Looking for Lubo
Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 12:30 PM PT
|"I'm ready," Visnovsky said. We are too.
Lubomir Visnovsky has missed more than a month after suffering a broken finger on his right hand November 11, as the already-struggling Ducks went 2-9-2 in his absence. Visnovsky appears set to make his return tonight when Anaheim takes on the visiting Coyotes here at Honda Center.
Visnovsky said “I’m ready” after today’s morning skate that followed two lengthy practice sessions to begin the week. Bruce Boudreau indicated Visnovsky’s would be a game-time decision, but if he is good to play, Boudreau said he won’t dip the defenseman’s toe in the water.
“If he’s ready to play, I anticipate him to be as good as he can be,” Boudreau said. ”I’m one of those guys [where] I don’t believe in guys giving an excuse already made for themselves like ‘Well, I haven’t played in a while or it’s going to take time to get ready.’
“If you’re ready to play in the National Hockey League, you better be ready to play. I expect him to be as good as he’s been.”
Visnovsky played more than 23 minutes a night before the injury, and his absence has meant other Ds like Cam Fowler have had to pick up the slack by playing more than they’re used to.
Ryan Getzlaf will be in the lineup tonight after missing yesterday’s practice with the stomach flu, but Saku Koivu will be out for the second straight game with what is still being called a lower-body injury.
That means that newly acquired center Rod Pelley will be in there, after spending one practice and today’s skate with the Ducks after being acquired from New Jersey with defenseman Mark Fraser.
The Ducks are also looking for sparks from bringing in the two new dudes, as mentioned by Nate Guenin yesterday. Guenin is close friends with Pelley, having played with him four years at Ohio State. He said of Monday’s trade, “One, he's one of my best buddies so that's awesome. Two, I know the type of player he is and the mentality and the positive energy that he'll bring to the room. We're struggling here and he brings some new life.
“I'm sure it'll take no time at all for everybody to see what type of guy he is and the character he has.”
Said Pelley, who played seven games for NJ this year, “It’s exciting. It’s a new challenge.I think challenges only make you better. I’m really excited to get going.”
Jonas Hiller will be in net tonight, according to Boudreau, after sitting out the Nashville game last Saturday. In net for the Coyotes will be Ducks-killer Mike Smith, who is 5-0-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average in his career vs. Anaheim. Those are much better numbers than what Smith has put up lately, having gone 1-3-0 with a 5.61 GAA in his last four starts, having gotten pulled in two of those.
His Coyotes team is struggling on the power play, with numbers I won’t even mention hear for fear of jinxing. I’m also hesitant to mention the Coyotes have lost two in a row (getting outscored 9-3) and four of their last six. They’ve also beaten the Ducks in each of their last five meetings.
Anaheim comes into this game having endured two straight practices for the first time in the now-two-week-old Boudreau era.
“I thought they practiced real hard [Monday],” Boudreau said. “They were pretty energetic today. As a coach, you always want to practice.”
(Certainly, Boudreau was speaking more for the coaches than the players on that one.)
“The more practice time we have at this stage, the better it is.”
The Ducks badly need this one tonight, as this is their last appearance at home before hopping on a five-game trip through the day after Christmas.
Looking at that, and the Ducks’ need to turn things around pretty much immediately, Boudreau had a nice pop culture reference yesterday.
"I know what we need to do and it's easier said than done, but right now we need a 10-game winning streak or to win 15 out of 20," he said. "If we do that, we're back in the hunt. It's not easy to do in this division and with the amount of road games we play in a row, but we're getting Visnovsky back and then Koivu and Jason Blake -- then the team all of a sudden has balance.
"I've seen 'Moneyball,' so I know even the A's were a last-place team that won 20 in a row. It can happen."
I like Paul Rudd to play me in the movie.
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If you have HBO, make sure you set your DVR tonight (you'll be watching the Ducks game when it first airs tonight at 7 Pacific) for "24/7 Flyers Rangers: Road To the NHL Winter Classic." If it's even remotely close to last year's series involving the Capitals and Penguins, it should be outstanding viewing. You can check out a preview here. (Here's hoping for plenty of Bryz time on this year's show.)
I talked briefly to Boudreau yesterday about his now-famous involvement in last year's version, when he was coaching the Caps, and he had this to say:
"That was a great experience. To be quite honest, it was rough the first week because we lost eight in a row and we had never lost more than three in a row before. None of us could understand what the heck was going on. We only lost one of those games by more than one goal and in all eight games, we had over 40 shots. The night before we broke it, we outshot Boston 27-3 in the third and we couldn't score. We just knew, This has gotta change.
"That experience in the end, just being at the Winter Classic, I really wish every hockey player had the chance to do that. It's an experience I'll never forget."