Adam Brady is the Director of Publications & New Media for the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center. Email him by CLICKING HERE.
Updated Oct. 31 at 10:47 a.m.
I'm not much of a Halloween guy, so when I showed up to the arena today in my normal gameday attire of a suit and tie and people asked me what I was dressed as, I said, "Handsome Guy."
Not one person laughed.
Unlike me, we do have a few people dressed up today, notably five people from our Honda Center marketing and PR staffs. They all decided (I don't think it was a coincidence) to dress as acts that have played Honda Center in the recent past. In the back row, from left to right: Senior Media & Marketing Manager Adam Mendelsohn as one of the guys from Panic at the Disco, Media & Communications Coordinator Tracy Richmond as Avril Lavigne and Marketing Coordinator Lauren Voors as Tina Turner. Front row: Director of Media and Communications Merit Tully as one of the Jonas Brothers (actually, that note in his pocket says Jonas Half Brother) and Director of Marketing Joel Hobson as one of the Blue Man Group (although, you probably could have guessed that on your own).
Meanwhile, a couple of fans have emailed me their Ducks-themed pumpkin creations:
There should be more than a few fans in costume tonight when the Ducks look for their sixth straight win (who would have thought we'd be saying that a week ago?) as they take on the Vancouver Canucks. (If you want an idea of what fans might be wearing tonight, take a look at the Ducks message board.)
The Canucks come in here tonight having gotten off to an up-and-down start with a 5-5-0 record. The climbed to .500 and snapped a three-game road losing streak with a pretty convincing 4-0 victory over the Kings last night (then again, it was the Kings). Roberto Luongo picked up the 40th shutout of his career, and we haven't heard yet whether he'll be going again tonight. Even if he doesn't, backup Curtis Sanford had a 1.26 goals against average against the Ducks last year, part of the reason Anaheim went 1-3-0 against Vancouver.
Tonight is the first regular season game against the Canucks for Ducks center Brendan Morrison since he joined Anaheim after eight seasons in Vancouver. Morrison addressed the media after the morning skate today about his struggles (just one point and a -5 rating in 11 games), and we'll have that for you a little later.
Morrison is hardly the only guy facing his old team tonight. Bret Hedican, Nathan McIver and the injured Brad May are also former Canucks, and current Canucks Jason Krog and Shane O'Brien are former Ducks.
And as we look ahead to this game, I'll leave you with the message that was scribbled on the grease board in the Ducks locker room this morning:
Updated Oct. 30 at 12:44 p.m.
It doesn't get much sweeter than that one last night.
It's not just that the Ducks pulled out a thrilling victory after trailing by two goals, and facing a one-goal deficit in the third period. It's not just that Teemu Selanne had a had trick. Not just that the Ducks kept their heads up after giving up a heart-wrenching goal in the final minute, only to win it in overtime. Not just that the Ducks won their fifth in a row.
It's that they did all of that against the Red Wings.
And with that win over the defending champs, who may be even better than they were last spring, we can definitively say that after that ridiculous start to the season, the Anaheim Ducks are officially back. Those four road wins were certainly nice, but you could make a case that in each of them, the Ducks played just well enough to win. Last night, they played well enough to beat the best team in the league.
“On the road, we played good enough to win the games, but if we would have played like tonight, I think all the games would have been way easier,” Selanne said.
And Selanne himself shined brightly, earning his 21st career hat trick, and at 38 years old he somehow looks just as good as when he got his first one. It was a strange game for Teemu, however. Even in the midst of scoring that first goal in the first period, he had several other chances that uncharacteristically rolled off his stick. Then there was that frightening moment late in the second period, when he collided with Valtteri Filppula, went down to the ice and stayed there awhile. When trainer Tim Clark raced out to tend to him, Selanne had this eerily blank look on his face that seemed to indicate the injury was serious. But a few seconds later he got up, skated toward the bench on his own and to top it off, stayed on the ice. And the guy who always seems to have a knack for seizing the moment did it again. Just 22 seconds after play started up again, Selanne slid a pass from the bottom of the circle toward Scott Niedermayer in the crease, and it bounced off a Detroit skate into the net.
Although, that goal initially looked like it went to Niedermayer (and you'll noticed Johnny Ahlers called it that way). That's the only excuse I can think of to explain why when Selanne notched the hat trick in the third period, only about three of four hats came raining down on to the ice. And most of those came pretty late. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe Orange County people don't wear caps to the games. Or maybe their hats are too valuable to fling onto the ice. Either way, it was a jarring shortage of flying headwear.
All three of Teemu's goals came from his patented spot at the bottom of the left circle, a place where he's always dangerous, especially on the power play. Maybe when Teemu retires the Ducks can put a tiny little "8" on that spot on each of the circles in the rink, because he's certainly made his living there.
Along those same lines, how strange was it that all four of Detroit's goals last night came near the same spot on the ice? Watch the highlights and notice how all those redirect goals hover within 10 feet of the hash marks on the inside of the right circle. You don't see that all too often.
That fourth Detroit goal was the toughest to take, as the Ducks looked to be on the cusp of victory when Dan Cleary made a gorgeous pass to Zetterberg for that one-timer. It was virtually the same thing the Wings had done two nights prior in L.A., as Filppula found the net with just 54 seconds left to break the Kings' hearts and Detroit won it in a shootout. But this Ducks team is playing too well to let it get to them last night, and Francois Beauchemin's baseball-swing goal ended it in overtime.
Ducks fans had to be nervous that the goal would be overturned when they looked at the replay (judging whether the puck was above or below the crossbar), considering the way the night had already been going. Chris Pronger's goal late in the first (which would have given the Ducks the lead) was taken away when officials determined that Selanne pushed Mikael Samuelsson into Osgood and knocked the goalie over. It was a borderline call, the kind you think was right if it goes against the other team, and you think it's outrageous if it goes against yours. Let's just be glad that the fact the Ducks won anyway keeps us from talking about it further.
I still don't like seeing the flood of Wings jerseys in our building and I certainly don't like hearing a loud cheer when Detroit scores a goal, but it certainly is satisfying when those fans head for the exits having watched their team go down. I got a couple of emails complaining about classless Wings fans, and we saw proof of that two different times when someone threw an octopus on the Honda Center ice. I'm not a big proponent of violence, especially in the stands, but if a visiting fan throws something representing their team on our ice? They deserve a smack in the head. Then again, there is some satisfaction in knowing a couple of idiots spent nearly an entire hockey game with an octopus in a ziplock bag hidden in their pants.
Here's a line from one email I got:
I guess you can take the fans out of the trailer park, but you can’t take the trailer park out of the fans.
I want to make it clear that I did not write that. It came from a fan's email. Still...
But I suppose the best revenge is winning, and that victory last night was just an extension of how much things have changed for the Ducks over the past week. Through the first six games, Ryan Getzlaf had exactly two points (one goal and one assist). After the road trip and a mammoth five-assist game last night (tying a team record), he now has 11 points. That's on pace for 90 this season. He had 82 last season. By the way, I love this quote from Selanne: "He’s unbelievable. He still doesn’t know how good he can be. I can’t see any reason why he couldn’t be the best player in this league. He has everything.”
And how's this for a transformation. Going into the Ottawa game last Friday, the Ducks were dead last in the NHL with one power play goal and a conversion rate of just 4.0%. Since that time they're 7 for 19 (including three last night) and rank 13th in the league at 36.8%.
Here's another beauty from Selanne: "The road trip was very good for us. We were able to be together as a team, have a couple parties and all of a sudden we're good."
Sounds pretty simple to me.
There was one negative from last night, and that is the injury to Brad May. In case you missed it, May went hard into Kris Draper near the wall last night and went down in a heap. He had to be helped to his feet and headed off the ice with his right skate in the air. It looked pretty serious, and he didn't return to the game. May reportedly told reporters he was okay after the game, but he was scheduled to get an MRI this morning. Randy Carlyle said, “I don’t think there’s a tear,” Carlyle said. “I think it’s more of a stretch or a bruise.” That's all we've heard so far. We'll try to find out more later today.
And I have to add a very sad note on a personal level. The suit I wore on the night of June 6, 2007 (and deep into the morning of June 7) has been officially retired. There is a rip in the sleeve near the elbow that I've tried to have repaired twice and it's just not holding. Now, somehow, the other sleeve has a tear as well. So, I've come to terms with the fact that I have to have it put down. But last night I couldn't bear to throw it away. It's now hanging in a guest room closet with the thick winter coats and turtlenecks that I'll never wear.
So, rest in peace, grey pinstriped suit. I'll never forget you.
Updated Oct. 29 at 2:46 p.m.
If you're anything like me, you're dying to see the Ducks get this one tonight.
This isn't just your everyday Wednesday night game. This is Detroit, a team I enjoy watching the Ducks beat like no other. A team that's always good, and last year they were better than everybody. A team that had the audacity to get even better in the offseason by adding one of the top forwards in the game in Marian Hossa, a guy who passed up lucrative multi-year deals so he could sign for one season to win a Cup in Detroit. A team that somehow has avoided the so-called Stanley Cup jinx so far, coming into this one with a gaudy 7-1-1 record. Not to mention, they're undefeated (5-0) on the road. If there was any team I'd enjoy watching have the theoretically inevitable rough start after winning the Cup, it's this Detroit team, but they've managed to avoid it so far.
And I just really want to beat them tonight.
Not only that, but tonight's game is a (cliche alert) "measuring stick" for the Ducks to determine just how good they are right now. You've got to feel like if the Ducks can knock off the defending champs tonight, we can finally say, "Okay, this is a good team we have here." If not, it's more talk from players and coaches of, "Well, we still have a long way to go."
It will be very interesting to see what the Ducks can generate offensively tonight, considering the Wings held the Kings to just 19 shots two nights ago. (Then again, it was the Kings.) Not to mention, Detroit's power play is still phenomenal, so the hooks and holds and cross-checks and interferences have to be kept to a minimum. Seriously, guys, to a minimum.
Also important is the play of J.S. Giguere, as it continues to look like when Jiggy goes, so go the Ducks. Giguere was clearly not his best in the first few games of the year, and the Ducks lost most of them. On the flip side, he's quietly been very solid for the Ducks on this streak (starting three of the four straight wins). If he's on tonight, the Ducks will be too.
Here's more reason to want to beat the Wings. After they needed a shootout to beat the Kings two nights ago to raise their record to 7-1-1, here were a couple of comments from their players:
“I think it’s clear to everybody in this room that we’re not playing as good as we should be,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. Said goaltender Chris Osgood, “We’re not playing as good this year as we were last year. We’re not as mentally sharp as we should be.”
Oh, shut up.
Hossa, in case you've missed it, spent the end of last season in Pittsburgh after a trade deadline deal, and his Penguins lost to the Wings in six games in the Final. Hossa turned down several lucrative multi-year offers (including one from the Penguins and one from Edmonton reported at $80 million) to sign for one year at $7.45 million in Detroit. He said he did it because he wanted a shot at a Cup.
That's really admirable. Here's hoping it doesn't happen.
Plan to see plenty of Red Wings jerseys in the audience tonight, as is always the case when Detroit visits here. It's basically a bunch of I-left-Detroit-as-soon-as-I-was-old-enough-to-move-out-of-my-parents'-house Wings fans. Here's hoping they're forced to keep their enthusiasm to a minimum tonight.
One thing fans at Honda Center won't see tonight is the bronze and leathery skin of 46-year-old Chris Chelios, who is out until at least next month with a broken hip ... I mean, tibia, TIBIA. (Sorry about that.)
The Ducks go into this one in a clearly relaxed mood, if the way they're rolling through the locker room is any indication. Here's one example, an outtake from an interview Rob Niedermayer did this morning with Ducks radio voice Steve Carroll with some help from Ryan Getzlaf. Even without the goofing around, this interview is funny enough with Robbie wearing a towel around his shoulders and looking remarkably like Luke Skywalker.
Updated Oct. 28 at 3:28 p.m.
We can say it now because they got the victory, but if the Ducks hadn't beaten Columbus, it would have left a bitter taste as the Ducks flew home in the wee hours last night. As satisfying as those first three Eastern Canada wins were to the team (especially in light of where they were going into the trip), those good vibes would have been dimmed a little bit if Anaheim ended the trip with a loss. A loss to Columbus, no less.
Luckily, the Ducks didn't have to consider that scenario, as they came from behind with two huge third period goals to eke out a 3-2 victory over the Jackets. Corey Perry's slick redirect of a rocketed Steve Montador shot tied it halfway through the period, then Teemu Selanne somehow found an opening to score the winner on the power play with 3:55 left. Do you get the feeling Selanne sees things other people don't? Look at this replay and tell me how he even sees enough daylight to take the shot. And he doesn't seem all that surprised that it got through. I'd like to see how Teemu handles rush hour traffic in L.A. Probably zips through car after car and never has to slow down past 50 or 60 mph.
After that goal, things got a little precarious in the final minute when a Derick Brassard one-timer slipped through J.S. Giguere and barely slid past the other side of the net. But it was just another example of how things on this trip have been the complete opposite of the first six games of the year for the Ducks. The bounces that weren't going their way suddenly are, and another notable instance of that was the first goal of the game by Ryan Getzlaf. Watch how Getzy was about to head behind the net and then stopped, then the next thing he knows the puck is bouncing right to him as he chips it into the wide open net. It was kind of like finding a $20 bill on the street.
Randy Carlyle said he told the players going into the third period, whey they trailed by a goal, "Hey guys, we have a chance to turn this into a real great road trip." And they did that in a major way, though it wasn't looking that way until those two goals in the third.
“We were almost waiting to get this game over and go home,” Selanne said. “Obviously, in the third period we woke up a little bit and found a way to win the game. Good teams can do that." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, despite the 1-5 start, this is a good team. It's just taken them awhile to prove it.
Of course, not too many people were there to witness it last night, as the Jackets reported a paid attendance of 10,494, the smallest NHL crowd ever at Nationwide Arena. And hearing from those who were in the building last night, it was about half that. Apparently even the players were remarking what a change of pace it was to play a Saturday night game in front of 20,000 screaming French Canadiens, then two nights later feel like you're playing in front of a crowd at a preseason game ... an ECHL preseason game.
“It’s hard because you go from Montreal where on a Saturday night, any game is just like a playoff atmosphere, and you come to a building where they’ve been struggling to put people into the stands,” Giguere said. “Not having made the playoffs since they’ve been in the league, it’s understandable. With the price tickets are, people want to have success. It makes it hard, but it’s part of our job to compete in any situation.”
NHL.com has named George Parros' breakaway goal against Toronto last week one of its Goals of the Week. Here it is again, if you'd like. And by the way, USA Today did a Q&A with Georgie in which he calls that goal, "probably my first (breakaway goal) since high school."
Back in town for the first time in a week, you could sense a different jump in the steps of the Ducks in the locker room after their practice at Honda Center. Brendan Morrison, a University of Michigan alum, was walking around sheepishly in a green Michigan State hat, having lost a bet with TV play-by-play guy John Ahlers (an MSU alum) stemming from the rivalry game over the weekend. Ahlers, by the way, will be on AM 830 at 7:45 tomorrow morning to talk about the Ducks and that night's game against Detroit.
And with the Ducks suddenly on a roll, that game tomorrow night will really define where they are right now. Detroit looks just as good as they were last spring, although they needed a shootout to get past the Kings last night after tying it with just 1:54 left in regulation. Typical of Southern California games, last night's crowd at Staples Center included a large number of fans in Red Wings jerseys. and one of them threw an octopus on the ice at the beginning of the third period. I'll say it before and I'll say it again. The teams that draw the most in other team's arenas are the ones from the least desirable cities. That's why the Ducks and Kings get so many Red Wings and Sabres jerseys sprinkled through the crowd when they face those teams. Montreal? New York? Phoenix? Not so much.
As you've probably already seen, the Ken Klee era in Anaheim has officially come to an end. Klee was claimed by Phoenix off reverse waivers Tuesday, meaning the Ducks only have to split his remaining $1.25 million salary for the rest of the year with the Coyotes. It's the second player the Ducks have lost to the Coyotes on waivers in the last year, but something tells me Klee won't come back to hurt the Ducks the same way Ilya Bryzgalov has.
It's hard to believe, but even with that 1-5 start, and while still only being at .500 right now, the Ducks are currently in sixth in the Western Conference. Although, they have played more games than every other team in the conference (wasn't that the case for most of the season last year too?). One of the few positives of the Ducks' 1-5 start was the fact that the Dallas Stars have also gotten off to a lackluster start to this season. The Stars are 3-4-2 and 12th in the West.
And here's another thing we know about the Stars: You can't get into the visiting team's locker room at their arena if you're dressed as a midieval knight. This video has been making the email rounds among NHL PR staffers with no explanation attached to it. But from what I can tell, two radio guys wanted to see if they could do interviews with the Predators dressed up as knights. Apparently the answer is no. I like this line from the Preds PR guy: "This is a little uh ... a little different than what we're used to."
I thought that was the strangest thing I saw today until I went on YouTube to see if the video had made it on there and came across this bizarre one. Apparently Tracey Myers of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has taken it upon herself to do an extremely out-of-focus video blog updating fans on the Stars. Turn down the sound on this thing and tell me it doesn't look like she's a hostage reading a list of demands. The fact that she kind of looks like Anne Hathaway somehow makes it even creepier.
Updated Oct. 27 at 12:34 p.m.
So, how are you feelin' about your Anaheim Ducks now?
Who would have thought that the Ducks would begin to turn their season around on what is normally a difficult trip through
This weekend's monumental wins over the Senators and Canadiens didn't represent the best the Ducks have to offer. After all, they gave up three third-period goals in a span of four minutes to almost blow the lead in Ottawa, and gave up a gargantuan 51 shots in Montreal. But they did what they had to do to win both of those games, and that's a sign of a good team.
J.S. Giguere, who more and more seems to be the go-to guy for effectively summing up the team's state of mind, had this to say after the Montreal game: “The main thing is we found a way to win. Same with the last couple games. It’s not always pretty, but this is how we’re going to get out of this thing, by winning some ugly games. Eventually, we’re going to find some confidence and start winning some good games -- hopefully.”
In Ottawa the Ducks had the breaks finally go their way, as the opposite was seemingly happening in the first six games of the season. The most obvious example came on one of the strangest goals you'll ever see, when Todd Marchant batted the puck out of Jason Smith's glove past a completely bewildered Alex Auld. The goal was really strange to watch on TV, since it looked from my angle that Marchant smacked the puck over the glass and then raised his arms in the air. I remember thinking initially: Boy, that's a strange thing to celebrate, but the Ducks are definitely looking for reasons to raise their arms lately.
Marchant was just another of the Ducks' less-likely scorers to find the net. Look at the list of top goal-scorers the Ducks had through that game : Francois Beauchemin (3), Marchant, Brian Sutherby, George Parros, Samuel Pahlsson and Rob Niedermayer (2 apiece).
The guys we expect to top that list -- Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz -- finally contributed the way they're supposed to, notably in that game the following night against Montreal. Getzlaf scored his first of the year against Ottawa, a power play goal off a pass from Perry that personified the comfort level those two have after playing the last four seasons together. They seem to know where the other guy is on the ice even when their heads are down. That Getzlaf goal, by the way, turned out to be huge when the Senators came back with three quick ones.
Then in Montreal, they really exploded. Each of the three scored goals (remarkably the first of the season for both Kunitz and Perry) and combined for seven points. You had to believe it was only a matter of time before those three got it going, and it happened in a big way in that game. Perry scored his first of the year at a fantastic time, early in the second period after the Ducks had given up three straight goals to lose an early 2-0 lead.
Want to know what it looks like when a 29-goal-scorer from a year ago finally scores his first one of the season after waiting nine games? It looks a little like this.
Of course, the Ducks pretty much needed all the points it could get in that game, as Jean-Sebastien Giguere was forced to stop 47 shots for the Ducks to hang on against a very good Montreal team. It was interesting timing for Giguere to post the second-highest number of saves in his regular season career, since he had about 20 relatives watching him from a suite in that game. It was pretty cool watching him skate off the ice after it was over, looking high into the crowd trying to spot them.
And how gorgeous was Travis Moen's shorthanded goal where he somehow outskated two Canadiens and flipped a backhand top shelf immediately after getting control of the puck and just before skating past the goal. Didn't exactly look like a checking line guy there, did he?
Meanwhile, how great is this photo of Teemu Selanne's goal where he punched it into the wide open net, the sixth and final goal of the game for the Ducks?
You couldn't ask for a more entertaining game than the Ducks-Canadiens tilt, with 10 combined goals and a wicked pace that only seemed to slow down at the intermissions. That back-and-forth tempo was also prevalent in the Ottawa game, and seems to define a lot of Eastern Conference teams. That's one reason I'm glad the NHL adjusted the schedule to allow for fewer games within each teams division and more against the other conference. And it's a reminder that I'd like to see them take it even further, with at least a home-and-home against every team. I'm sure Ducks fans would love to see teams like Montreal, Ottawa, New York (not the Islanders) and Philly at Honda Center every year.
We don't want to get ahead of ourselves here, but those three wins seem to indicate that the Ducks' miserable start was more of a fluke than a sign of things to come this season. Of course, the good feelings those wins stirred up would be tainted a little bit if the Ducks were to lose in Columbus tonight. Don't get me wrong, a loss tonight wouldn't make us completely forget about what has already been a heck of a road trip. But it sure would be nice to finish strong. And it sure would be nice for this team to get back to .500, as they're 4-5-0 entering this one.
The Jackets are their usual selves, bringing a 3-5-0 record into the game. Plus, goalie Pascal Leclaire is probably not going to be in net after spraining an ankle in Saturday's game. They're also without top-six forwards Fredrik Modin (groin injury) and Raffi Torres (shoulder).
Tonight is supposed to be the Ducks debut for Bret Hedican, the defenseman Anaheim acquired last week. Hedican has practiced with the team the last few days, but hasn't gotten into a game yet. Hedican didn't exactly ooze confidence when he told reporters this morning, “I’m not going to be perfect tonight. I’m hoping I’m not going to be terrible The main thing is just take a shift at a time, make simple plays, move the puck, move my feet, play good defense and really try to just simplify my game.”
If the Ducks come out of there with a win tonight, it will mark just the second time in team history that they have swept a road trip of four games or more. Strangely enough, the only other time came in the inaugural season, when the "Mighty" Ducks won just 33 games the entire year. And that trip was all Canada, as the Ducks knocked off Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg in November of 1993.
Sarah Palin is definitely getting around the hockey circuit lately, and apparently she's leaving injured goalies in her wake. Before Palin was to drop the puck at the St. Louis Blues game against the Kings, All-Star goalie Manny Legace slipped on the carpet that was rolled out for the ceremony, fell to the ice and appeared to injur his leg. He took a few extra stretches during warmups and then gave up two goals on just 12 first-period shots ... to the Kings.
The Kings, having seen that sequence of events, said, "See, that's why we got rid of him."
The following day, the Iowa Chops, the Ducks' AHL affiliate, presented the "hockey mom" with a Chops jersey at a Rally in Des Moines on Saturday. Chops owner Kirby Schlegel (left) and team president Steve Nitzel are posing with her.
“We’re a team of mavericks,” Palin told the crowd. “We’ve got some chops, underdogs in this race.”
Holding my tongue, holding my tongue, holding my tongue.
Updated Oct. 24 at 2:32 p.m
I have to admit, it seems like a lot longer than a year and a half ago the last time the Ducks visited
“That’s so long ago,” Carlyle said. “So many things have happened between the last time we were here and this time. We’re not coming here on a very big high. We’re about improving on our performance. Frankly, we’re embarrassed by our start."
Indeed, the Ducks walk into Scotiabank Place with fleeting memories of that Game 4 triumph, but their focus is on playing better than they have. And though they eeked out that shootout win Tuesday night (that also seems like a while ago), they certainly have to do more offensively than they did in those final two periods.
The Senators are 2-3-1 as they play the last of a five-game homestand. They plan to start backup Alex Auld in goal, who hasn't played since Oct. 5, when he beat the Penguins in Stockholm, Sweden. Auld, who normally backs up the suddenly-underachieving Martin Gerber, is one day short of the one-year anniversary of shutting out the Ducks at Honda Center while with Phoenix. But when the Coyotes fell in love with Ilya Bryzgalov (no, I'm not linking to that video again), Auld became expendable and was traded to Boston before the Sens signed him in the offseason.
The Ducks will counter with Jonas Hiller in goal tonight, since the Ducks play the first of back-to-backs and Carlyle elected to save J.S. Giguere for Montreal, which is his hometown. Giguere has 20 family members, including 11 nieces and nephews, coming to the game and he's rented them a suite at Bell Center.
The Ducks won't have new signee Bret Hedican in there tonight, and now it looks like he won't be ready for the Montreal game either. “I think it’s a little premature to put him in after one or two days skating with your group,” Carlyle said. “We’ll have to get an assessment of where he’s at, watch him skate and see how he feels. For him to not even be in a full practice, just a morning skate, is much different. I think it would be unrealistic for the first two games, but I would never rule out Monday night.”
Said Hedican, “Obviously, I know training camp and the first 10 games are a good base to have. I know I have a little catching up to do, but I look after myself. I treat my body the best I can as far as getting good food and trying to get good sleep. Physically, I felt great. It’s just a matter of getting my wind where I need it to be. I’ve been conditioning hard. It’s just transferring that over to the NHL game. Game shape is really where I need to be.”
Speaking of Hedican, this morning one of my co-workers was standing outside my office and said, "Hey, one of our player wives is outside your office." Naturally, I was confused until I saw he was pointing at one of the framed photos of Honda Center events that decorate our office hallways. It was a photo from Stars on Ice (or one of those shows) and prominently displayed with three other skaters was none other than Kristi Yamaguchi. Funny how things work out sometimes.
A reader named Laura is part of a group of 21 Ducks fans that followed the team on this Eastern Canada swing with 12 more scheduled to join the group tomorrow in Montreal. Here was part of what she emailed me this morning:
Wow, I never realized the Ducks were such hated rivals of the Leafs until just now. I'm kind of surprised. After all, I thought the Leafs were trying to woo Brian Burke, not annoy him. Nice strategy, guys.
Updated Oct. 23 at 1:47 p.m.
The Ducks had no game last night, have no game tonight and they're in another country right now, so I thought I was at a loss for blog material this afternoon. I was almost resigned to writing about the increasingly grating commercials we've had to sit through while watching the baseball playoffs on TBS. That wildly inappropriate DirecTV commercial using the image of child actor Heather O'Rourke from "Poltergeist," even though she died at the age of 12. That awful ad for Jack in the Box with the two grown men in strollers crying like babies (I had to look up what product it was for, by the way). I swear that every time it comes on, I lunge for the remote before it gets to the crying part and my ears start bleeding. Unfortunately, it's near the beginning of the ad.
Thank God the World Series has moved to Fox, so we don't have to sit through yet another "Frank TV" promo and watch him do another George Bush impression. Good lord, enough already. We get it. Does anybody actually watch that show?
TBS ... Very Funny.
Okay, if you say so.
And I'm so glad the movie "The Express" finally came out, so I don't have to endure the trailer one more time:
"You can't play him"
"I'm playingrt "
"You're damn right you are!"
Meanwhile, I can't seem to get "Five dollar ... five dollar ... five dollar foot lonnnnnnng" out of my head.
Anyway, just when I think we've reached the bottom of the barrell topic-wise, the Anaheim Ducks come through once again. It's not quite official yet, but the Ducks are on the verge of announcing that they have signed 38-year-old defenseman Bret Hedican, formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Hedican has been a free agent since the end of last season, his 16th in the NHL and sixth with Carolina. The Ducks signed him for one year at $870,500, which will be prorated to $800,000 through the rest of the season. That leaves the Ducks about $400,000 below the cap with the status of Ken Klee still uncertain.
Hedican had received offers from several other teams over the past few months, but kept from signing because he said he really wanted to try and work a deal with the Ducks. Part of the reason is that he and wife Kristi Yamaguchi (an Olympic gold medalist in figure skating and former Dancing with the Stars champion) have a home in Northern California. He's already with the team in Ottawa, and I spoke to him over the phone about half an hour ago. He expressed that while being in California was appealing, what really attracted him to the Ducks was their potential for success.
"Obviously the last month in particular I’ve had a lot of teams calling and making offers," he said. "But I kept focus on this team because I like it so much and I like the defensive core that Mr. Burke has assembled here. They’ve won a Stanley Cup and ultimately that’s why I play the game now. I want to win another Cup and I think this team has the opportunity."
You could hear the enthusiasm in his voice as he said, "I’m so excited to be a Duck right now because I never thought this would be possible. I never thought it would happen. And for me to have the opportunity to join this defensive crew is really exciting. Really exciting.
Hedican was part of the 2006 Carolina team that won the Stanley Cup, and he's an offensive defenseman with speed (even at 38). The Ducks will likely pair him with Chris Pronger.
Said Brian Burke of Hedican, “He has great mobility, even though he’s an older player now. He’s a good puck-moving, good-skating defenseman. We need that right now. We’re getting hemmed in our own end a little more than we should.”
By all reports Hedican is in good shape, even though he's been without a team for the last several months. He spent some time skating with fellow NHLers (including some Sharks guys) up in the San Jose area before camp started, then spent the last couple of weeks skating at his alma mater, St. Cloud University in Minnesota.
I like the idea of bringing Hedican into the Ducks fold. With his instincts and skating ability, there's no question he can create the scoring opportunities Anaheim hasn't been able to find often enough in the first six games of this season. No, he's not going to score the goals all that often, but he will ensure that guys like Getzlaf, Perry, Kunitz, Selanne and company have more chances than they've been getting so far. You can't score if you don't have the puck, and a guy like Hedican will make sure they get it more often.
We don't know yet if Hedican will be in the lineup tomorrow night, since he just got into Ottawa not long ago. He said he hasn't met his new teammates yet and he's only had time to "get situated here, work out the contract, talk to some media and order some lunch."
If Hedican's not in there tomorrow, all signs point to him being in there Saturday at Montreal.
"I'm just going to try and get a good skate in tomorrow and see what happens. For me it's all about listening to what the team needs from me and absolutely being ready when called upon."
Updated Oct. 22 at 1:33 p.m.
Earlier this morning I overhead a Ducks executive shouting this line in the hallway:
"Shots on goal are overrated."
It must be true. Otherwise, how could the Anaheim Ducks go without a single shot for the last 7:36 of the second period and the entire third period (getting outshot 28-4 total in those periods) and still manage to steal a 3-2 shootout win over the Maple Leafs last night?
It was a similar story to Anaheim's only other win of the season, when they were dramatically outshot by San Jose, 38-20, but J.S. Giguere saved all of them in a 4-0 victory. Meanwhile, the Ducks outshot Edmonton a week ago (3-2 loss) and Carolina last Sunday (3-1 loss). It's a strange game sometimes.
“The mind frame we’re in right now, we’re going to take everything we possibly can," said Randy Carlyle. “We didn’t play very well, obviously, past the first period, but we found a way to get two points. Previously, we’ve been better, executed to a higher level and yet, come up empty.”
Want a coincidence? The last time the Ducks went without a shot in the third period was last March 21 against San Jose. The Sharks' coach at the time? Ron Wilson, who is now at the helm of the very Leafs who held the Ducks shotless in the third last night.
But the Ducks did enough over the first two periods to force overtime, though it again came from the unlikeliest of sources. Francois Beauchemin scored his third goal of the season 4:36 into the first period, already eclipsing the two he had last season. (By the way, ladies and gentlemen, Francois Beauchemin has a three-game goal streak. Yes, you read that right.) Then George Parros scored his second goal of the season halfway through the first. You know how many he had last year? One.
But you'd hardly know it the way Parros looked on this breakaway which was set up by two great defensive plays by Brian Sutherby. You could almost hear Parros thinking, "I'm not going to bother making any moves here. Frankly, I don't have any moves. I'll just take the shot and see what happens" as he fired that wrister through Vesa Toskala.
“It was a great feeling — obviously, any time you can put the puck in the net and actually beat the goaltender on a shot,” Parros said. “Usually I just chip ‘em in off the goal line. I just take my shots and get my goals where I can.”
Nik Antropov's goal with less than a minute remaining was an absolute heart-breaker, but thankfully the Ducks turned the tables on Toronto in OT. This time it was the Leafs going without a shot in the five-minute extra session. They really didn't have one in the shootout either, as Nikolai Kulemin and Tomas Kaberle made it easy on Giguere by missing the net on their attempts. Meanwhile, Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry connected in the shootout to win it. (Unfortunately for Perry, that shootout conversion does not count as an official goal.)
Aside from Selanne's patented move where he skates hard at the goalie before slipping it through, and Perry's nice curl in from the right wing, the Ducks had to give credit to one other guy in that shootout: Ron Wilson. The coach shockingly subbed out Toskala (who already had lost two shootouts this year) for backup Curtis Joseph when the shootout began.
"I've never seen it happen before,'' Perry said. "I saw him warming up and I turned to the bench and said, `They're putting him in?'''
According to Wilson, Toskala has given up goals 54 percent of the time in shootouts, while Joseph is at 28 percent. "I was playing the percentages,'' Wilson said. "I had nothing to lose.''
Nothing to lose? How about a standings point?
Then again, something tells me this Toronto team won't be fighting for a playoff spot in April. A road win is a road win, but these Leafs are ... well, they're not very good.
“We know we can play better than what we played, and we’re going to have to play a lot better than that to get more points.”
That starts Friday in Ottawa, where the Ducks arrived this morning and decided to cancel the scheduled practice for a team-bonding event. "A little bit of a pool tournament,” Carlyle called it. “We’re going to play billiards, and have pizzas and chicken wings — all that good grease.”
You may recall the Ducks played some pool together prior to upsetting the Calgary Flames in Game 7 of the opening round in 2006, a game that you could say paved the way to the Stanley Cup. Also that season, they skated on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa before a January game against the Sens, which they won 4-3 in a shootout. Since that canal isn't frozen yet, the Ducks opted for the more stable surface of green felt.
I received a couple of photos that were sent by a group of Ducks fans who made the trip to Toronto to see the game as well as the Hockey Hall of Fame. Here they are.
Also, I just got a picture from the Ducks Road Crew group that trekked up to San Jose for the opening game.
Back at home, Ken Klee was not picked up off waivers by any other team and he cleared as of 9 a.m. this morning. That means the Ducks could send him to Iowa, but there is no word as of yet if that is the option they'll take. Keep in mind that if he is sent there, his $1.25 million salary would not come off the Ducks' salary cap figure, since he is 35 or older (he's 37). We'll try and keep you updated on what develops with him.
We were finally able to get ahold of video of Brian Burke's press conference in Toronto. Here it is, if you're interested.
One last thing for now: The Oilers have had another problem with a blogger and this time it's thankfully not me. According to a story in the Edmonton Journal, blogger Dave Berry was banned from the Oilers press box last week because of "disrespectful and embarrassing" content in his live blog he typed during Edmonton's home opener. While the Oilers stress they typically have no problem with bloggers, VP of communications Allan Watt said, "What triggered it initially was the content. "It was profane."
While I'm all for freedom of speech, can't say I blame the Oilers for being alarmed. Among the comments Berry made were, "Zack Stortini is just a disgusting hockey player" and "We had better be good on the powerplay, because we can't do f--- all at even strength: that whole sequence before the disallowed goal was just horrific."
Maybe I should start writing that way during my in-game blogs. Then again, maybe not.
That being said, maybe the Oilers could have handled it in a quieter manner, stressing to Watt that being in the press box is a privilege and that his occasional negative comments might be formulated in a more professional manner. Kicking him out might have been a little extreme. But then again, Oilers PR guy J.J. Hebert said, "It's not like we bound and gagged the guy and pulled him out of the building. We had two very professional conversations and then some other emails and another phone conversation. And it was very professional."
I think I would have preferred bound and gagged. That would have made a better story.
There is way more to this ordeal than I really care to invest time in, so if you're interested in reading almost 1,800 words on it (I'm not kidding), here's the article. If you do click through to it, you'll notice at the top of the website that it is mid-October and it is currently 7 degrees Celsius in Edmonton (that's 44 Fahrenheit, by the way). It's 98 in Newport Beach as we speak.
And that's as good a reason as any to revisit this timeless classic: Ilya Bryzgalov urging people to go easy on Chris Pronger for wanting out of Edmonton. "He may be trying to leave here because it's November months and it's minus-32. Could you imagine? It's eight months in a year snow ... Hold on, I'm not finished. It's like the North Pole."
Will I ever get sick of that? I say no.
Updated Oct. 21 at 3:42 p.m.
We're less than an hour away from the Ducks' latest must-win game, a faceoff with the Maple Leafs in Toronto. And in case you hadn't already heard, the game is not televised locally and can only be seen if you have NHL Center Ice (the blackout is lifted for this one). If you don't have Center Ice, the Ducks watch party at ESPN Zone is another option. Even though I am a proud owner of a complimentary Center Ice subscription on my close friend DirecTV, I plan on checking out the watch party. So now you have added incentive to attend as well.
The Ducks have their work cut out for them again, despite the fact that Toronto is just 1-2-1 this season. They did beat Detroit on the road in their opening game of the season and they're coached by former Sharks head man Ron Wilson, a guy who knows the Ducks fairly well. Although, when Wilson was in San Jose, he didn't have the added advantage of facing the Ducks right after they've flown cross-country, as they have for this one. Wilson noted how tough it is for a West Coast team like the Ducks to play at home on Sunday and then spend the whole next day traveling before a Tuesday game. "Hopefully, they won’t have their legs under them the first 10 minutes of the game. We have to take advantage of that.”
In the "as if the Ducks didn't have enough problems..." file, we find this piece of news. Ryan Getzlaf skipped this morning's skate because of a dentist appointment in Toronto. Normally that would seem like a lousy excuse, but Getzlaf had been going through some pain after taking a stick to the mouth in the Kings game a week ago, and it apparently flared up on the flight to Canada. Getzlaf says he had a gum virus dating back to his rookie year in 2006 and it "just kind of fired back up. I had it taken out this morning."
Getzlaf says he plans to play, though it depends on how he feels when the meds wear off. Let's hope they do soon. Although, with the way Getzlaf's been struggling this season (just one point so far), maybe it's alright if he plays tonight a little under the influence of the pain killers.
Kidding. I'm kidding.
Seriously, I'm kidding.
But if you're wondering how out of it Getzlaf was after the dentist visit, check out this video.
And apparently if you stand in that exact spot in the locker room, you get asked, "What's wrong with the Ducks right now?" I like Teemu Selanne's laugh in response to that question.
Going back a little bit, I forgot to mention this yesterday but the ceremony at the game honoring the Orange County Olympians was really a special moment. And the highlight was showing Jason Lezak's come-from-behind victory in the 4x100 freestyle relay to win the gold for the U.S. As they showed it on the Honda Vision, the entire arena -- fans, Ducks-jersey-clad Olympians and even hockey players -- had their eyes glued on the video board, and the crowd instinctively got louder and louder as he neared the finish, as if watching it for the first time. Very cool moment. And the always-phenomenal Marcia Smith captured that ceremony in her story in this morning's O.C. Register.
You might have seen earlier that the Ducks put Ken Klee on waivers, and if he's not claimed by another team by 9 a.m. (Pacific) tomorrow morning he could be sent to Iowa. That's certainly an option for the Ducks, but I'm hearing that isn't likely to happen. Let's talk more about what the next step is if and when he clears tomorrow.
Klee did not accompany the team to Toronto, but Brian Burke did, and he held a press conference following the morning skate. He tried -- somewhat unsuccessfully -- to stress that he would only address the speculation of his taking the Leafs job after this season only once. Nonetheless, and not surprisingly, the Canadian media members kept trying to bring it back up. We don't have video of the actual press conference, but one of our Ducks broadcast guys did a quick shot of what the press conference looked like. Quite a crowd at this thing. Can you imagine what it would have looked like if there was actual news to report? Oh, Canada.
Here's a sample of what Burke said: “First off, I signed a four-year deal (with the Ducks), so for someone to insist that you honor the fourth year of a four-year deal is hardly being unreasonable, in my opinion. I think they (Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli) are entitled to that. If a player came to me and said ‘I know I signed a four-year deal but I’d really like to get out of the last year,’ it would probably be a very short, profanity-laced conversation."
I'm assuming he didn't curse at Scott Niedermayer when Scotty hinted at retiring.
And there was this: “Let me address this. I’m going to address it once, and then we’re going to talk about the Ducks. My situation, I think most people in the room understand it. It’s certainly been reported fairly, from my perspective. There are family issues involved. I have four children from my first marriage that live on the East Coast. I travel back two weekends every month to see them. I’ve been doing that since I went to Vancouver in 1998. It’s a very difficult schedule, and I have two little ones in California. I don’t see either group enough. That’s the principle concern. The other is my wife’s situation. She’s a very accomplished (Canadian) broadcaster, and can’t really work in California. We’re trying to figure out balancing those things."
And this: “There is no issue with the job. I have a great job. The Samuelis are wonderful people. They’ve treated us like family. It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, and that’s why it’s taken so long. I think people in the media have been respectful. I think the issues have been treated properly. I’m grateful for that. Now my wife and I have to decide what we’re going to do."
“I think our owners are entitled to an answer (by Christmas). The hold-up here is all on my end. Again, I’m wrestling with a very difficult decision. I’m not an indecisive person. I make decisions easily and quickly, generally. This one has been a battle, but the timeframe is accurate."
At one point Burke responded to further questioning by saying, "“Is this a Ducks question? I don’t want to snap at anyone. I think I’ve answered the issue. If you have a question about the Ducks, I’ll happily field it."
Alright, so there really is no need to further speculate, except to say this. Brian Burke definitely has a generous offer on the table from the Ducks and he's obviously considering it seriously. But family concerns and the lure of running an organization like the Toronto Maple Leafs is a legitimate and certainly understandable reason to mull things over. While at one time the though of him leaving Anaheim for that job seemed far-fetched, it's gotten to this point: He might stay, he might not. The fact is, the Ducks organization wants him here and are making him an offer that demonstrates that. Whether that will be enough will be determined in the next few months.
For now, the focus is on this game tonight, and more importantly figuring out a way to get out of the office early enough to see the opening faceoff in a few minutes. I actually think I'm starting to feel a little under the weather. Yep, definitely don't want anyone around here to catch whatever I have. I'm out of here.
Updated Oct. 20 at 12:05 p.m.
Anyone who's driven to Vegas for the weekend can relate to this one. You have a great time Friday night, you're drinking, you're gambling, you're seeing the sights. Time of your life. Saturday is usually a more mellow time. You sleep in till 11, you're still recovering most of the day and there's just not as much going on. Then you leave a little later than you wanted to, you run into horrible traffic on the drive home, and around your eighth hour in the car with your smelly friends, you've pretty much forgotten how fun Friday night was.
That's kind of what this past weekend was like for Ducks fans. As elated as we all were by that convincing victory Friday night over San Jose -- the epic first win of the season -- that buzz was killed by the 3-1 loss to Carolina last night. The Ducks had plenty of chances in this one (33 shots in all) but were befuddled by goalie Michael Leighton, a guy who spent a little time in Portland before the Ducks lost him on waivers. That was in November of the Stanley Cup season, when Nashville claimed in. Since then he has gone from there to Philadelphia and now to Carolina, where he looks like he might be a part of their future plans. Regardless, the Ducks have coincidentally been defeated by two goaltenders already this year that they lost on waivers in a November (Ilya Bryzgalov was claimed last year and beat the Ducks a week ago with Phoenix).
But there was more working against the Ducks than just solid goalkeeping last night. Usually I am the last guy to complain about the officiating, even when I get emails from angry fans raging against that machine. But last night was the most egregious example I've seen of the Ducks getting jobbed by the boys in black and white. The most blatant example was of course the play by Joe Corvo with just more than a minute left, when he clearly flung the puck out of the Carolina zone and over the ice. And despite the fact there wasn't a Duck close to Corvo, the officials convened and (probably influenced by the yelling and gesturing Hurricanes) ruled that the puck was deflected on its way out. If they had correctly ruled it was a delay of game, that would have put the Ducks on a power play in the final minute, likely a 6 on 4 since they were already emptying the net. Granted, the Ducks haven't exactly taken advantage of their power play opportunities (1 for 24 so far this season), but it sure would have been nice to see them get the opportunity they deserved.
(By the way, I love the fact that our game entertainment crew has elected to show replays of controversial calls now. In the past they obeyed a league edict that discouraged teams from putting those on the video board, but after noticing that other teams were doing it, the Ducks have given it the green light as well.)
But wait, there was more last night. Less than three minutes into the third, Teemu Selanne was staring at a loose puck with an open net in front of him when Eric Staal blatantly hooked him from behind. The missed call by the official staring right at the play was less obvious because he whistled Staal for an obvious slashing minor a few seconds later. Not as blatant was when Staal ran Selanne off the puck when it was sitting inches from the stripe and Selanne was skating after it to poke it in. That could have been called interference and it could have not been. Although, Ducks fans probably think it would have been called if the players' roles were reverse.
That's exactly the theory pointed out by Brian Burke when he was interviewed on the telecast during the second period. He mentioned that "our players are saying" that the hooking, holding, interference, etc., penalties the Ducks are getting whistled for aren't being called against Ducks opponents. (And Ducks analyst Brian Hayward pointed out several non-calls during last night's game.) It seems that Anaheim's reputation for toughness is coming back to haunt them. Officials seem to be calling Ducks games looking for Anaheim penalties and conveniently ignoring them on the other side.
There was another one last night that almost everybody seemed to miss. If you still have the game on your DVR, check out the last few seconds of the first period. If you look carefully, the Hurricanes clearly have six skaters on the ice, none of them anywhere near the benches. Somehow four officials didn't notice this. Might have been nice for the Ducks to have nearly two minutes of power play time to start the second. By the way, you know who the sixth Carolina skater was who just sneaks into frame as time is expiring? Of course. Eric Staal.
Again, 99 times out of 100 I refuse to whine about the officials (it usually just sounds like sour grapes to me), but last night was brutal. Still, the Ducks just couldn't seem to get any breaks last night and it just looked like it wasn't meant to be. "It’s unbelievable," Selanne said. "We’re not getting any bounces. The puck was on the goal line, all kinds of things are happening but it’s not going in our favor. I think it was great effort again and we deserved better than this."
After last night, in retrospect that once-elusive first victory seems like it was ages ago. But it still deserves to be remembered, especially since the Ducks right now don't have any other wins to measure it against. The Ducks made relatively easy work of the Sharks on Friday night, one of the best teams in the Western Conference, in rolling to a 4-0 victory. But despite what the score would indicate, it certainly wasn't a flawless effort by the Ducks. They still had penalty problems (eight minors in all) and still got little production from their top six (the four goals were by two defenseman and two checking line guys). And that lack of production from those guys, which has been a concern all season, carried over to last night. Remarkably, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz still have no goals after combining for 74 last season. Brendan Morrison also is goal-less and Selanne just has that one in garbage time against the Kings last week. You've got to believe that's going to change soon. You've got to believe that absolutely has to change soon. (By the way, Bobby Ryan has seven points in five games with Iowa.)
Back to Friday night's win for just a second. As I joined fellow Ducks staffers after the game at the Auld Irisher in the Stadium Promenade down the street, I could have sworn that one of the girls at the table next to us was Soleil Moon Frye (a.k.a. Punky Brewster). She looked just like her, although possibly younger than Punky would be now (though I remember seeing her as an adult in an old episode of "Friends" where she was dating Joey and playfully punched him all the time). Anyway, none of us found the nerve to go up and ask her. Can anyone out there confirm or deny that was her?
By the way, if you had told me six months ago that the Ducks would fall to 1-5-0 on the same day the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League pennant, I would have asked for some of what you were drinking. And as much as I say I'm hesitant to quote myself, I dug through the archives this morning to find yet another prognostication failure on my part. In referencing the news last November that the Rays changed their name from Devil Rays and also changed their colors, I jokingly compared it to what the Ducks did two years ago. Here was this line from November 9 of last year:
The team formerly known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays has announced that they have changed their colors and are now just going to be known as the Rays. Yeah, like changing your colors and name ever works.
On point, as usual. Now you know why I'm such a bad gambler.
As we speak the Ducks are on a plane heading to Toronto for the first of a three-game Canadian swing, plus a game next Monday in Columbus to end the trip. If the Ducks are going to turn this thing around, it has to be now for the psyche of the these players, these coaches and these fans. And Selanne said that he thinks this trip comes at a good time. "I think this team needs time to hang around together," he said. "That is why this road trip is going to be very good. We’re going to have a few days off after the
Indeed, they can. And what better place is there than the home of the game for the Ducks to find the roots of what once made them champions? Let's hope that happens right now.
Updated Oct. 17 at 5:03 p.m.
Well, it was made official last night when Colorado beat Philadelphia at home, 5-2: The Ducks are in last place in the Western Conference. Anaheim remains the only team in the NHL without a point.
Of course, that can all change in a few hours when the Ducks take on another team with a "perfect" record so far this season, the San Jose Sharks. San Jose comes into the building 4-0 and already took down the Ducks 4-1 on opening night.
So, it's not the greatest team to be facing in looking for their first win of the season, but if they can pull it off tonight, you would think it would dramatically turn things in the right direction. If the Ducks got that first win over, say, Columbus, then we're happy they finally pulled one off. But to do it against one of the team's that's already the class of the league, that would instill that much more confidence.
Here's hoping we're talking that way this weekend.
As bad as things have gone so far for the Ducks, they haven't hit the panic button quite like the Chicago Blackhawks. Then again, not too many teams in the history of pro sports have hit the panic button as quickly as the Hawks did yesterday. Chicago was (and still is) thought to be one of the up-and-coming teams in the league after making several big acquisitions to go with their wealth of talented youth. But after getting off to a rocky 1-2-1 start, they fired head coach Denis Savard. Joel Quenneville, former St. Louis and Colorado head man, takes over.
Apparently, Savard got the word from general manager Dale Tallon the morning after the Hawks had beaten Phoenix 4-1 at home for the first victory of the year. I have this image of Savard sitting in his office and the phone rings with Tallon's name on the caller ID.
Savard: "Hey, Dale. Calling to congratulate me on the win?"
Tallon: "Um ... yeah. Um ... great win. Looks like you really had them skating out there last night. Alright, talk to you later. Oh, I almost forgot ... you're fired."
At the press conference, Tallon said, "Even though we had five wins, it was a flat (training) camp and we got out of the gate flat. It just didn't seem like we carried over the energy we had to finish the year last year. We thought we needed to send a message and invigorate this team."
Yeah, that'll send a message alright.
Apparently, young star Patrick Kane took it the toughest. Through tears he talked about his relationship with Savard to the press. "It was definitely a love relationship, where he just wanted to get the best out of me," he said. "I think he was, more than anything a great friend. ... It's difficult to see him go."
Randy Carlyle was asked about the firing by reporters this morning and since he's off to an 0-4 start, he joked, "I wouldn't answer the phone yesterday. I didn't answer the phone all day."
He stayed off the ice during today's morning skate, letting assistants Newell Brown and Dave Farrish run the show. I hope it wasn't because he was polishing his resume after the Savard firing scared the wits out of him. Travis Moen, who has been battling a tricky back the last few days, did skate this morning. No word on whether he's in there tonight though. Also no word yet on who will be in net (sorry).
I haven't mentioned this earlier because I've been waiting on updates, but as bad as things have been for the Ducks so far, it's not so great for a couple pieces of their future. Both Mark Mitera (drafted by the Ducks in the first round in 2006) and Steven Kampfer (fourth round in 2007) suffered serious injuries, both coincidentally in Michigan.
Kampfer was hospitalized with a head injury when he was attacked at around 2:25 a.m. by a Michigan Wolverines football player, later identified as Mike Milano. According to a story in the Michigan Daily newspaper, Kampfer was "picked up and body-slammed to the ground" by Milano, who was accompanied by two other men. Kampfer has a fractured skull and will be out of action for at least 8-10 weeks, but could be back for the end of Michigan's season. Milano has been suspened from the football team indefinitely as the investigation into the incident continues.
The incident came just a couple of days after Mitera suffered a torn ACL and damaged MCL in the first period of MIchigan's season opener. He's still contemplating whether or not to have surgery, or to just rehab it, but he's likely out for the season.
I hate to end on a negative note on a Friday evening, but I've nothing else but this:
Hey, let's hope the Ducks win one tonight!
Updated Oct. 16 at 1:31 p.m.
The inspirational quotes that Ducks assistant coach Newell Brown prints on the locker room grease board are usually reserved for the playoffs. But desperate times call for desperate measures -- or something like that. So the message greeting the Ducks in the locker room this morning came from Ohio State coach Jim Tressel:
"Whatever your job, that's what you can do. That's what we need you to do. If every man does what the team needs him to do, then we're going to be alright."
Meanwhile, while growing a beard is a traditional good luck move during the postseason, for one Duck shaving it was deemed necessary to try to turn the luck around. Chris Pronger went home after last night's frustrating 3-2 loss to Edmonton and promptly sheared the blondish facial hair he had been growing since the end of the summer. "It's gone," he said, though by noon it had already started to sprout back.
It was a "Hey, it can't hurt" move after the Ducks played what was undoubtedly their best game of the season last night, but still came away shaking their heads after a fourth straight defeat. The 0-4 Ducks are hardly a team that counts moral victories, though as Ryan Getzlaf said last night, "We have a starting point. Our work ethic was there. Our chances were there. As we push forward, those chances are going to go in, and we can get this thing turned around pretty quick."
Indeed, the Ducks were in this one to the finish, the first time they've been able to say that all season. But they were still snowed under by the problems that had marked their previous three losses. They still got no offensive production from their top line -- Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz have no goals and one assist between them -- and while the number of penalties was down, the timing was still deadly.
The Ducks looked to be in relative control after Rob Niedermayer had a gorgeous spinaround goal 4:10 into the second period to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead while holding Edmonton to just five shots on goal. But Pronger got too aggressive with Erik Cole a little more than midway through the period and was sent off for cross-checking. Not long after escaping the box for that penalty, Pronger was sent back for another one, a hooking call that was dubious at best.The Ducks killed off both penalties, but were huffing and puffing from it, as the Oilers spent what seemed like the next hour and a half in the Anaheim zone.
"That kind of turned the tide for them," Randy Carlyle said. "They didn't score, but they had the territorial advantage, and then we wore down. You can't play two minutes or a minute and 30 seconds in your own end and not expend energy. That's what happened."
And then this happened: Sheldon Souray scored the tying goal with just over a minute left in the period. Then when Corey Perry ran into goalie Mathieu Garon yet again early in the third (this time getting cited for it), the Oilers took advantage with Lubomir Visnovsky's slap shot goal on the ensuing power play.
It poured salt in the wounds that the Ducks were beaten by former Kings Visnovsky and Garon, a goalie deemed not good enough for the Kings two seasons ago. Being judged not good enough to play goalie for the Kings is like being told you're too dorky to hang out at Comic Con. Yet somehow Garon has bounced back from that to shine in Edmonton, and he pretty much shut down the Ducks last night.
On the other side of the rink, Jonas Hiller was outstanding last night, doing what Randy Carlyle is continually stressing the team needs from its goalies: giving the team a chance to win. Hiller made several big saves (and got at least one lucky break) to make sure the Ducks didn't have to fight back from a larger deficit. But alas, that one goal proved too much to make up.
Part of the reason is the Ducks aren't getting the same opportunities they're giving other teams. Anaheim only had two power play opportunities last night (one of them soon wiped out by a Getzlaf penalty) and continued to be the only team in the NHL without a power play goal. The Ducks and Avalanche are the only teams in the league without a standings point yet. Tampa and Philly in the East also don't have a win, but their fans are content enough with what's going on in the baseball playoffs to notice. (Then again, probably not.)
Rest in peace, Honda Center sellout streak. The 78 consecutive sellouts was snapped last night, with a reported attendance of 16,604.
As much as last night's effort was a good sign, it still left an empty feeling. After it was over, someone asked me if I'd rather the Ducks play well and lose or play like garbage and win. I'd definitely have the latter, and that was something that happened time and time again the last couple of seasons. Even when the team was bad, they'd find a way to win. Right now, even when they're good (and that really hadn't been the case before last night), they lose.
And things aren't getting any easier tomorrow night, as San Jose drops by with its gaudy 4-0-0 record and a convincing victory over the Ducks on opening night in San Jose to lean on.
Finding their first win in that one tomorrow night is certainly a tall order for Anaheim. But speaking of tall, don't forget that this thing is officially gone.
Hey, it's a start.
Updated Oct. 15 at 3:21 p.m.
I think it's safe to say it: This, ladies and gentlemen, might be rock bottom.
Actually, let's hope this is rock bottom.
Let's hope that we'll someday look back on these first three games and use words like, "despite getting off to a slow start...". Let's hope we look back on this and have a good laugh. But for now, there isn't much to laugh about.
You have to figure that a tilt with the Kings -- theoretically one of of the worst teams in the league, a team that had scored just one goal in its first two games -- would be perfect timing for a Ducks team that came in with its own struggles. But last night's Kings weren't the same Kings, and unfortunately, last night's Ducks were the exact same Ducks.
When Anaheim went up 2-0 before the first period was halfway over, it was a refreshing change of pace from the previous two games, when the Ducks gave up the first three goals. But even with that two-goal lead last night, Anaheim still didn't look all that dominant, and it was only a matter of time before that caught up with them.
"We were glad to get a lead, but I still don’t think we were really playing the way you need to,” said Scott Niedermayer. “In some sense, maybe having that lead made it worse. We weren’t playing great at the start. We got a two-goal lead and maybe felt we were doing things a little better than we were. I don’t know.”
Whatever the reason, the Ducks were once again made to pay for their constant treks to the penalty box. This time they committed 11 minors over the final two periods, opening the door for three Kings power play goals. They faced two 5 on 3s, escaping the first one after top penalty-killers Scott Niedermayer and Francois Beauchemin were each sent off for going after Dustin Brown, who had drilled Samuel Pahlsson with a shoulder to the face. But the next Kings 5 on 3 with under a minute to play in the period seemingly had everything just short of a giant banner dropping from the ceiling that read, "HERE COMES A GOAL." Soon Jarret Stoll's one-timer from the circle jetted into the net, gave the Kings their first lead and was part of a run of five unanswered goals.
As much as the Ducks talk about having to stay out of the penalty box, they just can't seem to do it. They do more hooking on a nightly basis than ... actually, I won't finish that sentence.
"When you’re killing penalties all night, it’s pretty tough to score goals and pretty tough to keep them out of your net," said Chris Pronger, stating the obvious. “Three games in a row, we’ve been manhandled, essentially. “We haven’t played our style. Teams have played our style against us, and we haven’t responded very well."
Right now, it's hard to get a firm grasp on just what the Ducks' style is. Essentially, the players that should be counted on to produce just aren't getting it done in the early going. Teemu Selanne's too-little-too-late goal in the third period was the first one this season from a guy among the top 9 Ducks goal-scorers on last year's team. It's great to see guys like Brian Sutherby (his first goal as a Duck last night), Todd Marchant, Rob Niedermayer, Ryan Carter and George Parros find the net, but when they're tied for your team lead in goals, that's a problem.
Speaking of that, poor Brian Sutherby just can't catch a break. After a series of close calls last year, he still never found the net in a Ducks uniform. He finally scores last night, and what happens? The P.A. announcer initially credits the goal to Nathan McIver.
As much as I dread going to Staples Center, the place was even more intolerable last night with the Ducks' performance. "Ducks suck!" chants could be heard every few minutes from the relatively sparse crowd. A video segment was aired during the first intermission that was shot during four Kings players' stint on "The Price is Right," where they were each asked by host Drew Carey to bid on a Ducks jersey. Derek Armstrong bid a quarter, Denis Gauthier just shook his head in silence, Kyle Calder said he'd "pass" and Dustin Brown bid just $1 after saying he'd wash his car with it. Then Carey told them they've all overbid, followed by the entire studio audience yelling, "Go Kings Go!" Update: In case you're insterested, here it is.
Another segment showed Kings mascot Bailey feeling sick and getting rushed to the hospital by a Kings player. And in surgery they extract from his stomach a stuffed duck, then toss it in a toxic chemicals disposal bin. And I didn't see it myself, but I heard that the urinals in at least one men's bathroom in the arena had Ducks trading cards in them. (Actually, I have to admit that's pretty funny.)
I mentioned this last night in the game log, that the Kings seem to hate the Ducks way more than the Ducks hate the Kings. It's kind of like when a little brother absolutely can't stand his bullying big brother. Meanwhile, the big brother is annoyed by the little brother, but not nearly to the same degree. (You know, because the big brother has a Stanley Cup and the little one doesn't.)
But enough about the Kings. What do we make of these Ducks so far? Granted, it's pretty troubling right now. At the same time, it's foolish to think that with this much talent, this much leadership and this much pride on this team, that this isn't going to be turned around. It just has to.
“Essentially, what it boils down to is everybody owning up to the fact that they can play better," Pronger said. "We’ve had trades. We’ve had guys move in, guys move out. Randy can come in here and scream and yell all he wants, but at the end of the day, it needs to be us in here that does it. We have to take ownership and responsibility, and go out and produce.”
Clearly that starts tonight against an Edmonton team that has only played once so far this year, a 3-2 win over Colorado at home last Sunday. I don't know if you follow such things, but Ducks-Oilers has developed into a mini-rivalry, and while Chris Pronger and Dustin Penner will both be on the ice tonight, the two teams' GMs will not skate. That being said, you can check out the interesting fundraiser put together by the folks at the message board site, AllDucks.com.
The Ducks had an optional skate this morning that included the entire group, but the Ducks coaching staff remained in their offices. Among the skaters was Rob Niedermayer, but his availability tonight after missing last night with that bruised foot is still to be determined. It is almost a certainty that Jonas Hiller will be in net tonight, and it will be interesting to see how the backup looks after the No. 1 guy hasn't been his best in the first three games. (You have to wonder how much that hip that has nagged him in the past is affecting him right now.) Hiller's presence in net might be the change of pace the Ducks need to spring to that first victory.
Golly, let's hope so.
Updated Oct. 14 at 7:28 p.m.
Kent Huskins is going to be a healthy scratch for Anaheim. Now that sends a message.
Rob Niedermayer will also not be in the lineup.
For the live game log, here you go.
Updated Oct. 14 at 6:22 p.m.
I was about 20 minutes short of Staples Center (driving myself this time), and shamefully enough, I was sending an email on my Blackberry while going 70 on the 110 freeway. Suddenly, I heard police sirens and thought to myself, "You've got to be kidding me." But it turned out they weren't going after me. When I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw six police cars in the fast lane, all in a line, passing me at no more than about 75 mph. Considering the scene and the city I was near, I expected to look up ahead of them and see a white Bronco. Instead, they all got off the freeway at the LAX exit and were out of my sight.
Only in L.A.
I got to Staples painfully early, since there surprisingly wasn't any traffic to speak of (and I left at around 4 p.m. completely fearful it would take me two hours). Alas, the Staples press room and it's bevy of top-notch food is a good place to kill time.
A little update on Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer: Moen skated this morning at Staples Center and reported no problems with the back spasms that bothered him the past two days. He seems likely to be in the lineup tonight. Meanwhile, Niedermayer did not hit the ice this morning and Randy Carlyle would only say there was "a slight chance" he will play tonight. Niedermayer says the bruised foot (which showed no fractures on the MRI yesterday), "feels a lot better" and added, "We'll see how it is tonight."
I was told by a Kings staffer to pay attention to the video board tonight, since they have something special in store for the visiting Ducks. I'm sure it will be a laugh riot.
More as we get closer to puck drop.
Updated Oct. 14 at 12:57 p.m.
It's a little early in the season for this kind of talk, but you've got to kind of feel like tonight is a must-win for the Anaheim Ducks.
In case you hadn't noticed, the Ducks are 0-2 in this young season, having scored just three goals. And tonight they face the one team in the NHL who might be worse off than they are so far, the rival Kings. The purple and black have just one goal in back-to-back losses at San Jose (3-1) and at home against the Sharks (1-0) two nights ago. Meanwhile, one of their few decent players, young defenseman Jack Johnson, injured his shoulder in that last game and is expected to miss two to three months with a partially torn labrum. Guess that will give him more time to record sleepy, overrated, every-song-sounds-the-same music.
(Wait, it's not the same guy? Nevermind.)
Either way, the Ducks really need this one tonight. And with Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen possibly out with injuries -- perhaps requiring a defenseman (probably Steve Montador) to be moved up to forward -- it's not going to be any easier than it's been the first two games. We haven't gotten word on Niedermayer or Moen as of this morning, but Niedermayer had X-rays yesterday that showed no fractures in his bruised foot. Moen, who suffered from back spasms after a hit in the Phoenix game Sunday, skated sparingly yesterday before leaving the ice. Randy Carlyle listed both as "day to day" (aren't we all?), leaving open the possibility that one or both could be in there tonight.
Carlyle has been nominated for the Most Ironic Comment of the Season award by the league after he told reporters this following yesterday's practice: “It’s not fun losing - believe me. But the bottom line is it’s a game. We have to come here to play and we have to come here with a positive attitude. There’s nothing wrong with having a smile on your face when you come to work.”
Let's hope the Ducks can find reason to smile tonight against the young Kings. Just prior to the season, when a few Kings appeared on "The Price is Right," they were asked to bid on the number of wins they thought they would have this season. I thought Dustin Brown's guess was a little pessimistic. Drew Carey doesn't look too happy about it either.
As the emails complaining about the "Rinkside View" telecast continue to pour in (please, please stop sending them), I'm hearing word that FSN will be going away from it, possibly starting with tonight's game. I can't confirm it yet, but there is talk that they're bringing back the traditional high-angle center camera because of the number of viewer complaints. Stay tuned for that.
I'm a firm believer that when things aren't going well (and they're certainly not going great in Ducks land), it's always makes you feel better to make fun of others. With that in mind, take a look at this ESPN feature on Sean Avery with Rachel Nichols. Apparently a half dozen Ducks players were watching it in the locker room at Anaheim Ice yesterday, each of them with their jaws on the floor. A few highlights:
- "There was probably a question at one point if I was going to be an athlete or maybe do something else because of the dressing dolls or playing with dolls more than trucks."
- "[If I ran the NHL], I would do a better job single-handedly by myself."
- Nichols: "What was once a childhood interest in fashion has become an obsession."
- Avery: "I certainly admire a nice purse, no question."
- 'I'm really not that superficial ... or I really am that superficial. I'm still trying to figure it out."
- New teammate Brenden Morrow: "I think I was on the 98 percent who hated him ... but that's water under the bridge." (Sure it is, Brenden.)
Meanwhile, TSN did an Avery feature of its own, in which it was illustrated that he repeatedly skates away on his own when the coach addresses the entire team on the ice in practice and he's shown on camera making a last-minute flip flop on a TSN interview because he doesn't like the guys on their panel. Meanwhile, Morrow is even more wishy-washy about his past hatred of Avery than he was in the ESPN interview, just barely hesitating to admit he still can't stand the guy. At least Avery admits he's "bi-polar" at the end of the segment.
Something tells me if there are any teams out there who want to trade with Dallas for Avery, he can be had a reasonable price.
I'll be heading up to Staples Center later this afternoon for tonight's game, if anyone is interested in the live game blog (comments on the new Kings ice girls definitely included).
Updated Oct. 13 at 10:15 a.m.
Well ... the free t-shirts were pretty cool.
That's one of the few positives to come out of last night's home opener at Honda Center, a 4-2 drubbing at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes and a goalie named Ilya Bryzgalov. Then again, if you weren't in the building last night, you not only didn't get your hands on the t-shirt, but you had to endure a telecast that has drawn more ire from hockey fans than Fox's glowing puck experiment (more on that later).
For the second straight game, the Ducks turned the puck over frequently and for most of the game avoided going to the net like they thought the posts were coated with anthrax. As a result, too many shots came from the perimeter, most of which were stopped by Bryzgalov, who pushed his record to 4-1-1 against the Ducks since they lost him on waivers last November.
For the second straight game, the Ducks let the game get away from them in the second period. Unlike in the season opener in San Jose, the Ducks were not drastically outshot in that middle session. On the contrary, they actually had 15 to Phoenix's five, though not enough quality attempts to make Bryzgalov sweat.
You have to wonder how things might have gone a little differently if Teemu Selanne's slap shot just six minutes into the game had tickled the twine rather than clanging off the post. Or if J.S. Giguere was able to freeze a loose puck in the second, rather than allowing rookie Kyle Turris to pry it out from underneath him -- like someone digging out a Cheez-It that dropped underneath the refrigerator -- and throw in a third straight goal.
Randy Carlyle reiterated that the effort appears to be there, but the execution is a different story. "The frustration level seems to go up early for our group when we lack execution," Carlyle said. "We just seem to be turning the puck over far, far too many times. It's not like they didn't go out there and work. They tried to do some things. They probably tried too hard."
The Ducks showed their frustration with 0.3 seconds left last night, getting in an ugly brawl that involved at least three different fights involving Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Pronger. Perry and Martin Hanzal engaged in a tussle that saw Hanzal continue to rain punches on Perry's head even after Perry had gone down to the ice and the official had jumped in between them. I'm sure Hanzal even landed a couple on the official in his fearless attempt to get at Perry.
Ducks fans also let their frustration show last night, despite the good feelings naturally associated with the first regular season home game in five months. They booed after Phoenix's second goal. They booed after Phoenix's third goal. They booed every time the puck was cleared the length of the ice on the Ducks' four power plays. But to hear the Ducks tell it...
“We deserved that," Selanne said. “It was very disappointing for them and us.” Added Chris Pronger, “They expect a lot from us, and we expect a lot from us.”
Indeed, the Ducks are a better team than they've shown the first two games. They're a better team than the one that is 0-2, has been outscored 8 goals to 3 and whose team goal-scoring leaders are Rob Niedermayer, Ryan Carter and George Parros (all tied with 1).
“The good thing about this league," Selanne said. "is we're going to have another game Tuesday.”
And that game is in L.A. against the also-struggling Kings. Sometimes timing can be a friend.
Now, let's get to the more pressing topic at hand. Ducks fans not in attendance last night were more frustrated by the "rinkside view" telecast on FSN Prime Ticket last night (at least according to the emails that clogged my inbox). I almost think I would have seen fewer angry emails if FSN had pre-empted the Ducks game with an episode of "Gossip Girl." They poured in during and after the game with calls of "too close to the action," "hard to follow" or even "made me dizzy" (and those were the friendlier ones.) Please know your complaints have been heard and passed on to the appropriate people. Believe me.
Just to end on a more positive note, in case you missed it last night, here is video from the pregame introductions (when there was still some optimism in the air). And, ironically enough considering the boos last night, here's a nice ad from the NHL Network.
Updated Oct. 10 at 3:28 p.m.
Well ... the first period was pretty good.
For the first 20 minutes last night in San Jose, the Ducks and Sharks were kind of like two boxers in the first round, both kind of getting a feel for each other. Neither did too much damage in that first stanza, the Ducks taking 10 mostly benign shots and the Sharks throwing eight on net.
But the Sharks emerged for the second period pouncing, and the Ducks looked completely unprepared for it. Before they knew it, they were knocked out. Hard.
Looking back on that first period now, it didn't seem all that impressive at the time. But after enduring the nightmare of the second and third, it looked a whole lot more satisfying. It's like breaking up with your girlfriend to date another girl who turns out to be a smoker with father issues. You look back and think, Man, I didn't realize how good I had it.
After going penalty-free in that first period, the Ducks were sent to the box five times in the second and twice in the third. Even when the Ducks kill the penalty, that undermanned time still takes a toll. That's 14 minutes where your best defensive players are sapping their energy trying to kill penalties. That's 14 minutes where your team has little or no chance to get off a shot, let alone score a goal. (Shorthanded goals happen what, once a month?)
Even at even strength the Ducks got little going offensively last night, and I could just imagine Bobby Ryan watching the game on a couch in Iowa, slowly shaking his head at the screen for 2 1/2 straight hours. When I looked up at the scoreboard after the game and saw 29 under their shots total, I was shocked. It just didn't seem like they got off that many. Teemu Selanne had six of his own, but Corey Perry? Just one. Ryan Getzlaf? None. More than half of the Ducks shots last night (15) came from defenseman, which tells you too many were coming from the perimeters and not enough sprang from crashing the net.
Let's put it this way: When Rob Niedermayer is your leading scorer ... that means Rob Niedermayer is your leading scorer.
Too many penalties and too little scoring. It's the same problem that plagued the Ducks for a good chunk of last season, yet somehow they were still able to amass 100 points. Of course, those two shortcomings were exposed in the first-round defeat to Dallas. Most of the year, the Ducks were able to get bailed out by their defense, though that wasn't the case last night. The Ducks D gave up an uncharacteristic 41 shots (partly because so many guys were catching their breaths from the latest penalty kill). If J.S. Giguere hadn't had 37 saves -- a number he was forced to surpass only four times last season -- things could have gotten really embarrassing last night.
And it was Giguere who was most critical of his team after the game. There was this: "When they stepped it up a notch, it almost surprised us. And we should know better, being a veteran team. That's not something that should have surprised us."
“We like to play on the edge and that's great. I love that we play that way, but at the same time, we need to keep our mouths shut. We need to stop yapping at the referees. We need to stop blaming everybody else. We have to look in the mirror. We’re the ones taking the penalties. It’s not always a bad call. A lot of times, it’s a call that we would complain about if the referee wouldn’t call it against the other team. We have to take it upon ourselves to be more disciplined.”
Meanwhile, the Ducks turned the puck over a lot (even Scott Niedermayer had one that led to the first Cheechoo goal) and rarely showed the determination and energy you'd expect on an opening night. "It seemed like they got another gear going," Randy Carlyle said, "and we stood around and watched."
To add insult to injury, as the Ducks bus pulled away from HP Pavilion last night, we were greeted by about three dozen teal-clad Sharks fans who had stuck around to scream obscenities, flash thumbs-down signs and other digits as we passed them. Classy.
Those were probably a lot of the same people who were chanting "Ducks suck!" at several different points in the game, a reminder of how our team's name has unfortunate rhyming potential. But as much as I hate to admit it, last night we couldn't really argue with them.
But let's keep this in mind. That was just the first of 82. Yes, it's the opening game of the year, so the focus is a little more intense, but it's certainly not time to panic. Keep in mind, the Ducks' first test was a road game against a pumped-up team playing in front of a pumped-up crowd. And let's not forget that San Jose is a very good squad. It's not like the Ducks went into Columbus and got smashed.
“It’s the first game of the year – what are you going to do?” Carlyle said. “We’re going to go back to work. We’re going to analyze what we did, accept the responsibility for it and prepare for the next one.”
And something tells me that after the home opener Sunday night against Phoenix, we're going to forget all about this one.
Updated Oct. 9 at 7:08 p.m.
Before every game, home or away, I usually like to walk along the arena concourse about 45 minutes before puck drop. Part of it is because I like to see the fans and, on the road, check out an arena I haven't seen before. Part of it is I'm probably trying to work off that cookie I unadvisedly ate with dinner.
And every time I do it, I'm reminded that I wish I was the guy who invented the concept of people wearing their team's jersey at games. (Or at least the guy who owns the company that makes them.) It was the same old story as I walked the floor of HP Pavilion a few minutes ago. At least 7 of every 10 people I passed were wearing Sharks jerseys. (And when you consider there are going to be about 18,000 people in here tonight, that's a lot of jerseys.) It was a sea of teal out there, sort of like a bad bridesmaid's dress convention.
And speaking of that sea of teal, where are you Ducks fans? I think I saw no more than five black, gold and orange sweaters out there. Although, the Ducks do have a healthy representation that traveled up here through the Ducks Road Crew package. They must be getting here a little later.
Just a few minutes ago, both teams came out for warmups and I was reminded that this is one of the few arenas in the league where the tunnel from the visitors locker room doesn't lead directly to the bench. The Ducks (in this case) have to enter through an opening in the corner of the rink and cross the ice to get there. It's even more obvious when the coaches have to do it, as they slowly and cautiously inch their way to the bench in their dress shoes.
That ice, like apparently every arena in the league over the opening days of this season, has NHL Face-Off 2008 logos inside both blue lines. I'm wondering if they'll take the face-offs on that logo just for kicks.
Just found out Detroit lost at home to Toronto (and former Sharks coach Ron Wilson) tonight, 3-2. Can't say I'm too unhappy about that.
I can't believe I'm seeing this, but the scoreboard is indicating we have less than 20 minutes to go before we start this thing. It's about damn time.
Remember, if you're watching on FSN PRIME tonight, don't miss the opening montago just before they go to Johnny and Hazy for the pregame. You won't regret it. And If you're interested in my running game log, click here.
Updated Oct. 9 at 6:24 p.m.
The Ducks arrived at HP Pavilion at around 5:30 this evening on a bus that only carried about half the team, since some players headed over here early on their own. I had kind of forgotten, but I'm always surprised at how quiet the bus is when it's on its way to the game. For a group of gregarious guys, all of whom seem to like each other, it's amazing how they get into their own worlds, listen to their iPods or just kind of blankly stare out the window. I asked former NHLer and current Ducks radio analyst Brent Severyn if it was that way back when he was playing, and he quickly nodded his head. "They're getting ready," he said.
It could take a bit of an effort to watch this game from the HP Pavilion press box tonight. From what I learned from a Sharks staffer, this arena was originally built with just concerts in mind. It wasn't until late in the construction process that they got the idea to house a hockey team here. As a result, the press box was a last-minute addition. Because of that, it's pretty much tucked into the rafters and catwalks, and if you're not careful walking through here, you'll get knocked cold by one of the angled supporting beams.
This picture on the right gives you an idea: If I sit straight up in my seat and don't peer over the edge of the table, this is what I'm looking at. Looks like I'll be doing some serious leaning tonight unless I want to watch this game on the video board.
At least the press meal was good, although quite eclectic. One station had salad, chicken chow mein and fried rice. And another table in the corner had ... hot dogs. I managed to try both. (Hey, I skipped lunch).
You've got TV and you've got radio for the first time this year, and if you're interested I'll be doing the running game log as well. We're about an hour from puck drop and teal-clad fans are starting to trickle in. Should be a fun one.
Updated Oct. 9 at 1:24 p.m.
Nothing major to report on the Ducks' trek from Orange County to San Jose, where we arrived yesterday around 4 p.m. and checked into the team hotel. (I won't say which hotel it is, but let's just say it's the coolest hotel in the coolest part of San Jose. Which, if you’ve ever been to San Jose, isn’t exactly hard to pinpoint.)
The lobby and bar are designed in with an ultra-modern look that is very impressive. Breakfast is free (and it's a nice free breakfast, not Holiday Inn Express free breakfast). Rooms come equipped with a large flat-screen TV, nice leather furniture, comfortable beds with something you don’t see every day -- a faux fur throw blanket (although I’m not even sure what a throw blanket is). I overheard Teemu Selanne calling the hotel “phenomenal.” And, the ultimate sign of a nice hotel: I think I’m going to steal a couple of the in-room drink glasses when we leave.
As I write this we’re headed back to the hotel after the Ducks hit the HP Pavilion ice for their morning skate, and by all accounts they appear to be a loose-but-focused group. You can sense a slight feeling of anticipation of getting this game -- and this season – underway, though through it all the group remains businesslike.
Here are some morning skate photos. We'll have a little bit of video up on the home page shortly.
The Ducks didn’t give anything away during their skate as to what the lines will look like, but there was some indication that Travis Moen might skate with Getzlaf and Perry on that top line with Todd Marchant filling Moen’s slot on the checking line. But then again, this is Randy Carlyle we’re talking about. All that could change by game time.
We do know with some certainty that J.S. Giguere will start in net for Anaheim, while Evgeni Nabokov will be in there for San Jose. Though, I don't know how much faith Sharks fans can have in a guy who hails from the same home country as this guy.
Hard to believe, but we’re still about 6 1/2 hours away from the start of this thing. Though, when you’ve been waiting five months, another seven hours isn’t so bad.
By the way, if you're watching the game tonight, be sure to tune in a half hour early to see the season preview show on FSN PRIME, not to mention a very cool opening that the FSN guys have cooked up. I've seen a sneak preview and it is definitely goosebump-inducing.
I haven’t mentioned this before, but we have another item for the “It never gets boring around here” file. Newly acquired defenseman Nathan McIver, who scored the game-winner for the Ducks in Sunday’s preseason finale in Vancouver, still can’t work in the U.S. because of immigration issues. As of this morning, those issues have still apparently not been worked out. So, stay tuned on that.
You can expect this building to be electric tonight, as it’s already one of the loudest arenas in the league, and an opening night with high expectations for this team only turns up the volume. But the Sharks will be an interesting bunch this season, still with most of the core of players that looked so good in the second half of the regular season and so ordinary in the playoffs. They did lose defenseman Brian Campbell to the Blackhawks in the offseason, but brought in d-men Rob Blake and Dan Boyle. Both are past Cup-winners, though it must be pointed out that Blake didn’t come close to a Cup at his last stop. Can’t remember where that was though.
During the Ducks’ skate, I headed down a hallway in the HP Pavilion lower level in search of a bathroom. I kind of caught out of the corner of my eye a guy walking toward me with a friendly smile on his face. As we passed, he gave me one of those “Hey, how you doin'?” greetings strangers give each other. It wasn’t until I really looked at him I realized it was … Rob Blake. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s pretty happy to be in San Jose.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have another former champion behind the bench in Todd McLellan, who won as an assistant in Detroit and makes his head coaching debut in San Jose tonight. McLellan was hired after Ron Wilson was “let go” after too many second-round playoff exits.
Back on the homefront, Vote Ducks fever has hit one fan's lawn, as you can see by the signs posted on their lawn. Word was that Chris Pronger saw the Vote Ducks signs with his name on it during our Face Off Fest event and asked for a few to take home.
Back on the homefront, Vote Ducks fever has hit one fan's lawn, as you can see by the signs posted on their lawn. Word was that Chris Pronger saw the Vote Ducks signs with his name on it during our Face Off Fest event and asked for a few to take home.
Speaking of taking something home, there is a really nice silver tissue box holder in the bathroom in my room. Think they'll notice if it's gone?
Updated Oct. 8 at 2:06 p.m.
The Ducks are about 10 minutes from boarding the bus and heading to San Jose for tomorrow's opening night. I'll be with the team on the trip, and since I don't want to miss the first bus of the year, I'm out of here.
Updated Oct. 7 at 1:48 p.m.
It's the height of arrogance to go around quoting yourself, but I'm going to do it anyway. This is the line I used to conclude yesterday's post:
We're just three days from opening night, and frankly, I can't wait. But if you think not much will go on here over those next three days, well... you just don't know this team very well.
And sure enough, I was proven right. Okay, the Ducks didn't exactly make a multi-player deal to acquire Sidney Crosby and Nicklas Lidstrom. But they did pick up a Lindstrom.
Just four days after losing offseason acquisition Joakim Lindstrom via waivers to Chicago, the Ducks got him right back when the Blackhawks sent him to their minor league affiliate, requiring that he clear waivers yet again. And because the Ducks had originally placed him off waivers, they were the only NHL team that had the option of acquiring him and sending him to the minors without requiring he clear waivers yet again. So that's exactly what Anaheim did, as Lindstrom will start the season in Iowa.
It's nice the Ducks were able to reacquire Lindstrom, a Swedish winger with some promise who scored 61 goals in 163 AHL games while in the Columbus system, and played five preseason games for Anaheim. And it's a big break for the Ducks, who obviously did not want to lose him in the first place, but took that chance when they did some salary cap shuffling.
Still, you have to feel for the poor kid, who prior to this summer had a relatively stable life, spending the last four years in the Columbus system. Then in the space of three months he's picked up by Anaheim via trade and moves across the country to join that team, is lost to Chicago off waivers in the middle of camp, plays one preseason game (last Sunday) for the Hawks and then is told he's heading right back to Anaheim -- check that, Iowa.
The story might remind you of a similar one three seasons ago, when the Ducks lost a winger off waivers to Atlanta, where he spent two weeks before the Thrashers placed him on waivers and the Ducks took him right back. He started immediately in the minors, was recalled by the Ducks about a week later, was sent down one more time and then came back for good in November? That player? Chris Kunitz.
We have another bit of news that Ducks fans have been awaiting for some time, which will be announced officially later today. The Ducks have named their captains for 2008-09. Scott Niedermayer will take the captain spot he held from 2005 through 2007, but relinquished to Chris Pronger when he delayed his return last year. Pronger will be the alternate captain, along with, for the first time, Ryan Getzlaf. Rob Niedermayer, a Ducks alternate captain since 2005, will only fill that role when necessary.
I like the fact Scott Niedermayer is put back in that captain's role, where he was when the Ducks won the Cup. But that's certainly no knock on Pronger, who still remains among the Ducks' most vocal leaders (if not the most vocal) on the ice, in the dressing room, on the planes or anywhere. I spoke to Pronger about a week ago for a Ducks Digest feature and he said this: "One way or another, whether I have a “C” or an “A” or nothing on my jersey, it doesn’t really matter. There are guys who players look at to be one of the voices in the room. I’ve had a lot of trials and tribulations and I can talk to younger players about experiences and different situations. It’s always good to have guys on the team like that, who can calm a situation like Scotty does, or get everybody jacked up and ready to roll like I do."
In other words, it's a nice honor, but the Ducks have plenty of leaders in that room who won't wear a letter on their jersey, including guys like Chris Kunitz (an "A" last year), Todd Marchant, J.S. Giguere, Brad May and, as he gets more comfortable, Brendan Morrison. Put it this way: When a respected, veteran guy wants to speak up in that room, no one cares if there is a letter on the front of his shirt or not.
They only care that it says "Ducks" on there.
Updated Oct. 6 at 1:18 p.m.
It's still only the preseason, but it seems like you can't turn your glance away from the Ducks for one minute without them offering plenty to talk about. Here's a recap of what went down in Ducks land over the last 72 hours:
- Bobby Ryan was unexpectedly sent down to the minors, causing a chain reaction of uproar among the Ducks faithful.
- The Ducks looked incredibly sharp in a 4-1 preseason victory at home against Phoenix, boosted by a hat trick by a 38-year-old man.
- Anaheim announces that new pickup Brad Larsen will be out at least six weeks after sports hernia surgery.
- The Ducks picked up defenseman Nathan McIver off waivers and sent down training camp surprise Brett Festerling.
- McIver, a guy who has yet to score an NHL point in his career, scores the game-winner in overtime one night later against his old team and possibly the best goalie in the world.
- Miley Cyrus celebrates her 16th birthday at Disneyland.
Okay, let's ignore that last one. But as for the rest, I'd say that's plenty for one weekend, especially when the games don't even count yet.
After all this, it seems like a week and a half ago that Bobby Ryan got sent down. And I don't think there is much else to say about that other than it was an unfortunate decision that the Ducks didn't want to have to make. But hopefully by now fans understand their reasons for it. As Brian Burke said on Friday, "We looked at 100 ways to start the season and figure out a way to keep Bobby and we can’t do that."
Burke also made it clear that the Ducks are making it a priority to find a way to get him back here, but he also attached this caveat: "If and only if he is dominating at that level. If he does that, we will try to figure out a way to bring him back..."
I thought it was interesting that Burke made it clear that Ryan isn't a lock to be pulled right back up as soon as the Ducks have room for him. In other words, this is hardly the time to stop the hard work he's been showing the last few months.
A day after Ryan's demotion, the Ducks pulled another mildly surprising move by plucking McIver off waivers from Vancouver. (By the way, that's pronounced Mc-KEEV-er, not Mc-KIGH-ver, though I hear Nathan can build a hand grenade out of a Hostess Twinkie, rubber band and a AA battery.) The Ducks obviously like what they see in McIver, despite the fact he's only played 18 career games in Vancouver and minus-11 in those games. They liked him enough to send down Festerling, though the rookie defenseman had played well enough in camp to be in line for the sixth or seventh defenseman spot.
As far as cap money goes, McIver makes $525,000, which is just a little higher than Festerling's $473,333. There is a provision in place that if the Ducks decide to send him down, the Canucks have the option of taking him back.
But McIver made himself welcome in a hurry in last night's 4-3 overtime victory in his old home, leaping out of the penalty box to take a pass from Samuel Pahlsson on the breakaway and make a move on none other than Roberto Luongo to ice the game. Fast-forward to the 3:25 point on this video.
"I came out of the box and I saw Samuel Pahlsson with the puck and just took off," said McIver. "He made a great pass on my tape and going in on Louie. I didn't know what I was going to do. "But I saw him going down a bit and tried to get it over his shoulder."
As if the Canucks don't hate the Ducks enough for snatching McIver, Anaheim's first goal of the game came from a former Canuck with eight years worth of ties to the city, Brendan Morrison. He is already looking like the answer to the Ducks' second-line-center prayers, with four assists in his three games and that big goal last night. That goal, a bouncing puck in the crease he poked through Luongo, came despite Morrison admitting he "wasn't really there mentally."
"It was a really weird feeling tonight, walking by the lockerroom there," said Morrison. "I haven't done that for eight years ... But I'm glad it's over. It wasn't a huge deal. A lot of guys have to go through it. But it was definitely different."
Morrison was asked about McIver, since the two played together in Vancouver. "The guys asked me: What kind of player is he?" said Morrison. "I said he's a good, stay-at-home D-man, strong guy and not very offensive at all and he comes and pulls that out. He made me a liar."
Indeed, McIver has played 172 games with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL and only scored five goals. But he has established a reputation as a hitter and a fighter, which definitely fits into the Ducks' style. (By the way, the Canucks just picked up a former Duck, defenseman Shane O'Brien, who was a rookie with the team in 2006-07 before being traded to Tampa Bay.)
While his game-winner was nice, the best thing about last night's game in Vancouver is this: It means the preseason is finally over. And while these games don't count in the standings, they certainly matter from the standpoint that the Ducks look pretty darn good right now. The 6-1-1 preseason record was the team's best in franchise history, and signs are pointing to the Ducks getting off to a start like 2006-07 (points in their first 16 games), rather than 2007-08 (6-8-2 after their first 16).
We're just three days from opening night, and frankly, I can't wait. But if you think not much will go on here over those next three days, well... you just don't know this team very well.
Updated Oct. 3 at 10:12 a.m.
We'll be announcing it officially later today, but the Ducks are sending Bobby Ryan down to Iowa. The move has nothing to do with Ryan's performance in camp and preseason (in fact, he's looked mostly sharp after shedding 20 pounds over the summer). But it's strictly a move to get the Ducks comfortably under the salary cap to start the regular season, and they were a few hundred thousand over before this move (based on a projection of who will be on the opening night roster). Ryan's $1.8 million cap figure and two-way contract allows them to send him down without the risk of losing him on waivers. (Unlike offseason acquisition Joakim Lindstrom, who was placed on waivers after being sent down by the Ducks yesterday and was just claimed by Chicago.)
It's not enough for the Ducks to be just below the $56.7 million cap by opening night. They need to be at least $600,000 under that mark so that in a pinch they can bring a player up from the minors. For instance, say one of the Ducks goalies gets hurt and can't dress for a game or two. The Ducks need to have room to bring up a David Leneveu ($600,000) or a J.P. Levasseur ($580,000) as a backup.
So, unfortunately the only move the Ducks were left to make for the time being was to send Ryan down. And from talking to him, it was a move he was prepared to accept and just wait patiently for that call to come back up. You can bet that will be soon.
Updated Oct. 2 at 3:37 p.m.
I still maintain that I'm being good and ready to get this preseason over with and move on to some real hockey, but last night's 3-2 overtime win over the Kings was the third straight entertaining exhibition at Honda Center.
The Ducks and Kings gave their best through 60 minutes of regulation and half of an overtime before Chris Pronger pushed his way to the wing, staged a give-and-go with Teemu Selanne and the big guy looked like the Flash himself in backhanding the winner top shelf.
The game-winner was the payoff of a gutsy strategy by Randy Carlyle in overtime, as Pronger was the only defenseman on the ice for that shift with Selanne, Brendan Morrison and Chris Kunitz. "We tried it. It was an experiment,” Carlyle said. "I liked it when we were in their end. When you’re defending, it’s a little different.”
It's something the Ducks can afford to do a bit with d-men like Pronger and especially Scott Niedermayer, who can contribute on the offensive end but get back the other way in a hurry. Of course, the risk is there when the puck heads the other way with an extra forward out there who's not used to protecting the net.
Considering the Ducks' disdain for the shootout (although they were a respectable 8-7 last year), Carlyle was asked after the game last night if the Ducks plan on incorporating the strategy down the road. "Yes, absolutely," Carlyle said in a surprising moment of candor. "In fact, I'll tell you right now the games in which I plan on using it."
Of course I'm kidding.
“You never know,” Carlyle actually said. “Time will tell.”
Just as important as the victory last night was the successful debut of Brendan Morrison, who showed no ill effects from the knee surgery that had kept him out of any games since last March 26. Morrison moved very well out there and gave Chris Kunitz a pretty pass that led directly to the Ducks' tying goal in the second period.
“The knee felt good," Morrison said. "It didn’t bother me at all. So I think the first test was passed.”
Not as noticeable as the assist, but just as important, was the fact that Morrison won 10 of the 15 faceoffs he took. "It was just one of those nights where you kind of get into a rhythm," he said. "You can’t explain it really, because I hadn’t taken a draw in six months."
You can expect Morrison to be paired with Teemu Selanne on that second line this season and I'm looking forward to seeing how the two of them click as the season wears on.
One more thing about last night, how about Princeton grads George Parros and Kevin Westgarth going after it last night, with Parros getting the slight edge. It was probably the first time two NHL fighters had a combined 400 IQ.
Speaking of George Parros, he had some comments yesterday that reflected that Brian Burke may have accomplished more with the Sean O'Donnell trade than just shaving off salary.
“I think it just makes everyone aware that no one’s job is safe,”
Well, not anyone. I'm pretty sure Teemu, Scotty and Prongs will be Ducks the entire year.
In light of the rumors that Toronto was clamoring for Bobby Ryan as part of a package when the Ducks were shopping Mathieu Schneider, the Toronto Globe & Mail is reporting that the NHL will be "keeping an eye on" any potential deals between the Ducks and Leafs in light of the speculation that Brian Burke will flee for the GM job there after this season. The story of course didn't cite any sources, but even to insinuate such a thing is ridiculous. Even if Burke had his eye on that job -- and some recent quotes indicate he just might be -- to claim that Big Brother is watching his dealings with Toronto with a suspicious eye is insulting to Burke. Can we also assume that every other GM in the last year of his contract will also be judged when talking trades with other teams? Especially teams whose GMs might be on their way out?
And by the way, Burke refused to trade Bobby Ryan to the Leafs. If he really was the kind of person who would set himself up to flee to Toronto, he would have sent a talented prospect over there in advance. Give me a break.
I have the TV in my office and I'm learning that one of the negatives of watching the baseball playoffs on TBS is the constant promos for "Frank TV," the show where presumably Frank Caliendo rehashes his tired impressions for a half an hour. Seriously, does anybody watch that show? Yeah, you do a John Madden impression. We get it. Now when are you going away?
You may remember the mention that Ducks Senior Manager of Corporate Partnerships Bonner Paddock climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro last month, a tremendous feet for anyone, let alone a guy born with cerebral palsy. Bonner, back in town the last few weeks after completing the treacherous climb, sent this picture yesterday with the following message:
Even at the summit of Kili there is now a Ducks presence. Attached until the weather takes it down!
Now, that's cool.
Ducks season ticket holders, see you at Face Off Fest this evening. I'll be there, but unfortunately my request to have my own autograph table was denied.
Updated Oct. 1 at 2:20 p.m.
We're finally into the month of October, which is traditionally the month when the NHL season officially starts. And frankly, I'm more than ready to get to it. Nothing against last night's preseason tilt against the Kings at Staples Center, and tonight's rematch at Honda Center, but enough with the preseason. I'm ready for some real hockey.
It was tough to get too excited with Anaheim's 2-1 victory over the Kings in a shootout, in a game that didn't exactly light the world on fire. (By the way, it was the one-year anniversary of the Ducks beating the Kings in the second game in London.) And though the Ducks couldn't get much going on Jason LaBarbera besides a Kent Huskins second-period goal, they won the game in typical Ducks fashion (if you don't count a rare win in the shootout). The suddenly O'Donnell-less defense held the Kings to just 22 shots, 21 of which were saved by Jonas Hiller, who already looks like he's going to be outstanding this year. The other great thing about him only allowing one goal? I only had to hear the nauseating "I Love L.A." song one time. Outstanding.
By the way, the Ducks went from the Staples Center loading dock to the Honda Center parking in just under 30 minutes. That's got to be some kind of record.
If not for the headache-inducing purple surrounding us, I might have thought I was at Honda Center last night, considering the pilfering the Kings have apparently done. Not only did the Kings come out to former Ducks intro song "Ladies and Gentleman" by Saliva, but adorable little 9-year-old Taylor Longbrake sang the national anthem -- phenomenally, as usual. It is any coincidence that the new entertainment manager for the Kings is former Ducks Power Player Brooklyn Boyars?
Of course, the other thing the Kings have now gotten from the Ducks is O'Donnell, and I feel it necessary to revisit yesterday's trade further than the quick mention I got in before the game last night. That's partly because O'Donnell was a model of class and perspective as he spoke to reporters in the press room in the Staples Center basement during the first intermission. While admitting he was "shocked" by the trade, he maintained he had no ill will towards the Ducks.
"I can’t say anything bad about the Ducks," he said. "I came here after a situation in
O'Donnell admitted that when he was told yesterday morning that he wouldn't be playing in the game that night (though he was initially supposed to), he "had a weird feeling all day." He said those worries were confirmed when he got a text message in the afternoon that said, "Call Brian Burke ASAP." Said O'Donnell, "That's pretty much the kiss of death right there."
Let me just say I got an email from Burkie one morning during this past offseason that said pretty much the same thing and it scared the living hell out of me.
O'Donnell said he soon got a text message from Todd Marchant that said, "It was great knowing you and playing with you. Keep in touch and I’ll never forget that I was the one who passed you the Cup.” (Ducks fans, don't be embarrassed if it got a little dusty in the room when you read that.)
It was also touching to see Chris Pronger quickly post a blog item on his website literally hours after the trade was announced. An excerpt:
It is a very sad day in the Pronger household, to say the least. My friend and partner has been traded to none other than our arch rivals, the LA Kings.
The latest trade of Sean O'Donnell has left me speechless. He has been my partner since day one of training camp three years ago. We have been through many battles and wars together. When you find a comfort level with a partner and have chemistry together it becomes very difficult to replicate that right away with a new one. OD is a strong stay at home defensemen that is always reliable and will stand up for his teammates whenever called upon. I always knew where he was going to be on the ice and we worked off one another very well. His style allowed me to play more aggressive at the blue lines which in turn helped to feed our offensive transition. Sad to see you go OD best of luck in LA just not against us. LOL
Aside from the fact that big, strong Chris Pronger actually typed the letters "LOL" together, it's a very nice tribute.
Now, we move from touching to bald-faced reality, as Brian Burke spoke about the O'Donnell trade to reporters yesterday and indicated that the Ducks aren't too pleased with the performance of some of their veterans so far in camp. “It’s not why we did (the trade), but hopefully some other guys will get a message here,” he said. “Our camp has been going pretty well, but we need some guys to pick up their game. We’re not going at a clip that’s satisfactory to us.”
There is still no official word on whether O'Donnell will be in the lineup for the Kings tonight at Honda Center, but if he is out there, the Ducks are planning to recognize him in a similar way to returning players like Ilya Bryzgalov and Andy McDonald. One player who is guaranteed to be on the ice tonight is Brendan Morrison, making his Ducks debut after sitting out the first five preseason games while strengthening that knee. Morrison skated this morning between Teemu Selanne and Chris Kunitz, and Randy Carlyle confirmed he'll be in there tonight.
“We’re going to play him, and see where he is," Carlyle said. "It will be nice to see him. As long as he gets through these games, there shouldn’t be any reason why he shouldn’t play (opening night).”
Meanwhile, if the morning skate is any indication, Bobby Ryan will skate with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Ryan has been quiet lately after springing out of the blocks with two goals in the first preseason game. Let's hope he brings it tonight. Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger will be in there tonight after sitting last night out, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere will likely be between the pipes.
The Ducks won't have Brad Larsen, who continues to battle with a lower abdominal strain after the Ducks acquired him with Ken Klee and prospect Chad Painchaud in the Mathieu Schneider deal. Larsen is apparently hoping to see the same specialist that treated similar injuries for Giguere, Todd Marchant and Samuel Pahlsson. Says Larsen, "Right now, we don’t really have a timeline when it’s going to be ready to go. I can still get out there and function. It’s just not at a hundred percent yet. As long and I can skate and not injure it, I want to keep skating as long as I can. If there’s something major that’s going to happen, we’ll make that decision when the time comes."
The O.C. Register's Dan Wood has a well-deserved feature on Ducks TV analyst Brian Hayward, that touches on the fact that Kings fans hate him. To me, that means he's doing something right. But the fact that Ducks fans can't stand Kings TV analyst Jim Fox? That doesn't mean the same thing.
I'm really glad I bought Angels playoff tickets this year, only to have Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS scheduled on the same night as two Ducks preseason games. Thanks for giving the Angels the every-other-day scheduling option, Major League Baseball. Much appreciated. And again, because of that conflict, the game will not be on AM 830 but streamed exclusively here on the website. I promise we won't have the same difficulties with the streaming that we did last night.
And by promise, I mean really really hope. No, seriously. I promise.