalry. Playing those guys back-to-back, home-and-home, it could get us going in the right way or it could set us back again. We have to be ready."