Adam Brady is the Director of Publications & New Media for the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center. Email him by CLICKING HERE.
Updated Jan. 31 at 12:22 p.m.
Okay, that was bad. That was really bad.
There are no excuses for the Ducks' embarrassing 5-1 loss last night in Minnesota in front of a (technically) national audience on Versus. They just played poorly and Minnesota was all too happy to take advantage. Three goals less than two minutes apart in the second period by the Wild and the Ducks were done.
And the first person to admit that J.S. Giguere had a bad night in goal was J.S. Giguere: "I have to do a better job and make sure I give my team a chance to win. It’s just not the way I wanted to start this big road trip. I just wanted to be solid. The goals weren’t easy to save, but I’m getting paid to make those saves.”
The most egregious was the slap shot from Brian Rolston 1:22 into the second where Giguere went from Ducks goalie to "goalie Ducks." Maybe he thought the puck would sail over the cross bar into the board and that taking it off the mask might provide a rebound. Or maybe he just had a reflex to a puck sailing at his head that all of us would have, but it's not a reaction NHL goalies typically make.
Either way, it was the second straight off night for Giguere, and he showed his frustration when he was pulled by Randy Carlyle following that third goal in the second. He banged his stick against the post and then heaved his blocker into the bench. A few seconds later, he was caught on camera kicking the boards while seated on the bench.
“I’m not mad at Randy for pulling me,” Giguere said. “I probably would have done the same thing. I’m mad at the situation. I’m mad because we’ve lost four in a row."
And he wasn't the only one. During the telecast, Versus bench reporter Jack Edwards announced on air that he could hear Chris Pronger "through the cinder block wall" screaming at his teammates for several minutes, peppering his speech with several expletives and repeated use of the word "unacceptable."
He's right. It was unaccetable, or as he later told the press, "We have to put in better performances than that. We have to start getting dirty, start getting in the high-traffic areas, playing our chip-and-support game, playing our physical style and playing our skating game."
Here's the good news about last night's loss. It can't get any worse tomorrow night at St. Louis.
By the way, it was a little strange to hear John Ahlers' familiar voice on the Versus telecast, especially since he was paired up with former longtime NHLer John Vanbiesbrouck. Frankly, I didn't think "Beezer" was very good, even without the fact that he called Anaheim the "Mighty Ducks" on at least one occasion. I can imagine Johnny Ahlers cringing when he heard that, just like we all did. I also heard a rumor that on the Channel 7 news out here in SoCal, in a feature on all four Southland teams being on the road right now, used the Mighty Ducks logo. Maybe someday people will figure it out. Maybe if we win the Cup or something.
No word on whether Teemu Selanne will be back tomorrow night, but he did skate hard yesterday morning in front of Ducks assistant coach Newell Brown, long after the rest of the Ducks had left the ice. According to Dan Wood in the O.C. Register:
When he had finally finished an extraordinarily long workout and plopped himself down at his locker stall, sweat cascading from his face, Selanne was in classic form with a small group of reporters gathered for an update on progress of his comeback.
“This is perfect,” Selanne said. “Come on the road with the boys, spend extra time with them, extra skates with Newell — priceless.”
It will be up to Selanne to determine when he is ready to play, Carlyle said. After sitting out the season’s first 53 games while contemplating retirement, the only commitment Selanne is ready to make is that his return to the lineup is likely to come at some point during this trip.
“I really want to be patient,” Selanne said. “I have been skating regularly the last three weeks, but this intensity, you can’t pick it up just like that.”
Edward Fraser's blog on The Hockey News website reveals that a computer simulation program used at the University of Alberta School of Business has determined that the Ducks have just a 56 percent chance of getting into the playoffs. Despite that, Fraser says "I’d be more than happy to take an even-money bet on the Ducks making the Final 16." So would I.
Fraser also writes about a previous blog entry in which he says he detests the NHL system that gives one point for an overtime loss. I've always felt the same way. Either you win or you lose. No other sport gives you credit for losing in overtime. Anyway, Fraser shows what the NHL standings would be under some different points systems. It doesn't change the standings all that much, but it's interesting stuff.
On a few programming notes, Brian Burke will join NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman today between 1 and 2 p.m. Pacific on on the NHL Hour on XM Channel 204 and NHL.com. It will be one of the few times you'll hear the guys on XM talk about teams outside the Eastern Conference. Man, every time I turn that station on they're prattling on about the East and rarely acknowledge that there is hockey west of the Mississippi. It kills me.
For those of you who have NHL Network (which I think is still only available to those with the Center Ice package), the channel will air the Portland Pirates game against the Lowell Devils at 4 p.m. Pacific today.
Back to Burke, Michael Farber has a story on SI.com on the "genius" of the Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager.
Updated Jan. 30 at 2:23 p.m.
It seems like the 2007-08 season has been a series of litmus tests for the Anaheim Ducks. How will the Ducks respond as defending champions? How will they handle playing in London? How will they play when they get back from London? How will they bounce back from the inevitable "Stanley Cup hangover" that initially struck them like other past champions? How will they play with Scott Niedermayer back? Can they bounce back after losing three straight before the All-Star break? And on and on.
Now the latest test: how will they handle this ridiculous road trip?
Tonight is the first of eight games in 15 days on the road for the Ducks, and the way they come out of this will certainly pave the way for how they perform the rest of the campaign.
“For the players, it’s time for them to turn the page and focus on the most important thing, and that’s (tonight) in
Oh, and by the way, this thing is starting pretty soon. Because it's in Minnesota and it's on Versus, they're dropping the puck at 4:00. It's the second straight home game against the Ducks for the Wild, since they suffered that 4-2 loss just 11 days ago at Xcel Energy Center and then hit the road before the All-Star break. It should be another physical one, though Derek Boogaard is again questionable with back trouble.
We're not hearing anything more yet on Teemu Selanne's timetable. He won't be in there tonight, that's for sure. But look for a couple of games from now. Maybe.
Speaking of Teemu, there is a nice story in the L.A. Daily News on how his return is welcomed in a Southland sports scene lacking for likeable superstars. Interesting point. Kobe doesn't exactly make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
That's one of the things that deserves to be pointed out with this comeback. It's one thing to talk about the impact it will have on the Ducks offense or the leadership in the dressing room. But having Selanne back is also good news because he's just a great, personable guy to have around. The kind of guys you want representing your team and this league. That shouldn't be forgotten .
By the way, if you misses Chris Pronger's appearance on "The Early Show" this morning, you can get to it on this page. Just click "Play Media" on the left.
Updated Jan. 29 at 12:34 p.m.
The Ducks bus headed out of the Honda Center parking lot at 10:15 this morning, carrying a passenger it hasn't had this year. Teemu Selanne boarded the bus this morning with the rest of his Ducks teammates, and the team's equipment guys packed away his white No. 8 jersey in anticipation of him playing his first game sometime on the trip.
It's uncertain when that will be (Selanne himself said he hoped after a couple of games), but it's staggering to think what this Ducks team looks like with him back in there. And while he looked to be in tremendous condition yesterday, time will only tell how many games it takes him to get into game shape again. Here's something a lot of people don't remember about last season: Despite scoring 48 goals on the year (third in the NHL), Selanne only had one in his first 12 games.
When he's ready to go, I'm assuming he's put on a line with Chris Kunitz and Doug Weight. And like Andy McDonald before him, I think it's safe to assume that Doug Weight's game (which thrives on setting up teammates) gets even better with the Finnish Flash skating on his wing.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but you could make an argument that on paper this Ducks team is as good or better than last year's Stanley Cup champs, especially when Sammy Pahlsson gets back (more on that on this site later). But we all know playoff runs aren't made and Cup titles aren't won on paper. There is a reason "Heart, Passion and Sacrifice" were three of the buzzwords that guided the Ducks last year, and that's the same thing it's going to take for them to make another quest for the title. But as much as Selanne provides the Ducks on the ice, he provides just as much in the locker room, plane, bus and dining room -- an intense focused combined with a constantly upbeat demeanor.
That starts on this road trip, and leave it to the Ducks to find something to look forward to on a trip that's by far their toughest of the year. The timing of Selanne's comeback (if it had to come in the second part of the season) is ideal, at least for him. Leaving the family is never easy, but it might be better for him to try and make this happen without the distractions of four kids (including that new baby). As he said yesterday, “I think this was a good time to come back. It’s good to go on the road with the boys and start there. I think it will be easier. “Obviously it’s not very easy to go on a 15-day road trip, but it’s a good time to start spending time with my teammates and get the team together.”
Inevitably there are those who have raised an eyebrow toward Selanne's comeback, especially since it's on the heels of Scott Niedermayer's mid-season return. Even NHL commissioner Gary Bettman weighed in, saying "He obviously felt he needed some time off and I wouldn't second guess that for a minute. If this were to become a trend, I would have concerns."
I think the chances of that are pretty slim, but the league has obviously not had provisions for a circumstance like this, but look for them to make some this offseason.
Jeff Miller of the O.C. Register touches on the negative impact of Selanne's return in his column about Selanne in today's edition. Miller's commentary, as usual, is well-thought-out and intelligently written. Then on the other hand, you have Ross McKeon's drivel on Yahoo.com under the misleading header of "NHL Experts Blog." McKeon's story, entitled A lame Duck return, states right away that he thinks Selanne is "making a mistake" because he "doesn't need the money," and "there will be pressure on him to produce." Hey Ross, did you ever think that maybe he wasn't doing this for the money? And maybe he likes the pressure? Don't all big-time athletes thrive under pressure?
Meanwhile, McKeon also writes: "I can't help but see this team either failing to reach the postseason or losing in the first round." Check the standings, pal. The Ducks are in fifth in the Western Conference, one point short of the No. 2 spot. They're a virtual lock to make the postseason even without Selanne. Not your best work, Ross.
I honestly don't think there were any ulterior motives for Selanne's comeback, from his or the Ducks' perspectives, and I think the same thing about Niedermayer's return. I don't think either intended to sit out a half season (or more), taking advantage of the patience Brian Burke and the organization showed them. I think it's just a case of both of them having trouble deciding on their futures, to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives. Who among us hasn't put things off the same way, and with much less-important decisions? Selanne himself put it as simply as he could when he talked to the press yesterday, still smiling despite a tough first workout with the team: "The only reason I came back is because I really felt I wanted to play hockey again. That's why I'm here."
Moving on, this picture rolled in from All-Star Weekend and I didn't have a chance to post it earlier. Here's something you don't see every day, Scott Niedermayer having a chat with R&B singer Usher. You'd be hard-pressed to find a meeting between two people with less in common. Can you read Scotty's mind in this picture? He's saying to himself, "Who is this guy again? One of the ushers? Don't they usually wear blazers?"
One last thing. You may have noticed the major change to our banner at the top of this website. As part of a company-wide move, "Stanley Cup Champs" is coming off of everything. It has nothing to do with the Teemu return. The plans all along were to drop "Stanley Cup Champs" by Jan. 30. No more looking back. It's time now to focus on winning this thing again.
Updated Jan. 28 at 1:33 p.m.
Hey, the Ducks website is reporting that Teemu Selanne is coming back! Okay, it must be true.
My apologies for the blatant waffling from earlier. Let's just say I got word that this was happening, but nothing had been signed when I first mentioned it. So, I was forced to backpedal a bit. Won't happen again.
What am I saying? It might happen again.
Teemu will practice with the team today and will hold a press conference here at Honda Center at approximately 3:15. We will have a report from that press conference (first print and audio, then video later) as soon as possible after it's over.
Updated Jan. 28 at 12:51 p.m.
Our more astute website visitors will notice that I backpedaled a bit on what I originally posted about a Teemu announcement. Let's just say again that I'm hearing around here that something could be imminent, but there is nothing definite as of yet. You hear me? Nothing definite. Let's just leave it at that and move on.
I thought last night's All-Star Game, as All-Star Games go, was relatively entertaining. It was so high-scoring that it got ridiculous, and it was high-scoring enough to be exciting. Of course, when Rick Nash scored just 12 seconds into the thing -- benefiting from a mic-and-earpiece-wearing Rick DiPietro getting distracted by the Versus announcers -- it looked like it would be a lot more than just 8-7. It was great that the West climbed out of its hole and made it a game, which led to the East game-winner from Marc Savard goal with 20.9 seconds left. And props go to Ducks Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Getzlaf for helping stage that comeback with back-to-back goals. If you missed them, here is Scotty's and here is Getzy's.
I thought Jarome Iginla summed up the game nicely: "We said before the game we wanted it to be a better hockey game and be quicker. I thought it was the fastest one that I've played in so far. At first, nobody was shooting and they were over-passing. You're always going to get extra passes because everyone has such great vision, but I thought as it went on, we definitely wanted to make a good game of it and try to come back and win."
It's interesting that he said he thought it was the fastest one he's played in so far. I can't remember who the player was who was interviewed on the bench during the game, but they asked him to comment on all the talent out there and the speed of the game. He looked at all the guys skating at about 75 percent of their normal pace and he said something like, "Well, I don't know about the speed."
Nevertheless, it was a nice game, though I still can't believe the league chose to air it on Versus instead of NBC. I thought we were actually trying to grow the game. The people who get Versus are already hockey fans. I figured NBC wasn't airing anything better at the time, so I checked the listings during the game and they were showing American Gladiators. On second thought, maybe they were airing something better. The info for the episode said: The rough-and-tough gladiators prey on four amateur athletes: a female football player, a tomboy, a fireman and a rock climber. Wait a minute, aren't they all tomboys?
I thought it was fitting that as soon as the All-Star Game telecast ended, Versus switched to bullriding.
But give it to Versus for airing the SuperSkills on Saturday. Some of that was entertaining, some not so much. The Obstacle Course seemed kind of silly to me. Watching a guy aim saucer passes into a miniature goal seemed almost humiliating. It almost looked like the NHL guys made up the rules after about six rum and Cokes the night before in the hotel bar. Meanwhile, you just knew the new Breakaway Challenge would be hit or miss. With the celebrity judges element, it was a little cheesy, as Brian Burke made his opinion clear on when he was interviewed during an All-Star Game intermission. But it was one Alex Ovechkin stick-to-puck contact away from being kind of cool. If he connects on either of those tries where he tapped it in the air and tried to baseball-swing it in the goal, it would have made the whole thing. So close.
Speaking of fancy shootout moves, a reader named Steven sent me video of two ridiculous shootout moves by a roller hockey player that some of the NHL guys should have stolen. Click this link, then click Extras and then Move of the Month. I love the first one, where he actually throws his glove as a distraction. Someone should have definitely thought of that on Saturday.
I liked the idea of skating 3 on 3 in the YoungStars game, but the star of that game might have been veteran goalie Manny Legace, who was mic'd for that game and then Sunday's game and showed a real personality. I know the NHL toyed with using the 3 on 3 as a tiebreaker instead of a shootout in the regular season, should there be no goals scored during the five minutes of 4 on 4. It's an interesting thought.
I was rooting for Chris Pronger to win the Hardest Shot competition, but it took a guy even taller than him (Zdeno Chara) to take that thing. But that doesn't mean Pronger didn't make his mark during the afternoon. Take a look at this video of Pronger attempting to be a wiseguy and step in front of a Corey Perry interview, only to fall flat on his face. An embarrassed Chris Pronger is a rare sight indeed.
Speaking of that interview, with all due respect to our man Corey, they couldn't find anyone a little more ... um ... enthusiastic to handicap the field for that event?
Alright, enough about the All-Star Weekend. Let's get back to the real hockey. The Ducks practice this afternoon around 2 p.m. at Honda Center, though I'm not sure if any of this year's All-Stars (or past Ducks All-Stars) will be out there. We'll just have to wait and see. Wednesday at Minnesota is Step 1 of this monster road trip.
I haven't mentioned it yet, but I will be joining the team next week for the games at the Islanders, Rangers and New Jersey for some extra special website coverage of those games, plus any extra events the Ducks have going on that week. More on that later.
Updated Jan. 28 at 10:56 a.m.
I'm saving my commentary on the All-Star Weekend for more pressing matters. Rumors are picking up around here that that you-know-who could be announcing he's coming back. Can't say when or any other details. That's all I can give you for now.
Updated Jan. 25 at 12:49 p.m.
Okay, that was bad. That was real bad. Losing to the Kings 3-1 at Staples Center, in a game L.A. seemingly dominated throughout, wasn't exactly the way the Ducks wanted to head into the All-Star break. All of a sudden, an Anaheim team that was probably the hottest in the NHL a week ago today, is reeling a bit going into this five-day layoff. And hopefully that break will give them time to regroup going into this monster road trip. It's the first time the Ducks have lost three straight in regulation since Oct. 20 through 25.
I thought the Ducks looked a little sluggish last night, almost as if all their energy was put into a hard-fought and very physical battle with Detroit the night before. It just seemed like they weren't getting to as many pucks as the clearly pumped-up Kings team, who despite owning the worst record in the NHL has suddenly won 5 of 7. And one of those losses was to Detroit.
The Ducks did manage to snap off 32 shots, and couldn't get any of them past a traditionally average Jason LaBarbera until Rob Niedermayer's goal with 3:12 left. It was ironic that Niedermayer's seemingly innocuous wrister got through LaBarbera's pads, because it looked to be one of the easier saves of his night. As much as Niedermayer has done on the checking end for the Ducks, that was remarkably his first point since Nov. 29. You can tell he was really pumped up by it in this video.
I was surprised to see J.S. Giguere get the start in net after playing the night before, but Randy Carlyle probably thought he'd have plenty of time to rest over this break. Meanwhile, Brandon Bochenski was scratched for the first time since he first entered the lineup for the Ducks, while Marchant was inserted into his spot on the second line. Giguere, by the way, was pulled in the second period, and one of the few bright spots of last night was the job Jonas Hiller did in relief.
Let's give it up for Ryan Getzlaf, whose 15-game point streak ended last night. It was the longest active string in the NHL and tied for second all-time in Ducks history.
By the way, I really don't enjoy Staples Center, and it's not just because the Kings play there. It's always ridiculously freezing up in that press box and all that of purple gave me a splitting headache last night. Even the urinal dividers in the press box bathroom are purple. I wrote this in the game log last night, but It makes me feel like I'm trapped in a glass of grape juice ... while being smothered by Barney. Here's something else that annoys me there. Instead of having a clock and scoreboard above the video board, the clock and scoreboard are part of the video board. So anytime they want to show some ad or video, the score, shots on goal and clock disappear (and are only available in the end zones). I think that's a mistake. Not to mention, for half of the game last night, the shots on goal for the Kings were way off. They listed them as having 18 when they only had about three, and it just kept going from there.
Looking ahead, this break will also hopefully give several Ducks time to recover from their injuries. Samuel Pahlsson has said he hopes to come back after the break, and hopefully the injuries Marchant (bruised foot) and Travis Moen (bruised ribs) sustained late in the game last night heal over that time. “There’s no question,” Brad May said. “Everybody looks at this as an opportunity to rest and get away from the game a little bit."
By the way, it will be nice to see the return of Pahlsson, the loss of whom Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times wrote in her column this morning "has hurt the Ducks more than most people realize." When the Ducks were hot, it was, "Look how good they're playing and they don't even have Sammy Pahlsson." Right now it's, "Well, they've lost their last three, but they don't have Sammy Pahlsson."
Of course, four Ducks players aren't getting much rest over the weekend. And speaking of that, we will have good coverage of the All-Star Weekend festitivites on this website, including live streaming feeds of several events. The biggest event, the All-Star Game, will be on at 3 p.m. on NB ... wait a minute ... is this right? ... Versus.
Versus will aso televise the YoungStars game (although I've never understood why that's one word) and NHL Skills challenge, starting at 4 p.m. Pacific. Among the NHL Skills events is the new Breakaway Challenge, in which Getzlaf will join Martin St. Louis, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Gaborik in a slam dunk-style shootout contest. There is a story about it in USA Today, which reveals that one of the judges will be Taylor Kitsch, who is phenomenal as Tim Riggins in "Friday Night Lights." This event could either be really cool or an absolute disaster.
Two things from Brian Burke before I go. First off, Burke can't say it enough times and in enough ways that he's not interested in the Toronto job. Secondly, he says he doesn't want to hear Teemu Selanne's decision until after the All-Star break: "I told his agent, if he makes any decision before the All-Star weekend is over, I'm going to wring his neck." The problem with Brian Burke is that he never really lets people know how he feels.
By the way, on Teemu, I have a very strong feeling he's announcing a comeback early next week. But then again, I could be wrong.
I wanted to save for last this very good news I got in an email last night. I'm not sure how this woman found my name, but this could be very good for me. Here is the email:
Dear beloved one,
I am the wife to Late Dr.Husain Amir who was a merchant in Dubai, in the U.A.E. for nine years. We were married for eight year with a son. My husband died in an auto crash in the year 2005. I am left with our seven year old son.
Recently, my Doctor told me that from the entire test conducted on myhealth, I am not going to last long due to my cancer. When my late husband was alive he secured $5 Million (Five Million U.S.Dollars) with financial institution in European.Presently, this money is still with the financial institution.
The fear i have now is that my husband relations are after my husband property.They have sized most of his estates and business empire. All i want from you is for you to help me recieve this funds, take care of my son as soon as i see your reply.
I waits your prompt mail and response.
Mrs Bashira Amir
I'm gonna be rich! I've just told all my co-workers I'm quitting. See you later, suckers!
Updated Jan. 24 at 6:54 p.m.
This is what I get for leaving Anaheim early to beat the traffic up to L.A. After taking my time walking into the arena and eating the press dinner, I'm still sitting in the coldest press box in the NHL with still 40 minutes to go before this game. There is an actual penguin sitting two seats away from me. Damn these stupid 7:30 starts. And damn the L.A. traffic for making me so paranoid.
But hey, no traffic!
The fans are now starting to trickle into the overly purple Staples Center. Let's get this thing going.
The Ducks just hit the ice for the warmups, followed by the Kings, and I find it interesting that when the Kings get out there, the Staples Center deejay plays a remake of Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" by The Ataris. I don't get it. "Boys of Summer" for a hockey team? Is it because the Kings usually start thinking of the summer by November? They sure play like they do.
I'm stealing this joke by the way, but my only reaction to this breaking news story was, "Wait a minute, he was still alive?"
Updated Jan. 24 at 3:30 p.m.
One last thing before I head up to L.A., praying for a Ducks shutout so I don't have to hear the nauseating "I Love L.A." song they play after every Kings goal. I've gotten several emails regarding Hazy and Billy Mac's exchange last night on Ducks Live, including a note from a reader named David, who has posted it on YouTube. Fast forward to the 1:30 mark if you want to get right to it.
Updated Jan. 24 at 1:36 p.m.
I've seen a couple of emails lately (both addressed to me and to Brian Burke) concerning the rumors of Burke taking over the GM job in Toronto. And obviously, these emails are begging him to stay. I can't speak for Burkie, but I can say with confidence he's not going anywhere. This was taken from the OC Register today:
“Nothing’s going to change,” Burke said. “My wife (Jennifer) and I love it in
“We have a wonderful situation with the Samuelis,” Burke said. “Our intention is to stay, unless and until they don’t want us. I have 17 months to go on my contract. I certainly don’t feel the Samuelis owe me anything now. This type of stuff — that’s how they are in
Burkie's not usually prone to use the third person, so he must be serious. Meanwhile, Burke made another classy move the other day when he sent an email to the entire Ducks staff thanking them for their part in the Ducks earning top honors at the L.A. Sports Awards. This was part of the message:
Simply put, this is the best organization I have worked for at any level, primarily due to tremendous ownership and the hardest working staff in the National Hockey League. Sunday’s recognition was a direct result of that.
Let me make it clear that the respect Burkie has for this organization is mutual, from the top down. He's not going anywhere anytime soon. So, Toronto fans and media, go look somewhere else.
Updated Jan. 24 at 10:09 a.m.
Yeah, a broken Francois Beauchemin stick and turnover opened the door for Detroit's second (and ultimately game-winning) goal in the 2-1 loss to the frontrunning Red Wings last night. And yeah, their first goal came on a 5 on 3, the fallout of a violent first period for both teams. And the 2-1 score certainly indicates a tight battle. But I couldn't help but think the Ducks got outplayed in this one. The Wings put the pressure on defensively, seemingly getting a stick on every puck in their own zone. Meanwhile, they peppered J.S. Giguere with 33 shots, a significant number in such a tightly fought contest, where open ice wasn't often for the taking. But Giguere, who continues to be the hottest Duck not named Ryan Getzlaf, was in position to save 31of those shots. And he did what Randy Carlyle repeatedly stresses -- he gave his team a chance to win.
Unfortunately, the Ducks could muster nothing more than Chris Pronger's bomb from the blue line, off a Getzlaf pass that ran his points streak to an impressive 15 games. So, the Beauchemin stick break was just that, a bad break. But bad breaks happen. No one knows that better in this rivalry than Detroit. They watched a Scott Niedermayer shot glance off the stick of Nicklas Lidstrom and bound past a previously dominant Dominik Hasek with 48 seconds to go in last year's Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena. It would have been sweet if the Ducks could have pulled off the same magic when they sent Giguere to the bench with 1:15 left last night, but alas, it was not to be.
It sure would have been nice to get a big goal off Hasek last night, who was his usual flamboyant self. By the way, am I the only one who thinks he looks like Gazoo from "The Flintstones" in that funky helmet? You be the judge.
By the way, it was nice to see Pronger go at it with Dan Cleary last night. Cleary was bloodied from the fight and never returned to the game. Pronger dropping the gloves is kind of like a shooting star or a good Super Bowl game. They're a rare occurence, but always fun to watch.
And last night's physical play and atmosphere made for a heck of a game. I'd love to see those guys again this spring.
So, the Ducks will look to bounce back tonight against the rival Kings, who just happen to own the worst record in the NHL. And the Ducks can clinch the Freeway Face-Off with a win tonight, whether it's in regulation or overtime. The Kings will be without Mike Cammalleri tonight, a consistent Ducks killer.
For the handful of you who care, I'll be heading up to Staples tonight to do the typical live game log and recap coverage that we do for home games. Man, I can't wait to drive up to L.A. in the middle of the afternoon. Good times. The Ducks, by the way, headed up there by bus this morning at around 9:30 and they will hold their morning skate at Staples Center.
By the way, anyone notice Brian Hayward and Bill MacDonald have an awkward give-and-take on the "Ducks Live" postgame show when MacDonald blamed the Kings troubles on their goaltending? Hayward, a former goalie himself, took exception to that common theory, insisting that it's the Kings' defense that gives up so many chances. As they both tried to slip in the occasional "hey, we still like each other" laugh, It was about as comfortable to watch as an episode of "Celebrity Rehab."
Updated Jan. 23 at 4:23 p.m.
A reader named Jim has pointed out a mistake I made in the last posting. I wrote that the Ducks are the only team to have beaten Detroit by more than two goals this season. Jim points out that that Atlanta beat them 5-1 on Jan. 15 (though I'm not sure how they did that). So, I recalled that I got that stat from a page on the NHL website. I went back to that page and they've since changed it to saying the Ducks are "the only Western Conference team to beat them by more than one goal."
This time I actually researched it and found out that both Chicago and St. Louis have beaten the Wings by two goals. So, the Ducks are the only Western Conference team to beat the Red Wings by more than two goals. I think that's correct. Jim also pointed out the Ducks are the only team to score six goals in regulation against Detroit this season.
The Ducks are also the only team in the NHL to wear black, orange and gold and be named after a winged water animal to beat Detroit this season.
Done and done.
One more thing. A reader named "Maverik" has sent me a link to a website called iClips, which has a seven-minute video of Snoop Dogg's visit to Honda Center when he shot footage for his reality show. (The Ducks episode of that show airs Sunday, by the way, and we may have more on that tomorrow.) You can view the video by clicking here. It requires a user name and password and it's a free signup, so I don't think they'll mind that Maverik created one for Ducks fans to use: Username: AnaheimDucks; Password: pronger
Snoop, who comes off as surprisingly knowledgeable about the Ducks, goes so far as the invent a "goal dance" for the Ducks to adopt. Here's a great line, when Snoop is talking about following the Ducks in the playoffs last year: "I watched y'all on the Versus channel. They didn't even have y'all on a real TV channel. They made up a channel and put y'all on. I'm like, Wait a minute, what is this, man?"
Updated Jan. 23 at 12:35 p.m.
I don't know about you, but it feels kind of like playoff time tonight. One of the hottest teams in the NHL (that's the Ducks) going up against the team with the best record (that's the Red Wings) in their first battle since way back on Oct. 15. That was a 6-3 Ducks win, which remarkably was the only time Detroit has lost by more than two goals this season. And that was a Ducks team with no Scott Niedermayer, no Doug Weight, no Brandon Bochenski and no J.S. Giguere, Mathieu Schneider or Todd Bertuzzi, all three of whom were out with injuries. That Ducks team was so different from this Ducks team, the only thing similar was the uniforms.
Meanwhile, you've got a Red Wings team that has won nine of its last 10 road games going up against an Anaheim unit that has won seven in a row at home. The Detroit road surge includes a 3-0 cakewalk last night at Staples Center against a Kings team that seemingly gave up months ago. Before that was a 6-3 trouncing of San Jose at the Shark Tank last Saturday.
And oh by the way, the Ducks took down Detroit in last year's Western Conference Final in six games, in case you forgot. Speaking of that, a pretty telling response in our current Ducks poll, which asked which team you enjoy beating more, the Red Wings or Kings. As of right now, the Wings have gotten 73.63% of the vote, while the Kings got 26.37%
Wings leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg will sit this one out with a sore back that caused him to miss last night's game and skip Sunday's All-Star Game. With All-Star netminder Chris Osgood going last night against L.A. (and getting one of the easiest shutouts of his life), Dominik Hasek is probably getting the nod tonight. Hasek is 11-2-1 with a 1.63 goals-against average and three shutouts since Dec. 4. But he's 0-3-0 with a 4.10 GAA in his last three starts at Honda Center.
Chris Chelios got a rest last night, since he usually doesn't play on back-to-back nights and preferred to face the Ducks than the Kings. No truth to the rumor that Chelios spent the night playing bingo and fell asleep at 8 p.m. while watching "Murder She Wrote" on DVD.
Anyway, should be a heck of a game tonight. I can't wait.
The OC Register's online version has a nice story on the Ducks Casino Night from Monday night.
A few things from around the league that I should have mentioned yesterday. Ilya Bryzgalov got a juicy extension from the Phoenix Coyotes, to the tune of $12.75 million over three years (I linked to the ESPN.com story since it shows him in his 2005-06 Mighty Ducks jersey). I wonder if that contract put him in as good a mood as he was in on this day. "It's hockey. It's only a game. Why you haf to be mad? I'm a good guy. It's a lot of money!"
This week's award for the event you saw coming from three miles away, the Maple Leafs fired GM John Ferguson.
And finally, this is not good for hockey. Not good at all.
Updated Jan. 22 at 2:32 p.m.
Two things. First of all, we have a nice photo gallery from last night's Casino Night, including plenty of shots of our loveable Real Housewives. Unfortunately, no Britney lookalike.
Updated Jan. 22 at 11:38 a.m.
My apologies for not filling this space since last Friday. The combination of the three-day weekend and an impromptu trip to Vegas was to blame. I will say that there aren't too many better places to watch important games than the sportsbook at Mandalay Bay. I've spent several NCAA Tournaments there, and this past Sunday I watched the AFC and NFC championship games there, along with the Ducks on a smaller screen on the big wall. It's great to watch a game with a very large group in which approximately half are rooting for one team while the other half roots for the other. (Although, I'd say the ratio in the AFC game leaned heavily toward the Chargers.) At one point in the Giants-Packers game, after a late Giants touchdown was called back for holding, some guy stood up in front of the several screaming Giants fans behind us and yelled "HOLD-ing! ... HOLD-ing!" while flashing the "holding" sign. It was at the same time gutsy and extremely funny.
My proudest moment over the weekend was not the $350 I won playing 20 minutes of video poker or the hedge bet I made on the Giants 30 seconds before the overtime kickoff, but the fact that my girlfriend and I drove both ways (Saturday and yesterday) in less than four hours. I will never fly to Vegas from SoCal ever again. It's all about timing.
Back to the Ducks, it's probably for the best that I've waited two days to comment on Sunday's game in Dallas, because that's a game we'd all probably like to forget. Nine shots over the first two periods, along with a ton of emotion-fueled penalties in the first, was probably not the start the Ducks had in mind. Good things can be said about the effort in the third period, but that's almost like applauding a fire being put out after it's burned half your house down.
At the same time, I'm not sure what the replay officials were thinking when they didn't rule that Brendan Morrow kicked that second Stars goal in 3:18 into the third. Maybe they were watching the Chargers-Pats game. Mia Hamm couldn't have kicked that thing any better.
One positive was Ryan Getzlaf's late goal, extending a points streak that has reached 14 games, longest in the NHL currently and third-longest in Ducks history.
So, a forgettable effort, but not exactly a surprising one at the end of the tough road trip against a good Dallas team looking for payback from that game last week at Honda Center, a 4-2 Ducks win. Anaheim is still just a point back of the Stars in the Pacific, with an extremely intriguing game Wednesday against Detroit. We'll have something about that game on the site later today.
We also have an announcement coming up within an hour or so about the Ducks as it relates to the All-Star Game. I think you'll be pretty pleased. (Update: Niedermayer and Perry added to the All-Star Game. How great is it to have four Ducks in the game now? And Perry is of course well-deserving, as is Niedermayer. But letting in a guy who's only played 17 games? That will get some people talking. Niedermayer is replacing the injured Sergei Zubov of Dallas while Perry takes the place of either injured Paul Stastny of Colorado or Henrik Zetterberg of Detroit. Stars center Mike Ribeiro also was added today.)
Over the weekend, Eric Stephens had a nice story in the L.A. Times on Todd Bertuzzi's resurgence, that is partly credited to his suggestion to Randy Carlyle that he move to left wing from the right side. I think it's safe to say that line of Bertuzzi, Getzlaf and Perry is the hottest in the league right now.
In case you missed it, Samuel Pahlsson isn't expected to play again until after the Jan. 27 All-Star break at the end of this month. That doesn't bode well for a Ducks team that plays nine straight on the road after tomorrow night. Thankfully, Ryan Carter has been very good in Pahlsson's stead.
Last thing for now. I got back from Vegas early enough to drop by the Ducks Casino Night at Honda Center last night. We'll have pictures of that later. I'll just say for now that everyone looked fantastic in their '20s-style attire, including several of the women. At one point I observed an attractive 20-something (who looked a lot like Britney when Britney was pretty) staring a hole through Ryan Getzlaf as he chatted with a couple of teammates. I haven't seen intense concentration like that in a long time. About a half hour later, I saw the same girl writing her phone number on a napkin and folding it up, then marching off looking for someone. I'm sure it was one of the blackjack dealers or servers. Another highlight was seeing Quinn and Jeana from "The Real Housewives of Orange County," both of whom looked thinner in person. I could have sworn Quinn was giving me the eye at one point, but maybe I was imagining it.
Updated Jan. 18 at 11:57 a.m.
I think J.S. Giguere would have reason to have a sore back this morning, after carrying the entire Ducks team in their 2-1 win last night. Giguere stopped 33 of the 34 Predators shots, and the lone goal -- a one-timer from Jason Arnott on the power play -- was definitely not his fault. Last night was a typical Giguere clinic, where he never makes the acrobatic saves that make Sportscenter. He's just always in perfect position to stop the puck with his whole body. Although, there was one highlight-reel save last night, when he reached back to glove the puck under the crossbar on a J.P. Dumont wraparound try. (Update: A reader named Donna just emailed me to say this play did make the Top 10 on Sportscenter last night. No. 1 was this ridiculous goal by Columbus' Rick Nash last night that beat the Coyotes with 21.5 seconds left. That wasn't Bryz in net, by the way. It was Mikael Tellqvist. )
Giguere is quietly playing his tail off lately, having won five straight games and stopping 128 of 137 shots for a .934 save percentage and eight goals against in that span.
The Ducks needed him last night, as they only managed 16 shots, including a paltry three in that final period. But one of those was a pretty breakaway move by Corey Perry, where he seemed to pass Chris Mason by, and kind of put an "oh, by the way" shot by him with one hand on the stick. It was kind of like walking out of a Target and dropping a quarters into the Salvation Army bucket as you pass by. (Or, maybe it's not like that at all.)
Either way, it was another great goal by Perry, who seems to be scoring them every night lately. It was also nice to see Brandon Bochenski get his second for the Ducks, a nice deflection play off a Mathieu Schneider shot. The Ducks got a break on that play when Jerred Smithson broke his stick with Anaheim already on the power play.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's a great sign when a team doesn't play it's best game and still gets the win -- on the road, no less. Last night was certainly one of those times.
Also, congratulations to Randy Carlyle for reaching a new milestone. Last night was the 100th time he's used this quote: "Jiggy gave us a chance and that's all you can really ask of your goaltender."
And thanks in part to the Sharks' loss to Dallas last night, the Ducks just happen to be in first place in the Pacific, and -- get this -- second in the Western Conference. I realize they have more games played than almost everybody in the conference, but who cares? Considering the Ducks were 15-15-4 after 34 games, first place in the division and second in the conference sounds pretty damn good right now.
One negative from last night was the loss of Chris Pronger with a knee contusion midway through the first period after a Shea Weber shot caught him between the pads on his left leg. Pronger, who cracked after the game, "I'm day to day with hurt feelings," is listed as questionable for tonight. He didn't participate in the optional morning skate, but he apparently got some ice on the knee this morning and said he hopes to play (according to the Ducks PR guy). Whether he does or not, it's obviously a sign that this thing isn't too serious.
Speaking of tonight, it's supposed to be minus-30 degrees windchill in St. Paul with "dangerous winds." Good thing they're playing this one inside. I've been to the Twin Cities a couple of times and it's a great area. But I could never live in a place where you can actually die from just walking to your mailbox. The Wild fans have to be pumped up about this one. It's the first game for the Ducks in Minnesota since last year's playoffs, in which Anaheim not only mopped the floor with the Wild, but Brad May threw a nice little sucker punch on Kim Johnsson and got suspended a game.
It would be nice to have George Parros in there to take on Derek Boogaard again, although Boogaard hasn't played since the Dec. 14 game in Anaheim. He has a back injury, but could return to action tonight. The Ducks are looking for a little revenge after that Dec. 14 game, in which they were overpowered by the Wild during a 5-2 loss. That happened to be the last game the Ducks played without Scott Niedermayer and Doug Weight.
Eric Stephens has a nice story in the L.A. Times today about the Ducks dads being on the road with the team. They ran some video of the dads several times during the game telecast last night. At one point, they showed the Ducks and their dads in the locker room and for some reason there was a shot of Doug Weight hugging an unidentified black guy. Am I the only one who quickly thought to himself, Wait a minute, is Doug Weight half black? Later they showed Dougie with his actual dad.
Speaking of Eric Stephens, he wrote in his game story last night about Pronger's injury: "It helps to have a defense that still has Scott Niedermayer, Mathieu Schneider and Sean O'Donnell." Um, Francois Beauchemin? No?
It's another "jeans day" at the Ducks offices, and we get out at 1 p.m. today. It's a tradition around here when we have the following Monday off for a holiday. But it got me wondering, are jeans the best way to honor Martin Luther King? I don't think I ever saw him in jeans. We should all be in suits, right?
The MLS Draft is on TV right now. Absolutely compelling.
Speaking of soccer, I just read that Mia Hamm's silhouette is featured in the logo of the new Women's Professional Soccer league. I'm sorry, what? Do we really need another women's pro soccer league? Was the first one not unsuccessful enough? Are we bringing the XFL back too?
Finally, speaking of sports that don't get a lot of TV coverage, Bobby Fischer just died. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Fischer was a rare breed. You don't run into too many Jewish anti-Semites these days.
Updated Jan. 17 at 3:49 p.m.
I'm flipping channels in my office and wondering something: Can someone tell me why the show "Yes, Dear" is running back-to-back, five days a week on TBS in the afternoon? Does anybody watch this show? Did anybody watch it when it was on originally? Did they actually tape enough episodes to fill more than a week or two?
While we're at it, can you then tell me how "According to Jim" has lasted seven seasons? You ever grab a cup of coffee in the morning and hear your co-workers talking about last night's episode of "According to Jim'?
It amazes me that shows like these last forever and shows like "Arrested Development" and "Friday Night Lights" have to fight for their lives.
Updated Jan. 17 at 12:59 p.m.
Tonight should be the start of a good test to see where this Ducks team really stands right now. As much as the Ducks are playing their best hockey of the year right now (with the best personnel they've had all year), they've had it pretty good since the new year, playing six of their seven games at Honda Center. A weekend on the road (including back-to-backs) starting tonight will really paint a picture of just how good this team is right now.
The last time Anaheim faced Nashville, last week at Honda Center, the Ducks erupted in the middle session for a 5-2 victory. Nashville had the upper hand in a 4-2 victory at their place on Dec. 8, a game that really wasn't that close. Of course, that was before the Ducks had ... well, you know the rest of that one. The Predators beat Calgary 3-0 two nights ago, after coming off consecutive shootout losses to average Columbus and Chicago.
If you didn't catch it in the game preview, Rob Niedermayer, Samuel Pahlsson and George Parros each skated with the team this morning. Pahlsson and Parros are unlikely, but Niedermayer may be good to go tonight. He did skate with Travis Moen and Ryan Carter this morning, but Randy Carlyle was his usual cryptic self when discussing Robbie's status for tonight. A "game-time decision," he called it.
For the second year in a row, the Ducks have their dads joining them. They joined their boys yesterday and will be with the team through Sunday's game at Dallas. The fathers and sons all got together for a steak dinner last night.
It's always a cool scene when the dads are shown at the games, each father wearing his son's jersey. Like most of you, I've never had that experience with my dad. Although, I imagine it would have been a little embarrassing when I was playing high school baseball if he showed up in my jersey, when all the other dads were wearing polo shirts or whatever they wore to work that day. (It was bad enough he used to pace behind the backstop, frequently yelling, "strike him out, Adam!" because he thought he was getting into the hitter's head.) Maybe he should wear a suit the next time he comes to a Ducks game.
You'll probably see a few shots of the dads tonight during the telecast on Fox Sports Prime Ticket. Let's hope there are also a few shots of Predators head coach Barry Trotz, proud owner of the largest head in pro sports (see right).
Updated Jan. 16 at 6:40 p.m.
What's that expression about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery?
At least he has the decency to not use his actual picture on there. By the way, I happened to be mentioned in the latest post. (Update: He's pulled the part about me.)
Updated Jan. 16 at 4:38 p.m.
In case you're not in the Ducks market and haven't seen it yet, a reader named Wanda has passed on a link to an abbreviated version of the J.S. Giguere: In My Own Words that has been airing on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
Updated Jan. 16 at 3:14 p.m.
This is what I get for not reading the paper this morning. I neglected to link to a great story on Jonas Hiller by the always-outstanding Jeff Miller in the OC Register. Loved the George Lopez line.
Updated Jan. 16 at 11:43 a.m.
If you're a Ducks fan -- heck, if you're just a hockey fan -- you had to like that game last night. It had just about everything: pretty goals, great passing, smooth skating, big saves, hard hitting, an epic fight and yet another battle back from being down early by the home team.
The Ducks certainly don't want to make a habit of giving up the first goal, especially when it's in the first few minutes, but last night was remarkably their 13th victory when going down 1-0. Meanwhile, it was their seventh straight at home and second straight against the elite of the Pacific Division. I realize Dallas is struggling lately, but the Ducks proved last night that with Niedermayer and Weight in the fold, and the team coming together like it has, they are the team to beat in the Pacific. Speaking of that, in our last Ducks Poll, 77% of you said "Yes" to the question of "Can the Ducks win the Pacific Division?" I'm sure there were more and more of those "Yes" votes in the past few days.
Last night's first Ducks goal that tied the game 1-1 was possibly the prettiest the Ducks have scored this season. Watch it again and tell me how Scott Niedermayer saw Bertuzzi behind him for this touch pass. Not to mention how he then got in position for the one-timer. There was another play near the end of the first period in which Niedermayer calmly stole the puck in the Dallas zone, then tried to center it in front of the net. There were no black jerseys there and the Stars intercepted it and rushed up ice, and despite the fact Niedermayer was deep in the corner when he turned it over, he still beat the rest of the Stars back the other way. You can't say enough good things about Niedermayer, although I've certainly tried. Here are a couple more people doing it:
Dan Wood writes in the OC Register about what Randy Carlyle called "the best game he's played this year" and J.S. Giguere adds, "When he’s really on his game, it’s sick how good he can be.”
Meanwhile, Damien Cox of ESPN.com has a very well-written story on why we can make a case for Niedermayer and Pittsburgh goalie Ty Conklin for the Hart Trophy, despite their abbreviated seasons. Love the story, though I'm not crazy about the photo they used for Niedermayer on their NHL page, in which he looks a little dazed. Although, they may have an excuse. In the two-and-a-half years Scotty's been here (and coincidentally, I have too), he's unquestionably been the Ducks' best player, but he's also one of the least photogenic when he's on the ice. Part of the reason is that in half the pictures I try to find for him (and this goes for Rob too), he's sticking out his tongue. Although, there's nothing to complain about in this picture.
Let's get back to last night's game, because I certainly haven't mentioned all there is to mention about that. Along with Niedermayer, how good does Todd Bertuzzi continue to look? First was the 360-degree spin he made to get the puck to Perry, who then fed Niedermayer on that first goal. Then there was the goal Bert scored on his own, where instead of making the automatic pass from near the left post, he simply bulled his way into a better angle and shot it from point blank at a helpless Marty Turco. That goal was a huge insurance marker for the Ducks, who looked in danger of letting Dallas tie it in the third.
Now, let's talk about that fight between Brad May and Krys Barch, which -- with all due respect to George Parros -- may have been the best Ducks fight of the year. Neither May now Barch played much defense in this thing, wailing away for what seemed like a full boxing round (although boxing is rarely this intriguing) until they both ran out of gas. (Although, upon further review, it looks like May may have had a little left in him.) I like May's primal scream to the crowd when it was all over. How do you not love this guy? By the way, that was the third time those two have gone at it this year. Take a look at this beauty from Nov. 21 on Dallas. These guys are reaching Ali-Frazier status.
So, that's seven straight at Honda Center, but we won't see the Ducks here much in the coming weeks. The team bussed out of here at around 10 this morning en route to Nashville, where they play tomorrow night. Then it's on to Minnesota for Friday night's tilt, and a Sunday rematch with Dallas. By the way, I can't think of a better way to spend this Sunday than to watch the Ducks on one living room TV at 12:30 p.m. and the Pats blow out the Chargers on the other, then move into Packers-Giants at 3:30. My couch may have a permanent dent after this one. I better alternate cushions after each period.
The game at Honda Center next Wednesday against Detroit (another game I'm supremely looking forward to) is the only home game in the next 13 for the Ducks. (By the way, whatever the NHL schedule makers are taking/drinking, I want some of it.) I liked Giguere's line about this time on the road: "It’s a huge stretch for us. It’s going to be very difficult. It’s good that we have some kind of momentum going into the road. We’re going to have to use that. The key thing is not change anything because we are on the road. We are going to need to play the same type of hockey. It’s going to be a challenge for our team. We’re going to have to make a statement."
I didn't get a chance to hear Chris Pronger on Jim Rome's show last night, but apparently two things came out of it. He mentioned how after he was traded out of Edmonton, some Oilers fans broke into his house and set his furniture (including a baby's crib) on fire. I had heard that story before, but I wasn't sure if it was true. Nice move, Edmonton fans. Although, you have to be impressed that they not only knew the address, but found a way into the house. If only they could use those skills for good, not evil. Also, in reference to how often he's booed, Pronger apparently said something to the effect of, "My job is to entertain you. If you're booing you must be entertained. So, I win." You can listen to the interview here, but only if you subscribe to Jim Rome's STREAMLink, which is $6.95 for one month.
Rob Niedermayer said he hopes to play this Thursday against Nashville. That's a relief to the people organizing this life-sized Rob Niedermayer promotion, because they thought they might have to build the poster without a groin.
Happy birthday to my sister. (Yes, I've already called her.)
Updated Jan. 15 at 4:01 p.m.
A couple of quick items before we get ready for this game tonight:
I just read that the Ducks have a 10-2-2 record when leading after one period and are 15-1-1 when leading after two. They also lead the NHL with 12 wins when giving up the first goal of the game. That's partly because they've been giving up that first goal so much. But it is nice to know how strong and confident this team remains even when it gets down early. That's the sign of a champion.
Speaking of that, Doug Ward writes in his Pacific Division report for NHL.com about the Ducks' resurgence. Although, I've noticed it's the second time in a row he's listed Rob Niedermayer in the "Not Hot" section because of his scoring drought. Maybe Robbie should have never scored those five goals in the playoffs. Now people might think he's a goal-scorer.
Following up on Bill Clement's story that I mentioned yesterday, here is another one listing his most intimidating enforcers. George Parros is No. 4, though Clement mistakenly says Parros shaved off his mustache for charity. It was just the hair, Bill. No. 1 is Georges Laraque, which reminds me of one of my all-time favorite YouTube hockey videos. Take a look at the 45-second mark where he softly says, "Good luck" to Raitis Ivanans before taking him on.
Chris Pronger is scheduled to be on The Jim Rome Show (radio) tomorrow at around 9:30 or 10 a.m. Pacific.
Remember the Eminem line from the song "Without Me" that went: "...but I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley to do black music so selfishly. And use it to get myself wealthy"? Well, apparenty the once-Slim Shady is doing his best to channel Elvis in other ways.
Updated Jan. 15 at 12:01 p.m.
If you really want to see just how good the Ducks are at this point in the season, you have to be looking forward to this one tonight. For the second time in three nights, the Ducks face off against the class of the Pacific Division, and a Dallas Stars team that has given them fits this year.
You've probably read it somewhere already, but the Ducks are 0 for 3 against Dallas this year, having been outscored 10-2 in those games. But it goes without saying that it was a much different Ducks team in those three games. I think you could safely make a case right now that the Ducks are one of the top 3 teams in the Western Conference, and a win tonight would only further prove that.
Then again, Dallas hasn't exactly been looking sharp lately. The Stars have dropped six of their last eight games (2-5-1) and that included a shootout loss at the Kings last Saturday. The Stars were playing without big-time defenseman Sergei Zubov, who is suffering from a foot injury and is listed as questionable for tonight. The Stars are also without wingers Jussi Jokinen (knee) and Jere Lehtinen (sports hernia) and d-man Philippe Boucher (shoulder).
It's been tough going for Dallas sports fans lately, with the Stars' current stumble and the Cowboys' playoff defeat at home against the Giants. By the way, I heard that one gambling website was taking over-under bets on how many times the broadcasters would say the name "Jessica Simpson" during that game. The over-under was set at 6 1/2, which I thought was shockingly high. I didn't get a really good chance to hear the announcers in that game, since it was just before our game that night. Anyone think they got even close to that number?
Rob Niedermayer has joined forwards Samuel Pahlsson and George Parros on the list of banged-up Ducks. Niedermayer has what Randy Carlyle would only call a "leg injury" that Carlyle said he suffered "either last game or in the practice before." I'm thinking he will probably not go, although he did skate on his own prior to the Ducks' regular morning skate. Pahlsson and Parros (who was put on injured reserve) are out for tonight.
Speaking of those injuries, it's good to see Drew Miller back up here for the time being. Miller was lighting it up in Portland since he was sent down on Jan. 3, scoring five goals, including a hat trick. We'll probably be seeing him on the ice plenty tonight.
USA Today has a nice story on Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the NHL. " is coming back tonight. As usual, Fox is playing the overkill card, airing two-hour episodes tonight and tomorrow night. As if "American Idol" needed any ratings help, it will surely benefit from the current writers strike. It's like Bill Gates winning the lottery, or Jessica Simpson getting breast enhancement surgery.
And finally, ladies and gentlemen, just about the funniest thing you've ever seen in a hockey rink:
Updated Jan. 14 at 1:59 p.m.
Bill Clement has a story on the MSNBC website listing his top 10 Stanley Cup contenders. It's hard to read it without hearing Clement's voice in your head. Anyway, I'm pleased he picked the Ducks as the No. 1 in the Western Conference. But I can't say I'm too crazy about the photo.
Updated Jan. 14 at 10:24 a.m.
There are a lot of emotions associated with winning, but guilt is not usually one of them. But Ducks fans had to feel a twinge of that last night after pretty much stealing one from the Sharks and snapping their impressive road winning streak. Despite the fact San Jose was coming off a hard-fought victory at home over Toronto less than 24 hours before and the Ducks hadn't played since Wednesday, it was Anaheim that looked sluggish for much of the game.
But God bless Dougie Weight. Who knows what he was trying to do with that puck in the waning seconds, but here is how he described it: "I was just trying to fire it through and get some action in there to see what happens. It was a fortunate bounce."
I'll say. The puck hit of Alexei Semenov's skate and got past German rookie Thomas Greiss to tie the game. Then with all the momentum in the world, the Ducks almost expectedly finished it off early in the overtime when Francois Beauchemin decided to play the role of scoring winger and perfectly one-timed the game-winner home. Those two goals spoiled what was looking like a nice debut for Greiss, as he became the first goalie not named Evgeni Nabokov to start a game for San Jose this year. The way Beauchemin looked on that goal and the way he rockets slap shots all over the place, it's hard to believe that was his first goal since the Oct. 10 home opener against Boston.
Speaking of that winning goal, I've pointed out the unsung things Scotty Niedermayer does for this team many times, but allow me to do it once again. Watch on this video below how Scotty heads to the red line and waits until the last minute to send the puck through Joe Thornton's legs toward Marchant to set up the rush. Marchant's subsequent pass and Beauchemin's goal were obviously impressive, but this setup was just as noteworthy.
So, great win for the Ducks and even more special that they got to snap the Sharks' string of road dominance. It's hard to believe that San Jose still hasn't lost in regulation since the Ducks beat them very convincingly in their building, 5-2, on Dec. 22. That's a major reason the Sharks are still on top of the Pacific, now just three points in front of Anaheim. And even Weight acknowledged that the win last night was a bit of larceny. "To win the game the way it went down is stealing points," he said.
And that's what good teams do. They win games they shouldn't win. They win games when they're not playing their best. And they do it against good teams. You have to think that's a great sign for the Ducks right now.
It was great to see Brad May back in the lineup, but surprising considering I thought we'd see Sammy Pahlsson before we'd see May. But Pahlsson was out for the ninth straight game and George Parros was out with that bruised knee. The Ducks definitely could have used Parros when things got a little heated last night.
I'll be very interested in tomorrow night's game, when the Ducks take on another team that is the class of the Pacific, Dallas. We'll have more on that game tomorrow.
Updated Jan. 11 at 10:29 a.m.
Remember when you were in school and you got a good grade on a test and you felt really good about yourself until you saw that your friend got the same grade? That's kind of how I felt last night as I watched the highlights of the Kings-Leafs game and saw the Kings score five straight goals (four in the first period) on their way to a 5-2 victory. Suddenly the Ducks' trouncing of Toronto doesn't look as impressive, especially since it was the first Kings win in the last four games and they were coming off a 7-0 drubbing to an average Nashville team. Stangely enough, after not getting off a shot in the first 11 minutes last night, Toronto ended up with 50 of them, and Jason LaBarbera managed to save all but two.
Meanwhile, I was watching the Wild-Red Wings game last night, and I missed the end, which was too bad. It ended up being a doozy. But there was one thing I noticed while I had it on. During a break in the second period, they put up a graphic for future Wild games, and one of them said "JANUARY 18: WILD VS. MIGHTY DUCKS"
Mighty Ducks? Seriously? Come on, guys. It's been a year and a half now. How would you like it if we called you the North Stars?
If you like hockey fights, you'll love this one. It was a Russian Superleague game three nights ago between Ak Bars Kazan and Traktor Chelyabinsk. By the way, I'm a huge Traktor Chelyabinsk fan from way back, so I was sorry to see this happen. Apparently a whopping 378 penalty minutes were handed out after this one, which is a new Superleague record. Congratulations, guys! According to hockeyfights.com, strangely enough the Superleague doesn't have automatic suspensions for guys who leave the bench during a fight.
Of course, Russia has always had strange guidelines to their sports. Remember when they actually scheduled this fight on Christmas Day?
The Ducks, by the way, are practicing this morning at Honda Center.
I know some fans are talking about Corey Perry's supposed "snub" from the All-Star Game, but I think that despite the career year he's having, he was a longshot to get in. Perry's chances were hurt by the fact that the league is taking at least one player from every team for the game. And of course, a large amount of those players taken are forwards. Meanwhile, the Ducks already are sending two players not voted into the starting lineup, joining the Sharks as the only teams in the Western Conference to send more than one player not voted in. San Jose has Evgeni Nabokov and Joe Thornton. Perry is having a fantastic year and is third in the conference in goals (23), but it's tough to make a case for him to get in over a guy like Thornton. But if he keeps scoring like he's done this year, he'll definitely be there someday.
Just a few minutes ago, I got a group email that led off with, "Happy New Year everyone."
I think the Farrelly Brothers have an idea for their next movie.
One last thing. Apparently Britney is now dating one of the photographers who constantly stalk her. And to top it off, she just took a trip to Rosarito Beach of all places and bought a knockoff Gucci handbag there. Is this girl a multimillionaire or a San Diego State co-ed?
Updated Jan. 10 at 1:25 p.m.
Remember how the Ducks couldn't score goals for the longest time and they kept promising us, "the goals will come"? Well, if the last two games are any indication, they've finally arrived. The Ducks already had a somewhat comfortable 2-0 cushion going into that last period against a very big Toronto team, but three more goals in a span of 5:44 in the third broke the game wide open.
While it's just two games, against not the toughest of opponents, it sure is nice to see the Ducks pouring in goals at this pace. I'm also hesitant to make any judgements about Todd Bertuzzi in just a couple of games, but he sure is looking like he's getting comfortable. Bertuzzi's move on Vesa Toskala on the first goal was only slightly more impressive by how he received the headman pass from Mathieu Schneider that set it up, picking it up from his skates in stride with one hand on the stick.
Toskala, by the way, looked very rusty in his first game back after missing the previous six with a groin injury. Either he came back too soon or he needs a couple more games to get in shape.
It was also great to see Brandon Bochenski get his first goal of the season, on the same day the Ducks sent him a message by sending Bobby Ryan to the minors. That move essentially told Bochenski that they're relying on him on that second line, and he responded in a big way last night. He came close to having at least one more goal last night, maybe more.
Congrats to J.S. Giguere for tying Guy Hebert's team record for shutouts with his 27th last night (although the Ducks hardly needed that blanking).
And of course, the power play goals by Weight and Kunitz were a nice touch. I honestly didn't think Weight got his stick on the puck after kicking it last night, even after watching the replays. But the way he was calling for a review, you knew he could feel that he touched it.
You've got to love Weight's personality already. He really is a charming guy. I liked this quote last night, regarding the two penalties he and Rob Niedermayer took late in the game to put the shutout in jeopardy: “I felt really bad getting a penalty, and then to see us go down five-on-three, we were just in the box going ‘Oh, gee,’ ” Weight said. “But the killers did a great job, and Jiggy has just been steady. Jiggy is our best penalty-killer. You can see his confidence in our ‘D’ clearing rebounds. He’s standing big. He’s worried about his job, and he’s not thinking too much. Man, he’s a tremendous goaltender.”
"Oh, gee?" I'm sure that's what they were saying.
I also like how Randy Carlyle told reporters, “the final score was not indicative” of the game. Really, I thought it painted a pretty good picture. Although, Carlyle was talking about how the Ducks didn't play the greatest first period, only getting off five shots to Toronto's 10. Although, the Ducks did bury two of those shots.
One of the other negatives last night was the right knee bruise suffered by George Parros, which upon further review, looks like it happened before his fight with Wade Belak, when Belak stuck out his knee to take Parros down. Parros is listed as day to day, and I saw him headed out of here today with a wrap on that knee and a slight limp.
By the way, the Ducks didn't practice today, although some players were here for meetings. With momentum clearly on their side, the Ducks have to wait until Sunday for their next game, against the Sharks at Honda Center.
By the way, great to see Getzlaf and Pronger make the All-Star Game, especially Getzlaf getting in for the first time. We'll have a transcript of a conference call Getzlaf did with media in just a few minutes. Look for it on the same page as the original story on him and Pronger making the team. I was sorry to see Perry not make it as well as Giguere, who I heard was just barely edged out. It's hard to believe, but Giguere has never played in an All-Star Game. He would have been selected last year, but he was injured.
I know this is really late notice, but I just got word of this. Scott Niedermayer is a live in-studio guest on Rome is Burning today at 1:30 p.m. So, like, right now.
Updated Jan. 9 at 2:50 p.m.
As promised, a video snippet of Brian Burke's remarks last night at State of the Franchise.
One thing I missed from earlier that you'll see in the video. Burke remarked that because of the Dustin Penner signing, the Ducks own the rights to Edmonton's first-round pick in the 2008 draft. He pointed out that "right now that pick would be third overall or fourth overall." Then he said, with just a hint of a smile, "Not that we hope that they struggle or anything."
Updated Jan. 9 at 12:57 p.m. -
It was an interesting scene following the Ducks' morning skate, as the number of reporters dramatically increased from the normal group during the regular season. Usually there are at most about a half-dozen media members chatting with Randy Carlyle, then filing into the locker room to talk to players. Today that number just about tripled. That will give you an idea of the media coverage the Maple Leafs bring with them. As Dan Wood wrote in the Register this morning, it's "akin to the New York Yankees in the
That morning skate was also significant because both Samuel Pahlsson and (for the first time in a while) Brad May skated with the Ducks. Carlyle said Pahlsson will probably not be in the lineup tonight, but that Sunday was a possibility. For May, he said it's a matter of how quickly the bone in his foot will heal, and that it could be a matter of days before he's ready to go. Just how many days that will be, we don't know.
As far as the Leafs go tonight, goalie Vesa Toskala (who the Ducks saw plenty during four seasons in San Jose) is still listed as day-to-day. He hasn't played since suffering a groin injury on Dec. 22, although TSN is reporting that he'll start tonight. The Leafs have gone 1-4-1 without him, with 26 goals against.
Either way, I REALLY like the Ducks tonight. But then again, would I tell you if I thought they were going to lose?
As you might have noticed, no Ducks were voted in as starters for the All-Star game, but the reserves will be announced tomorrow. I'm guessing it's Pronger and Getzlaf, with J.S. Giguere being a possibility and Corey Perry being a longshot. We'll see.
By the way, look for an announcement later today that the Ducks have sent a forward to Portland. I don't think I'm allowed to say who yet. UPDATE: In the five minutes since I posted this, we've announced that it's Bobby Ryan. I'm sorry to see Bobby sent down, since he had some very good games for the Ducks in his time up. But you know he'll be back.
Moving on, I have to admit that I wasn't able to attend the State of the Franchise event at Honda Center last night. But I have heard some tidbits of the night from a couple of sources. The event was a Q&A session between fans (mostly the invited season seat holders) and speakers Chris Pronger, Samuel Pahlsson (an odd choice due to usual his lack of interest in talking), Brian Burke and Randy Carlyle. Here are some of the highlights from the night, (pardon me if the quotes aren't totally accurate. I tried to get as close as I could based on second-hand accounts):
- Ducks play-by-play announcer John Ahlers, the M.C. for the night, started things off by announcing that Samuel Pahlsson would be "making an opening statement." The chronically shy Pahlsson apparently looked horrified. "I need to apologize to him," Ahlers told me this morning.
- Brian Burke announced that Corey Perry is unsignable right now because of the lack of "tagging" room under the salary cap, but they are going to make signing him a priority in the offseason. He stated that he has never signed a player over what he believed they were worth (as he obviously felt Dustin Penner was by Edmonton) and that he won't start doing that now. He also made a crack that Perry had the worst tan in the NHL.
- Burke said that Teemu Selanne has been working out and is in good shape, but that he's told Teemu the same thing he told Scott Niedermayer, that if "he can't come back 100 percent, then stay home. I don't want a Teemu Selanne farewell tour."
- Burke said he believes in this group right now and doesn't plan to make any major changes. (By the way, I just read today that there have been just nine trades in the NHL this season, and the Ducks have made four of them.)
- Burke was asked at one point by a fan how he can "justify" putting Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers. Burke, clearly annoyed, came back with, "First of all, I don't have to justify anything." He said that no one made an offer for Bryzgalov and "I stuck to my word" of trying to find Bryz a place to become a No. 1 goalie. When that same fan said he had a follow-up question, Burke replied, "Is it going to be equally offensive?" When the fan told him he'd been a season seat holder since 1993, Burke sarcastically said, "Okay, well, I haven't."
- Burke mentioned there was talk of possibly moving the Ducks' AHL affiliate (currently in Portland, Maine) to a closer locale. Texas, Las Vegas and even Southern California were thrown out there, but he said nothing would be decided until March.
- Randy Carlyle gave Pahlsson a hard time about his injury, saying he needed to come back from his "Swedish vacation."
- Responding to several biting remarks from Pronger to Brian Burke about the inconvenience of the London trip, Burke turned to Pahlsson and asked him what he thought of the trip. Pahlsson dryly responded, "Oh, I loved it."
We're hoping to have a video piece on Burke's comments later today.
Two things on some Ducks opponents. Did you see Nashville throw a touchdown at the Kings last night, just 24 hours after getting smoked by the Ducks? Things aren't looking so good over there in L.A. Also, apparently Ray Emery isn't behaving in Ottawa right now.
One last thing. Go see "Charlie Wilson's War". It's very good.
-Pronger discussed Monday night's bad first period and shared that he and Mathieu Schneider were talking on the bench and Schneider said, "Man, when we're bad. We're awful."
Updated Jan. 8 at 4:15 p.m.
The NHL website has done several features lately with a goalie theme to them, and I thought I'd link to them. I hope you enjoy this stuff:
Feature on backup goaltenders
Feature on former Ducks backup Ilya Bryzgalov
Feature on first goalie to wear a mask (including some cool video)
Feature on goalies scoring goals (with video)
Photos of goalie masks around the NHL
Updated Jan. 8 at 2:03 p.m.
For a good while last night, it looked like yet another difficult time generating offense for the Ducks. Anaheim had just one shot on goal through the first 14 minutes. Next thing you know, the Ducks dent the net four times in a span of 8:07 in the second period, end up with 37 shots for the game and sail to a 5-2 win.
For a team that can't score goals lately, the Ducks are curiously setting milestone for the speed in which they do find the net. Their four in 8:07 marked their fastest since Jan. 23, 2004 and their goal 16 seconds into the Chicago game last Friday was the fastest at home (tied for second overall) in team history.
It was great to see Travis Moen get one last night after he's had several near-misses this season. (Although, as George Carlin would say, "Why is it when two planes almost collide it's called a "near miss"? Shouldn't it be a "near-hit"?) And this from a guy who had seven in the playoffs alone last season. But lately Moen has been chipping a lot of red paint off the posts with his shots.
Surprisingly enough, Moen hadn't had a goal in North America this year, as his only one came Sept. 30 against the Kings in London. That fact was acknowledged after the game as reporters gathered around Moen. Brad May came along and sarcastically asked Moen, "How many is that?" and Todd Bertuzzi added, "One in Europe and one in North America."
Moen and the rest of his checking line mates continue to do great work keeping pucks out of the net this season, but they're not scoring themselves all that much. Rob Niedermayer, after scoring five in the postseason last year, has just three this year. Sammy Pahlsson, while suffering from that abdominal injury, has three as well, matching the number he put up in the playoffs last year.
You know who's quietly playing phenomenally on the offensive end for the Ducks? Chris Kunitz? He doesn't often get the attention that Getzlaf, Perry, Bertuzzi, Weight or even Ryan get, but Kunitz is a rock on that corps of forwards. He did it again last night by scoring the second goal of that blitz in the second period, then later giving Perry a gorgeous cross ice pass that slid near the top of the crease that led to a goal. I know "game-winning goals" can be a misleading stat, but Kunitz's five ranks near the top of the NHL. He's been subtly indespensible this season.
Here's another guy who's not getting a ton of attention for his play of late: In his last eight starts, J.S. Giguere has a 1.59 GAA and .940 SV%. Pretty good numbers, I'd say.
I also thought Brandon Bochenski looked very good last night in his second game with the Ducks, working hard on the forecheck and coming agonizingly close to getting a goal himself. Midway through the second, it was just him, the puck and an open left side of the net after a rebound, and he clanged it off the post. Tough break.
The fact Bochenski was penciled into the lineup meant the second straight healthy scratch for Bobby Ryan. Here was Randy Carlyle's comment about that: “When you have young players, obviously you don’t want them to sit too long. Because a young player is a coach’s decision, a lot of times that player takes it as the end of the world. It’s one of the hurdles that young players have to get over.”
Anyway, last night looked a lot like the 2006-07 Ducks, they way they were hitting and putting a game away relatively early. It's good to see. We'll see if it keeps up.
That starts tomorrow against Toronto, a team that comes to Honda Center about as often as a Celine Dion concert. The Leafs are dealing with rumors that captain and longtime Leaf Mats Sundin will be traded. Let's hope it's not before tomorrow night. Guess who's on the Ducks Digest cover with Scott Niedermayer?
The L.A. Times has a tiny bit more on Teemu Selanne, if you're interested.
By the way, I experienced two instances of "happy new year" today -- one in a business email and another at a staff meeting. It's Jan. 8, by the way.
Last thing. This has absolutely nothing to do with the Ducks, but a friend sent me this link of comedian Zach Galifianakis doing a fake interview show called "Between Two Ferns" with guest Michael Cera, of "Superbad" and, most recently, "Juno." This really killed me.
Updated Jan. 7 at 11:36 a.m.
Okay, so the 2-1 prediction didn't hold up Saturday night, but in my defense, it was 2-1 Ducks for more than 11 minutes in the third period. That was until Steven Reinprecht's goal at 13:27 into the second period on a Coyotes power play. The Ducks couldn't generate anything else for the rest of the night, including the shootout, where they just can't seem to figure out Ilya Bryzgalov. I'm sure the Ducks scored plenty of shootout goals against Bryz in practice, but they are 0-5 in two shootout losses since dealing him to Phoenix. The one bright side of the loss is that it gave the Coyotes the opportunity to use this headline on their website: NOBODY BEATS THE BRYZ!!! Although, I think three exclamation points should be avoided unless you're a 15-year-old girl sending a text message or signing a yearbook.
In all seriousness, you couldn't fault the Ducks' effort in this one, especially considering it was the second half of a back-to-back on the road. I did find it curious that Randy Carlyle scratched Bobby Ryan (who has played exceptionally since his callup in the middle of last month) in favor of the newly acquired Brandon Bochenski. He even used Bochenski in the shootout, which didn't work out. We'll see how Carlyle uses his forwards down the road, starting tonight.
The Ducks face Nashville hoping to have more than the two goals per game they've scored in five of their last six. And they're facing a Preds team that (like Phoenix) is hot lately, with a three-game winning streak coming into this one. The Preds have six first-period goals over their last two games, home wins over Minnesota and Edmonton.
If you haven't seen it in either the L.A. Times or the O.C. Register, Teemu Selanne has told both papers that he "want(s) to make the decision this month" on whether he'll come back to play. Here is a bit of what he said:
"I talked to Burkie before Christmas, and said I would start skating after New Year's and just go from there. I want to make the decision this month. This is the last process in my thinking. I want to start pushing myself and make sure how I feel. I feel great (physically). I think it's more mental – if I'm ready to push myself enough at that level again.
"I have to be honest. Obviously, I have a great situation. I don't have to come back. Especially when I come to games and see all the boys play, I get really excited, but I have to get the feeling, that this is going to be awesome. I have to feel 100 percent that everything is there."
By the way, I just overheard somebody wishing John Ahlers "Happy New Year" in our hallways as he walked by. He seemed a little surprised by it.
I've been asked to pass on the word to our season seat holders that the annual State of the Franchise event will be held tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Honda Center. Brian Burke, Randy Carlyle and Chris Pronger will speak and there will be ... wait for it ... free hot dogs.
A faithful reader named Vinnie has passed along an amusing link about the old Anaheim Amigos of the defunct ABA, a team I never even knew existed. Like the Ducks, the Amigos also wore black and orange. Here are some highlights from the page:
Do any of you locals remember this team?
On another non-hockey note, you know the greatest thing about the BCS Championship being held tonight? It means college football is over for the year. Thank goodness. Pretty soon we'll have an eight-month vacation from hearing arguments about who the best team is, who had a tougher schedule, who had more convincing wins, blah, blah, blah. Of course, no matter who wins tonight between LSU and Ohio State (I think that's right), we still won't really know who the No. 1 team is, will we? This time of year, a bunch of teams play, half of them win and then voters and computers determine who's the champion. I'm sorry, how is that not like figure skating? Wake me up when there's a playoff.
Updated Jan. 5 at 12:18 p.m.
The Ducks will beat the Coyotes tonight, 2-1.
I'm not usually prone to making predictions in this space, but based on recent events, it's not exactly a wild guess. Last night's 2-1 victory over Chicago at home was the fourth such score in Anaheim's last five games and four of their last five victories have been by 2-1 scores. It's a cute little stat, but it's not exactly good news for the Ducks. The winning is nice, but the goal-scoring is troubling, as the Ducks rank near the bottom of the NHL in goals per game.
I don't think there is any argument that the Ducks looked like they should blow Chicago off the ice last night. The Hawks were a struggling, beat-up team that had dropped three in a row and didn't look good doing it. Corey Perry's goal just 16 seconds in (tied for second-fastest in Ducks history) looked like the precursor of a blowout, and Chris Kunitz's tipped goal late in that period only seemed to reinforce a Ducks runaway.
But Anaheim again had to rely on its defense and goaltending as Chicago got an early goal in the second and the Ducks clung to a one-goal cushion over the final 38 minutes. That lead never looked more precarious than when the Ducks and backup goalie Jonas Hiller held off a flury of Chicago shots over the final 7 seconds, only to see the puck finally kick away before the horn sounded.
Hand it to Hiller, he looked fantastic last night in place of J.S. Giguere, who apparently was suffering from "flu-like symptoms." I love how that term is only used in sports. Try calling your boss and telling him you can't come in because you're "suffering from flu-like symptoms." By the time you get back to work, you might find your desk cleared out. Also used only in sports, the word "ensuing" followed by the word "kickoff," as in "the penalty will be assessed on the ensuing kickoff." Imagine being on a date and saying, "If this night goes well, I hope to take you to that new Italian place on the ensuing date."
Anyway, Hiller was outstanding last night, despite only having to stop 21 shots. This save on Hawks rookie Adam Burish may have been the best of them. Remember how we've talked about how the Ducks have given up a ton of first career goals this year? Burish was looking for the first of his career on that play. In fact, he's one of only three forwards in the NHL this year to have played more than 38 games and not scored one. You can imagine his thoughts on that play: "Looked like I'm finally going to get one ... DAMMIT!!!"
So, another win for the Ducks, their sixth in eight games and now they look to do it again (with hopefully more goals) tonight against Phoenix and ... I forget who their goaltender is. The Coyotes are actually looking pretty good lately, with three straight wins, including one over that same Chicago team two nights ago. Meanwhile, they've taken down the Ducks in three of the four games between the two teams. That includes a shootout win at Honda Center last Nov. 23.
Of course, that Ducks team didn't have Scott Niedermayer, Doug Weight and Bobby Ryan. This one does, and that should be good enough for another two goals.
Updated Jan. 4 at 1:57 p.m.
It's tough to know what to expect from the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at Honda Center. The Hawks are a young and talented team that has been a surprise this season after being miserable in the last two. But Chicago is battling injuries to NHL rookie goal-scoring leader Jonathan Toews (out with a sprained knee and, again, on tonight's Ducks Digest cover), forwards Martin Havlat (groin) and Jason Williams (groin) and defenseman Brent Sopel (finger).
Check out this awkward interview with Toews from the Hawks official website.
Interviewer: "Jonathan, what's the prognosis?"
Toews: "I don't know."
There is also a poll question on the site that says: Will the Hawks be able to overcome their injury woes? Almost 48 percent of the fans responding said "No." I guess things have been tough in Chicago the past couple of years.
The Hawks have obviously been affected by the injuries, as they were embarrassed 9-2 on New Year's Day (with Toews leaving in the second period) against a not-very-good Kings team at Staples. I loved Kings coach Marc Crawford's quote after that game: "No disrespect intended with this comment, but their goaltending wasn't great tonight."
The Hawks followed that up with a loss last night in Phoenix. Now they play a coming-together Ducks team in the second half of a back-to-back. Meanwhile, the Ducks are 10-0-1 in their last 11 against Chicago, including a 5-3 victory in the Windy City on Dec. 7. I really, really like the Ducks tonight. Just a feeling.
Sammy Pahlsson's availability tonight after sitting out the last four games with inflamation in his abdomen is still in question. After the optional skate this morning, Randy Carlyle was asked about Pahlsson's status. It went something like this:
Reporter: "What's Sammy's status?"
Randy: "He's day to day."
Reporter: "Does that mean he might play tonight?"
Randy: "He's day to day."
He did have that Randy Carlyle wry smile on the last one, that look that tells the media, "Listen, I'm not trying to be rude, but I really don't like talking about injuries. Okay, I'm trying to be a little rude."
Whether Sammy plays tonight or not, I don't think you should expect to see Brandon Bochenski tonight. Carlyle indicated that with the stability in the Ducks' group of forwards combined with the fact that Bochenski just got into town yesterday, he'll likely be wearing a suit tonight.
Speaking of injuries, I forgot to mention that Andy McDonald suffered a pulled chest muscle last week, but he is expected to come back Saturday. That's with the Blues, by the way, in case you missed it.
I didn't realize the Ducks are second in the NHL in goals against average since Scott Niedermayer returned, with a staggering 1.60 mark. However, they have scored more than two goals in a game only twice over that time.
With that in mind, remember Teemu Selanne? Ducks winger? Scored 48 goals last season? Has been contemplating retirement for the last six months? You've probably seen this from other sources, but Teemu has been skating in full gear at Anaheim Ice lately, as evidenced by this excellent photo that was emailed to me this morning (and can be found on ALLDUCKS.COM). Trust me, that's Teemu.
I've heard word that the Flash is looking toward a February comeback, but I've learned not to trust these things. I also remember hearing Scotty was coming back around Christmastime. Wait a minute, that actually happened.
Before I go, I have to mention how things just keep getting better for ol' Britney. I first learned about this on the Channel 4 news, which became yet another seemingly respectable news outlet to report a story using TMZ as a source. When I read this story, I can understand the refusing to give up the kids part, and the cops showing up part, but what was the hospitalization for? And why do I care? I'm battling with that as we speak.
I'm starting to think maybe Britney is an unfit mother. Am I crazy?
Updated Jan. 3 at 3:31 p.m.
I can't believe I forgot to mention this in the earlier post, but the Ducks again gave up a first career goal last night, to rookie Andrew Murray. A reader named Cassaundra emailed me to say that by her calculations the Ducks have given up six such goals this year:
Did she miss anyone?
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned this trend in the blog, and the website guy for the Sharks got in touch with me and said that last year he had once noticed the Sharks giving up a lot of those goals. He asked Elias Sports Bureau to do some research and determined that since the Sharks came into the league in 1991 they were second behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in first career goals given up. He didn't know where we ranked, but we've got to be leading the league this year, right?
Updated Jan. 3 at 11:16
A female co-worker gave me a "Happy New Year" today. We'll see how late in the year that continues.
Last night the Ducks started the new year and the second half of the season on the right foot with a hard-fought (if not pretty) 2-1 victory over Columbus. I had initially thought Chris Pronger's hard wrister in the third period was nicked by Corey Perry in front, but it was later made clear that Columbus d-man Ron Hainsey had it tip off his glove. Later, Pronger said with a laugh, "It was a heavy shot. That's why he didn't want to grab it, because it was coming in hot."
The Ducks also got a nice bounce on Francois Beauchemin's saucer feed to a streaking Ryan Getzlaf, who made a now-patended move to his backhand for the breakaway goal.
Todd Bertuzzi, by the way, continues to shine playing with Getzlaf and Perry, and extended his point streak to five games with a nice drop pass to Pronger to set up that goal. J.S. Giguere had one of his typically good games where he doesn't do anything spectacular, but is always in perfect position to make the easy save. Meanwhile, Ryan Carter is quietly playing his tail off while filling in for Sammy Pahlsson on the checking line. Carter won 10 of 13 faceoffs last night.
Speaking of Sammy, he is practicing with the team as I write this, and it looks like he'll be back tomorrow since the Ducks are about to announce that they've sent Drew Miller to Portland.
I didn't get a chance yesterday to comment on the Shane Hnidy trade, but it is definitely a move you could have seen coming for a few weeks. The Ducks were overstocked with defenseman when 27 came back and it appeared it would be either Hnidy or Joe DiPenta who would be offloaded. Unfortunately for Hnidy, he never really got it going in Anaheim, and I know he wasn't overly popular with the never-afraid-to-voice-their-opinions Ducks message boarders. The first person to agree with them was Hnidy, according to Ducks assistant general manager Bob Murray, who was quoted as saying, "It's better for Shane. The first thing he said to me was, 'I didn't play well here. I let you guys down early on here.' "
Hnidy had been scratched in the Ducks' last six games, and the move allows Anaheim to trim his $755,000 from their payroll from next year.
Bochenski, by the way, just arrived in Anaheim today and was seeing the doctor while the Ducks were on the ice. Despite a last name that sounds Russian, he's from Minnesota, yet another American that Brian Burke brought in. When I first started working for the Ducks in '05-'06, we had exactly one American: Keith Carney. Now, we have seven: Bochenski, Ryan Carter, Todd Marchant, George Parros, Bobby Ryan, Doug Weight and Mathieu Schneider. It's eight if you include Drew Miller.
Moving on, not that I would ever compare Ducks Digest to Sports Illustrated but our gameday publication seems to be generating similar jinxes this season. Although, our jinxes are coming before the magazine comes out. Because we obviously have to print our covers a few days in advance, we always take our chances that something might happen between the print time and gameday. And it seems like it's happening a lot this season. In the days prior to the Dec. 16 game against San Jose, the Sharks' Jonathan Cheechoo was put on injured reserve and Andy McDonald got traded. Guess which two players we had on the cover for that Sunday game. (And since Andy got traded on a Friday, two days before that game, it was impossible to reprint.) Now, the latest. We've got Chris Kunitz and the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews on the cover of tomorrow's night's program, and look who just went down with a knee injury.
From now on, I'm playing it safe and just putting a giant Ducks "D" on each cover.
Updated Jan. 2 at 12:07 p.m.
I'm not really a big "Happy New Year" guy. For some reason, when it comes in the days after the actual stroke of midnight, I think it sounds insincere and kind of silly. I'm not sure why. I equate it with calling Wednesday "Hump Day" or something. And when are you supposed to stop saying Happy New Year? January 5th? The 10th? February? I remember an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry annoyingly said, "I once got a 'Happy New Year' in March." And as I was writing this, I just got a email from a co-worker that was work-related, but the subject line still said, "happy new year!"
If it seems like forever since the Ducks have played a home game, that's because it kind of has been. Tonight's tilt with the Jackets of Columbus is the first game at Honda Center since December 19. And the time on the road was almost a microcosm of the Ducks' season, a couple of very impressive performances (wins at San Jose and Edmonton) followed by some mediocre ones (losses at Calgary and Vancouver).
Now the second half of the Ducks' season officially starts tonight , and they are the first team in the league to reach the halfway mark. The Ducks have played more games than all but one of the other Western Conference teams. As Dan Wood pointed out in the O.C. Register this morning, they are actually 11th in the conference winning percentage despite holding the eighth spot based on standings points. And Rob Niedermayer said this: “Everyone looks at where we’re at in the standings. We know it’s very urgent. Forty-three points — double that is 86. That’s not near enough.”
Columbus comes in tonight on a slight hot streak, having beaten Carolina and Edmonton at home, their first back-to-back victories since mid-November. Sammy Pahlsson, who didn't accompany the Ducks on their trip because of his recurring abdominal injury, did practice on Tuesday and is listed as questionable for tonight.
I got a major kick out of watching the Winter Classic outdoor game between Pittsburgh and Buffalo, which I thought was a major success despite the conditions. Sidney Crosby looked genuinely elated when he scored that winning shootout goal, somehow sneaking it under Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. If you missed the game, here are the highlights. Here also is the recap of the game on Sportscenter.
Ducks radio play-by-play guy Steve Carroll spoke to a few Ducks players about the game and their own pond hockey experiences, and we'll have that on the site later today as a special edition of Duck Cast.
Speaking of the Winter Classic, during the game they aired this Amp Energy drink commercial in which Ryan Miller engages in a mother-insulting contest with Kings backup goalie J.S. Aubin. I understand putting a star in there like Miller, but J.S. Aubin? What's the matter, Jason LaBarbera wasn't available? Curtis Sanford wanted too much money?
Oh, and one more thing: Happy New Year to everyone!