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Adam Brady is the Director of Publications & New Media for the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center. Email him by CLICKING HERE.

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DECEMBER ARCHIVE

Updated Dec. 31 at 1:57 p.m.

A win over the Columbus Blue Jackets would be a nice way for the Ducks to close out a 2008 that, frankly, wasn't the best.

There were certainly positives for the Ducks in '08: The midseason return of Teemu Selanne, a visit to the White House with the Stanley Cup, four Ducks playing in the All-Star Game, Corey Perry signing a long-term deal, the emergence of Jonas Hiller. 

But Ducks fans will also remember '08 as the year the Ducks unceremoniously fell to the hated Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs, lost Francois Beauchemin for the rest of the season, lost Teemu Selanne for several weeks and, toughest to take of all, saw Brian Burke leave for another job.

And on a personal note, it's also the year I had half of Edmonton sending me hate mail when I got involved in the Burke-Kevin Lowe fiasco. Good times.

Actually, I kind of miss that.

We still have one day left in this bittersweet year, and what better way to celebrate New Year's Eve than with a marquee matchup with Columbus? The Jackets come in tonight continuing to struggle on the road, though they shut out the Kings two nights ago (hardly a notable accomplishment) behind red-hot rookie goalie Steve Mason. The blanking of the Kings last night was his second in a row, fourth on the year, and he leads the league with a 1.78 goals-against average.

Of course, Mason is about all the Jackets have got these days, as they are missing forwards Raffi Torres, Jason Chimera, and Derick Brassard, as well as defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen to injuries. Meanwhile, the Ducks have won the last five in a row against the Navy Coats, including two this year. Mason wasn't in net for those games, but he'll be in there tonight.

It will be interesting to see what the building looks like tonight, considering it's a proverbial "Wednesday against Columbus" game that is scheduled to end about three hours before the stroke of midnight (remember it's a 6:05 start). That's plenty of time to get embarrassingly drunk before the ball drops, right?

I have some bad news for Kings opponents: The Jason LaBarbera era is officially over. LaBarbera was traded yesterday to Vancouver for a Playstation 3 (actually, it was for a seventh round pick in the next draft, though the PS3 is probably worth more). The Canucks are in desperate need of a goalie with Roberto Luongo out until probably after the All-Star break and backup Curtis Sanford injuring his groin last night. The Canucks traded for LaBarbera literally minutes after Sanford went down in the first period, actually pulling off the deal during the first intermission. I've seen fantasy hockey trades that took longer to go through. I'm surprised they didn't try to fly him up there for the third period. I imagine the phone call to LaBarbera went something like this:

"Jason, the bad news is we've traded you to Vancouver. The good news? We did it really quickly. It was actually kind of cool ... Maybe you had to be there."

Considering the Kings' history with goalies they've dumped, expect LaBarbera to become the hottest goalie in the league over the next month. He should be an All-Star starter by this time next year.

George Parros does a fine job asking members of the Ducks about their New Year's resolutions in this piece we've just put up on the site. I like the fact that Parros calls Bobby Ryan "the man of the moment" and Ryan resolves to "Get my linemate George Parros to 15 goals." Apparently, Georgie liked that too. Although, not to quibble, but they're not playing on the same line these days. I also loved the fact that big, tough George Parros actually used the expression, "Color me impressed."

I hesitate to point out other people's mistakes, because God knows I make my share on here, but I couldn't help myself when I saw the photo the San Jose Mercury News website used for its story on Claude Lemieux (that's Claude Lemieux) making his comeback in the Sharks organization. Take a look and see if you see anything wrong with this.

I have to say I'm really looking forward to the Winter Classic tomorrow, though waking up by 10 on New Year's Day isn't exactly appealing. But as fun as last year's game was, this one might be even cooler considering the venue (although apparently the league is putting up some fake ivy, complete with sponsor logos in front of the actual Wrigley Field ivy for TV viewers to enjoy). And the Blackhawks-Red Wings matchup is intriguing, especially considering the Wings dumped the Hawks on their collective rears the other night, despite Chicago coming in with a nine-game winning streak.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland told the press, "We want our players to enjoy the experience. All of the families are coming. But I like to believe that our players are experienced enough that when the puck drops on Jan. 1 the players remember it's two points we are playing for."

The families are coming? Guess that eliminates the possibility of any of the married Red Wings coming into this one hung over.

The one disappointment about the game is that "Doc" Emrik won't be calling the game tomorrow because he's come down with laryngitis. Emrick is probably the best in the business, and Ducks fans will always associate his voice with Game 5 of the '07 Final. Nevertheless, it should be a fun one to watch.

And it's a nice way to kick off an '09 that hopefully will be kinder to than '08 was to Ducks fans and to people who, you know, like having money. 


Updated Dec. 30 at 2:04 p.m.

If you live in The OC you know that A.) We don't call it that; and B.) There are electronic signs on the freeways that lately have flashed the following message:

DON'T TEXT WHILE DRIVING
JAN. 1ST

At first I didn't think much of the message. After all, I can certainly handle not texting while driving one day of the year. And I probably won't be feeling much like driving the day after New Year's Eve anyway. But thanks for the advice.

Not funny?

But then I saw this story, and realized that it means a new law goes into effect Jan. 1 that prohibits texting (and yes, emailing; I checked) while driving. I have to say I am not happy about this. Now this means that not only can my girlfriend yell at me for texting while driving because it's dangerous, now she can also add that it's against the law. You can, however, still legally type in directions into the GPS on your phone while driving or type in a phone number.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That's exactly what I'll tell the cop I was doing when I get pulled over.

Okay, let's get to some hockey. The Ducks practiced today at the house of marble for the first time since their trip to Dallas and St. Louis. Defenseman Bret Hedican didn't skate, as he's still listed as day-to-day with an "upper body injury," which presumably means he's feeling soreness anywhere from his stomach to the top of his head. Hedican looked to suffer an injury to the head when he  went awkwardly into the wall in St. Louis.

Teemu Selanne hung with the Ducks in the locker room after practice, walking on crutches with a huge brace wrapped around one leg. Also noticeable was the pair of black track pants he was wearing, adorned with the Ferrari logo on one side, as Selanne continues to set the fashion world on fire. (Remember this jacket?)

Randy Carlyle was asked about how Selanne's absence has affected the Ducks, and he pointed to the stellar play of the Ryan-Morrison-Ebbett line in his place.

“I didn’t really feel there was a huge void from our effort and our commitment in what we’re trying to do,” Carlyle said. “Would it be nice to have a 500-goal scorer in your lineup? I guess it would.”

Well, that actually depends on who the 500-goal scorer is. I don't think Gordie Howe is bringing a lot to the table these days.

Then again, the Sharks just signed 43-year-old Claude Lemieux to a two-way deal after Lemieux has been away from the game for more than five years. I liked this part of the story: San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said Lemieux will stay with the Worcester Sharks if he clears waivers Tuesday after signing his new deal.

Yeah, I wouldn't worry too much about that. Actually, it just happened.

If you're following the IIHF World U20 Junior Hockey Championships in Ottawa (and I know you are), you probably know that Kazakhstan lost to Canada by a cringe-worthy count of 15-0 two nights ago. Canada outshot the Kazakhs 69-11, which begs the question, what the hell happened on those other 54 shots? A 54-save night for goalies Anrei Yankov and Maxim Gryaznov. That's not too shabby. Jonas Hiller had 51 stops a couple of weeks ago and he was treated like a hero.

What I want to know is how much trash-talking in Borat voices did the Canadians do? Did they skate by the Kazakh bench and yell, "That's niiiiiice!" Was this anthem played before the game?:

Kazakhstan is the greatest country in the world
All other countries are run by little girls 
Kazakhstan is the number one exporter of potassium
All other Central Asian countries have inferior potassium

I need to know these things.

I missed a few opportunities yesterday to poke fun at the Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry interview that ran during "The Challenge" on KNBC, so I'm going to do it now. Upon further review, is it obvious to anyone else that host Mario Solis (who someone on the message boards pointed out looks like Lou Diamond Phillips) taped the questions after the interview was over? Also, uh, Corey? We're glad to see you so relaxed during a TV interview. But could ya maybe cross your legs?




Updated Dec. 29 at 11:34 a.m.

It's not every day that a team gets fired up by one of its players not fighting, but that's exactly what happened with the Anaheim Ducks last night in St. Louis.

Midway through the third period, Blues heavyweight Cam Janssen drilled Ducks d-man Kent Huskins behind the net, prompting George Parros to come to Huskins' defense. And although Parros dropped a glove believing Janssen was ready for a fight, Janssen instead turned his back on Parros and skated away. As a result, Parros was slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct minor.

It was tough to see on TV, but the Ducks claimed that Janssen went so far as to fake dropping his gloves, only to goad Parros into a penalty when he refused to engage him. You can see Janssen's incredibly noble and manly behavior and Parros' rather funny reaction at about the 2:15 mark of this video.

“It’s frustrating when a guy that you know fights makes a big hit, says he’s going to go, and then doesn’t,” Parros said. “I made sure not to drop both gloves because I didn’t want to get a penalty. I let him know I was ready to go, because he had told me we were going. I didn’t jump him. I gave him the benefit of the doubt."

And almost expectedly, the Blues converted on the resulting power play as Brad Boyes chipped in a rebound to give them a 3-2 lead. But instead of that goal giving the Blues the momentum, it just got the Ducks more juiced.

“If he (Janssen) thinks he did the right thing, well, he just stirred our group,” Randy Carlyle said. “I didn’t have any problem with the hit, but the fake of the dropping of the gloves, for a player of that stature, his job, you think about it,” Carlyle said. “What would your answer be?

The Ducks gave that answer in resounding fashion less than a minute after the Boyes goal, as Steve Montador rifled in a slap shot in the top corner of the net past not-very-good Chris Mason to tie the game 3-3. Then a little more than five minutes later, Bobby Ryan swept in the eventual game-winner on the power play thanks to some fine distracting in front of the net by (big surprise) Corey Perry, not to mention some deft moving of the puck by Ryan Getzlaf and Scott Niedermayer.

The goal by Ryan was just another fine display of the youngster's brilliant hands. Is it just me or do you get kind of excited every time he touches the puck? I'm telling you, I'm starting to get an unhealthy appreciation for this kid.

But even with Ryan's go-ahead strike, Ducks fans had to be tightening up a bit down the stretch as the Ducks nursed that one-goal cushion, especially after the Blues sent off Mason for an extra skater. And it got really scary with just seconds left, as the still-phenomenal Jonas Hiller had to make an incredible kick save to rescue the game.

"Rebound on my tape, (the puck) was just kind of on its side and (Hiller) gets the pad on it," Backes said. "I don't get it up and the game ends in the wrong direction."

That's what she said.

Not to be forgotten, Rob Niedermayer put the Ducks in front early with a rebound goal as Mason seemed to be ordering a Bud Light from the third row. Seriously, what was he doing there? He was way out of position saving the Samuel Pahlsson shot, then appeared to get back in front of the goal with the speed of an old man rising from the couch after a three-hour nap.

Incredibly enough, Robbie Nieds has eight goals in 35 games. Last year? Eight goals in 78.

So, it was a huge win for the Ducks to end a two-part road swing surrounding Christmas that before last night had seen them win just once. And interestingly enough, it was the fourth straight 4-3 game for Anaheim (okay, maybe that's not that interesting), which is a new NHL record (okay, I made that up.)

Most importantly, it gives the Ducks some push into a homestand that sees them playing seven of their next eight at home (with the lone road game during that stretch being in L.A.).

Moving on, as Ducks fans continue to impressively pour in their votes for the All-Star Game, Getzlaf is firmly in third place among forwards with Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger knocking on the door for the top two defensemen spots. Meanwhile, J.S. Giguere remains on top among goalies. If he makes it into the game, here's hoping he sticks with this new mask design he debuted the other night.

In case you missed it, Getzlaf and Corey Perry were interviewed by the incredibly stiff Mario Solis on "The Challenge," which aired after Sunday Night Football on KNBC 4. I was pretty impressed that just a couple of hours after beating the Blues, Getzlaf and Perry got all the way back to Anaheim to sit for that interview.

Oh, it was taped days ago? Nevermind.

Here were a couple of highlights from the very funny Getzlaf:

On he and Perry being paired together since the Ducks drafted them:
"We didn't really have a choice but to be friends."

On signing a new contract with the Ducks midway through last season and then Perry signing in the summer:
"[My deal] obviously left enough room for Perry to go in and steal a bunch of money from the team. He went in with his mask after the season ended and got his deal done."

On Corey Perry's old-fashioned car:
"There are a lot of grandmas out there who [give him a look]."

On whether they would miss each other if they played for separate teams:
"I would not miss having to pick him up off the opposing goalie. This guy lays on the goalie more than anybody I've ever seen in my life ... He falls literally more than anybody on the ice."


Updated Dec. 28 at 11:47 a.m.

Last night ABC aired the phenomenal movie "Miracle" and even though I've seen the movie about 85 times, I couldn't help but tune in once again during the part where the USA team plays Russia. And even though I know the outcome by now, I still can't help but feel a little tense during those final 10 minutes where the USA nurses a one-goal lead to the finish.

It's coincidental that the movie was on last night, because earlier in the evening, the Ducks looked like they might have finished off the Dallas Stars when they took a 3-2 lead on a late third period goal. But the Stars tied it in the final minute and prevailed in overtime, 4-3. It was not only the third straight 4-3 loss for the Ducks, but that happened to be the final score in USA-USSR. (Though in that game, the good guys won.)

Brendan Morrison -- who suddenly has been phenomenal -- put the Ducks ahead with a goal off a ridiculous Bobby Ryan feed with 3:21 left (more on that later). That set up a scenario that Ducks fans have been able to take mostly for granted the past three seasons -- that the game would be over right there. Before this season, you could probably count on one hand the number of times the Ducks defense has lost a lead in the final minutes of a game. But this year it seems to be happening more than usual.

"I don’t know how this team is allowing these leads in the third period to get away," Morrison said. "It’s not like we’re completely out of games. Every game here lately has been a one-goal game. We just have to find a way to win these tight games. It’s in this room. I mean, this team has done it in the past. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”

Added Morrison, “It’s not funny, but it’s funny in a way."

No, you were right the first time. It's not funny.

But what is very pleasing is the resurgence of Morrison, who after struggling for the first third of this season, had his second straight two-goal game last night and has four of the Ducks' last five goals. And none of them have been more satisfying than the one that gave the Ducks the lead last night (not sure why there are no announcers on the replay). The increasingly-fun-to-watch Bobby Ryan spun behind the net and gave Morrison a feed that goalie Marty Turco never saw, as he didn't turn around until well after Morrison had chipped it past him.

“That’s a highlight-reel pass right there,” Morrison said. “My buddy Turco in net didn’t even move." (Turco and Morrison played together at the University of Michigan.)

Morrison had a different description of the goal right after it happened. You can't quite see it on the video I linked too, but on the TV replay last night, you can clearly read Morrison's lips saying, "What a [expletive] pass!"

But as elated as Ducks fans were after that goal, they may have all been shouting that same expletive in a different form a few minutes later (I know I was) when the Stars tied it. The Ducks couldn't seem to eject the puck from their zone and had no pressure on it when Steve Ott sent it through Chris Pronger's legs for the Mike Ribeiro one-timer with 1:04 left.

And it almost seemed inevitable that the Stars would take that momentum and finish it off in overtime, especially after Ryan Getzlaf took a slashing penalty to try and stop a Loui Eriksson breakaway. Mike Modano's one-timer technically was even-strength since the Getzlaf penalty had expired a second before, but the Stars still had the man advantage on the play.

Of course, it was the Ducks who probably should have gone into that extra session on the power play, since the officials somehow looked the other way on two egregious Stars penalties in the closing moments of regulation. First was when Dallas got caught in the middle of a change as the puck headed near their bench and should have been called for too many men on the ice. Even more shocking was that they missed Eriksson close his gloved hand over the puck with a few seconds remaining and literally throw it toward the boards. Last I checked that's illegal. But the officials can be excused for missing that one. After all, there are only four of them, and it's very difficult to see a guy grab the puck in his hand and fling it out of his own zone. So, no hard feelings, boys.

After the game, Giguere was once again the voice of reason. “What are we going to do, go hang ourselves?” Giguere asked. “We need to forget about it and move on. It does no good to dwell on it. The good thing is we have another game."

That's true, though Giguere won't be in net later today when the Ducks take on the Blues in St. Louis, as Jonas Hiller will be back in there in the second of a back-to-back.

But it's looking more and more like Giguere could be the starter for the Western Confernence in the All-Star game. Ducks fans have apparently not been discouraged by the votes the NHL took away last week, as they have kept it going and vaulted Giguere back into the No. 1 spot among conference goalies. Meanwhile, Getzlaf remains comfortably in the No. 3 spot among conference forwards (which would make him a starter) and Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger are knocking on the door in the conference defensemen standings, sitting third and fourth, respectively.

Four Ducks starting the All-Star game, even after thousands of votes were cancelled because of allegedly improper voting?

Do you believe in miracles?



Updated Dec. 24 at 11:07 a.m.

With the Ducks sputtering into the Christmas break, I'm also taking a little bit of time off. I'll be back in a couple of days.

Of course, if there are any All-Star voting developments that pull me back in like Michael Corleone, I'll post something.

To cheer Ducks fans up after the developments over the past few days (two Ducks losses and the All-Star voting development), here's a joke that was sent from reader Jim:

The Detroit Red Wings foreign scout flies to Baghdad to watch a young Iraqi play hockey and is suitably impressed and arranges for him to come over to the US . 

The Red Wings sign him to a one-year contract and the kid joins the team. 

Later in the season the Wings are down 2-0 in the 3rd period to the 20th place Blackhawks. The young Iraqi gets the nod to play for the first time and he goes in. The kid is a sensation - scores 3 goals in 10 minutes and wins the game for the Wings!  The fans are delighted, the players and coaches are delighted, and the media love the new star.

When the player comes off the ice he quickly phones his mom to tell her about his first game. "Hello mom, guess what?" he says. "I played for 10 minutes today, we were down 2-0, but I scored 3 goals and we won. Everybody loves me, the fans, the media, they all love me." 

"Wonderful," says his mom, "Let me tell you about my day. Your father got shot in the street and robbed, your sister and I were ambushed and beaten, your brother has joined a gang of looters, and all while you were having such great time." 

The young Iraqi is very upset. "What can I say mom, but I'm so sorry." 

"Sorry? You're Sorry?!" says his mom, "It's your fault we moved to Detroit in the first place!"


Happy Holidays.



Updated Dec. 23 at 7:12 p.m.

The long drive from Orange County to San Francisco to visit my sister and her family for Christmas was relatively peaceful until around 3:15 this afternoon. That's when my Blackberry started continually vibrating like a neck massager with emails from Ducks fans, all of which essentially said in some form, "What the hell just happened?"

In case you haven't noticed, the four Ducks on the All-Star ballot -- Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and J.S. Giguere -- all of whom were leading their respective positions in the voting, have each had thousands of votes taken off their totals. As a result, Getzlaf is now in third among Western Conference forwards, Niedermayer is fourth among defenseman, Pronger is sixth and Giguere is third among goalies.

And later in the day, the official explanation came from the NHL, that many of the votes that have come in for the Ducks over the last several days were texted via an automated script from one cell phone number and were taken away by the powers that be. Here is the official statement from the league:  "While we want all of our fans to vote as often as they wish for their favorite stars, we also want to ensure that the votes are cast in an appropriate and fair manner. Over the course of the last several days there have been a significant number of votes that have been submitted for a number of Anaheim players via an automated script. Those votes have been eliminated as per the stated rules of All-Star fan balloting."

As much as the sudden surge in the All-Star standings for the four Ducks looked too good to be true, it was easy to look the other way and hope it was simply a result of our fans' exuberance. And let's keep in mind, a very large number of the legitimate votes the Ducks did get were a result of that fan following and enthusiasm.

So there's no reason to let this unfortunate situation keep Ducks fans from continuing to vote within the rules and make sure to get the Ducks back in position to be voted in as starters. Obviously, the Anaheim player with the best shot now is Getzlaf, who as of tonight still holds on to the No. 3 spot among forwards. And he's got a relatively slim lead over fourth place, so Ducks fans have to do their thing to keep him in position.

Meanwhile, Giguere is not far behind the No. 2 spot among goalies, which would leave him short of just Roberto Luongo, who might be too injured to play in the game. Giguere would still have to be chosen by the league committee, but a second-place finish in the voting would certainly help his cause.

So, we've said it before and we'll say it again: KEEP VOTING. It's still completely within the rules to vote as often as you like at Vote.NHL.com or text "Ducks" to 81812. (My 63-year-old father, who can barely figure out how to charge his cell phone, texted a few votes during the car ride today. So if he can do it, so can you.) Remember, it wasn't the votes from repeated texting that was taken away from the Ducks players, it was just the votes coming from this lone automated script. So vote, vote, vote, and when you're done, vote again. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. The repeated votes were not the ones eliminated. So text a thousand times if you like.

There are plenty of fans expressing sentiment against the NHL (via email and message board), but really the league is just doing what's fair and right. And they did the same thing weeks ago when an automated script led to thousands of shady internet votes for Montreal Canadiens. (By the way, among the negative fallout from this whole thing, don't think Ducks fans shouldn't pat themselves on the back that they're now being classed with hockey-mad Montreal fans. Frankly, I think that's something to be proud of.)

But again, if you really feel slighted by this episode and you want to stick it to the NHL, do it by voting for our guys just as much, or even more, than you were before. Let's keep sending the message that Ducks fans can make this happen. We've got 11 days left. Let's make the most of them.



Updated Dec. 23 at 8:44 a.m.

As of 8:44 a.m. on Dec. 23, 2008, all four Anaheim Ducks on the NHL All-Star Game ballot hold the top spots at their respective positions. It’s a fantastic thing if you’re a Ducks fan.

But it’s also somewhat ironic, since they all play for a Ducks team that, let’s face it, just isn’t quite good enough right now.

(Today is Festivus, and as we all know, one of the traditions of the holiday is the “Airing of Grievances,” so here goes…)

Teemu Selanne or no Teemu Selanne, in last night’s 4-3 loss in Vancouver, the Ducks succumbed to the ailments that have plagued them far too many times this season. Too many penalties and too little desperation in the opening two periods proved too much to overcome as their last-ditch surge came up just short. Sure, the Ducks looked fantastic over the final 10 minutes, and nearly did tie the game in the final minute. But Samuel Pahlsson’s bid for a second late third-period goal didn’t catch his stick the right way.

Afterward, it was Pahlsson who put the game properly in perspective: “We had a pretty good push at the end,” he said. “We got close, but it’s not enough. We were not good enough before that. Because of that, we were too far behind to come back in the game. We just dug a hole, and we couldn’t get out.”

While a very solid Canucks team certainly earned the victory, they took down a Ducks team that really was two different Ducks teams. There was the one in the opening 50 minutes that made too many mistakes and took too many trips to the box (some deserved and some unjustified). And the one in the final 10 that looked like a world-beater. But a 10-minute hockey team doesn’t lift the Cup in June. Let's also not forget the Ducks escaped with a win in Edmonton three nights earlier, despite giving up a frightening 53 shots on net.

“One will work, and one is not going to work,” said Scott Niedermayer. “We’ve talked about a number of things already this year. We need to be better if we want to get to where we think we can get. We just need to be better.”

They just need to be better. Exactly how they’re going to be better, is hard to say. But right now this looks like a Ducks team that, while they undoubtedly will be a playoff team, they don’t appear to be one that will be taking it very deep.

But if there was a positive out of this game – other than the life the Ducks showed in the final half of the third – it was the continued sparkle of Bobby Ryan. Pushed to the second line and the top power play unit to fill the void left by Selanne’s injury, Ryan proved more than worthy of the promotion. He had his fifth goal of the season, on the power play, for the first goal of the game, and assisted on the other two Ducks goals. Meanwhile, there were at least a couple of other feeds he dished to Ducks teammates that could have easily been converted.

Don’t look now, but Bobby Ryan has 14 points in just 16 games, and that’s after having spent a good part of the season on the fourth line where ice time isn’t exactly in abundance.

Unfortunately, Ryan’s play was one of the few positives on the night, though in Anaheim’s defense, they were facing a very tough Vancouver team that now has Stanley Cup hopes dancing in their heads with a guy named Sundin waiting on deck.

The Ducks have a chance to salvage this three-game Canadian trip, and relive the good feelings they got from their win in Edmonton last Friday, when they take on Calgary tonight.

A win in Calgary – with the chance to hand the Flames their first four-game home losing streak in six years – would sure make the flight back to Cali for Christmas a little more enjoyable. Jean-Sebastien Giguere will be in net tonight for the first time since his father’s memorial service. And let’s hope the team in front of him is the Ducks team that finished the game last night – not the one that started it.


Another tradition of Festivus? The “Feats of Strength.” Here’s hoping we see some more from the team in white tonight, before it's too late in the game. 



Updated Dec. 22 at 11:43 a.m.

It was certainly a good news, bad news weekend here in Ducks land.

Good news: The Ducks pulled out a 3-2 shootout victory at Edmonton, a hostile enviroment where they hardly ever win.

Bad news: Teemu Selanne was injured when he cut himself in the thigh with his own skate.

Good news: Jonas Hiller tied a club regular season record with 51 saves.

Bad news: Jonas Hiller had to make 51 saves for the Ducks to win.

Good news: After an MRI Saturday, it was determined that Selanne did not damage any tendons or other connective tissue, and no surgery will be required.

Bad news: He's still missing 4-6 weeks.

Good news: Those 4-6 weeks are coming in December and January, not at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, like when Corey Perry suffered a similar injury last year. And some people seem to think Teemu will be back even sooner than diagnosed (more on that later).

Bad news: But still, the Ducks losing Selanne at any time of the year, for a team that isn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard without him, isn't a good thing.

Good news: I'm done writing this way.

In case you haven't already seen it, Selanne was injured in the opening minutes of the game when he cut himself in the left thigh with his right skate blade. Here's the video, if you can stand it (not for the faint of heart). In what looked to be nothing more than a routine collision into the wall with Oilers d-man Denis Grebeshkov, Selanne lost his balance and his right skate blade got between the shin and thigh pads on the left leg. It was yet another in a line of "freak injuries" the Ducks have suffered over the past 10 months, which includes Perry being cut by a goalie's skate blade and Ryan Carter injuring his wrist when his hand went through a photographer's hole.

If you watch the video, you can tell John Ahlers and Brian Hayward even had trouble determining what the injury was at first, as did the lone Edmonton fan who let out an audible "boo," apparently thinking Selanne was milking it to get a call. No matter how you slice it (I know, worst pun of all time), this right here is not a pretty sight for Ducks fans.

But, we move on. Bobby Ryan likely moves to that second line to fill Selanne's spot, and will be on the top unit on the power play with Getzlaf and Perry (a grouping that produced a huge PP goal Friday night). Andrew Ebbett is brought up from Iowa, Brad May likely gets the ice time he's been lacking the last couple of weeks and we see how things shake out. And even Randy Carlyle, not exactly a guy known for his optimism, thinks Selanne will be back sooner than what was initially thought.

"We expect him to be back shorter than the time frame, and he does, too,"Carlyle said Sunday morning. “That’s only us,” Carlyle said. “That’s not what the doctors are saying. The doctors are saying quite possibly up to four to six weeks. We’re saying, ‘Well, we’ll take their consideration and see how fast he heals.’”

And he added this: “It’s nowhere near what Corey Perry had. The most encouraging sign for us was Teemu felt very good leaving [Saturday]. He didn’t feel it was anything major beyond a two-inch cut in his thigh. Time will tell. The human body reacts differently. Some people are quicker healers than others.”

And oh yeah, there was actually a game played after Selanne left the ice, a game the Ducks nearly gave away if not for the heroics of Hiller and his 51 stops. (Not for nothing, but if the Ducks get into the habit of giving up 50+ shots on goal, I don't see them winning too many games.) Despite the Ducks' perfect record when leading after two periods, they gave up third period goals to Kyle Brodziak and Erik Cole that forced overtime. But just like he was in regulation, Hiller shined in the extra session and then the shootout, where he stopped all three Edmonton attempts. Perry had already put the Ducks on top with his move where he swings way wide to the right wing before making a move on the goaltender. Perry, who seems to skate wider and wider with each shootout attempt this year, will skate into the third row next time before making his charge to the net.

“It’s something that’s worked in the past,” Perry said. “If you can get wide, you can get a little better angle on the goalie. That’s what I was trying to do.”

That clinched a big win for the Ducks to start the swing through Western Canada, which continues tonight at Vancouver. And the Ducks might have a little goalie controversy on their hands, with Hiller looking so spectacular Friday night and J.S. Giguere re-joining the team after attending his father Claude's memorial service in Montreal.

But how do you not put in net the guy who is LEADING WESTERN CONFERENCE GOALTENDERS IN ALL-STAR VOTES?

That's right, at last check of the standings, Giguere has seized the long-held lead of Roberto Luongo (who is out indefinitely with a groin strain) and now has a more-than-40,000-vote lead. Meanwhile, Ryan Getzlaf has taken the top spot from Patrick Kane among Western Conference forwards (buy a miniscule 1,186 votes). And, Scott Niedermayer is in second place, just 10,393 behind Nicklas Lidstrom for the top spot among conference defenseman, with Chris Pronger not far back in third place.

I don't know how you're doing it Ducks fans, but you're doing it. It's conceivable we could have four Ducks starters in this thing. So, what the hell? Let's keep it going. Vote as often as you like at Vote.NHL.com, keep texting "Ducks" to 81812 and keep making it happen. Let's force the rest of the league to have to say things like, "You know those Anaheim fans. They're just stuffing the ballot box."

You're damn right we are.

And as long as we're in the process of patting ourselves on the back, Jeff Miller of the O.C Register has an outstanding story on the equally outstanding Community Relations department at the Ducks. Definitely well-deserved for a great bunch of gals.



Updated Dec. 19 at 2:07 p.m.

The warmest place in Edmonton right now may be the Rexall Place ice, since it's currently -13°F with snow showers. And how could I bring up that fact without linking to this old classic, which was shot at a time when the weather made today's conditions seem outright balmly.

"He may be trying to leave here because here it's November months and it's minus-32. Could you imagine??? It's eight months in a year snow ... it's like the North Pole."

Will I ever get sick of that? I say no.

Both the Ducks and Oilers do battle tonight trying to bounce back from recent ills. The Ducks are playing their first game since being dramatically outplayed Tuesday night at home, and they've dropped their last three on the road. Meanwhile, Edmonton is trying to recover from a 4-2 loss to Vancouver two nights ago, which was nothing compared to the 9-2 demolition at the hands of the Blackhawks the night before.

Jonas Hiller will be in net for the Ducks tonight with J.S. Giguere back in Montreal for his father's memorial service, and I'm expecting a big game out of Jo-Nasty. He was clearly not pleased with himself after that 3-1 loss to the Rangers and I'm guessing the focus will be ratcheted up even more with him tonight. It's hard to believe, but as good as "Jo-Nasty" has been, he's lost his last four games. And he lost the last time the Ducks faced the Oilers, 3-2 on Oct. 15 at Honda Center. Regardless, he's still third in the NHL in goals-against average.

The Ducks might be able to get something going on the power play tonight, something they haven't done very well so far this month. Teemu Selanne still leads the league by a mile with 13 power play goals, even though he hasn't scored one since Dec. 3. But the Oilers rank 29th in the league in penalty killing, with a 71.5% rate, and it's even worse at home, at 65.9%.

I hate to admit this, but that Edmonton win last October was the fourth in the last five meetings between the two teams. And the Ducks have lost 14 of their last 16 in Edmonton.

You can expect the heavy boos again every time Chris Pronger touches the puck tonight, as Oilers fans are still not over his unceremonious departure three offseasons seasons ago. In fact, Pronger told me several weeks ago that through his website (ChrisPronger.com) he still gets hate emails from angry Edmontonians.

But at least they won't be booing one of their own in Dustin Penner, who has shown dramatic improvement since being blasted by his own coach last month. Just to refresh your memory, these were Craig MacTavish's comments on Penner on Nov. 17.

"He's not competitive enough or fit enough to help us, so why put him back in? He's never been fit enough to help us," MacTavish told the Edmonton Sun. "We signed him to be a top-two line player and that's kind of where it ended. The difference was we thought the contract was a starting point, and he's viewed it as a finish line."

And ... "What we've seen is inconsistency, we need him to be a better player. You can't just continue to throw gratuitous ice time at a guy that is that inconsistent. Something's got to change."

And ... "It's been one thing after another. I can't watch it for - certainly not another two and-a-half years."

Well, MacTavish decided he actually could stand to watch it, and after he scratched Penner for two straight games (both Oilers losses, by the way), he put him back in the lineup. Since then? How about 11 points in 12 games, including three goals in his last five.

Guess he got the message.

It's actually MacTavish whose job is thought to be in jeopardy in Edmonton, as the Oilers continue to struggle, with a 14-14-2 record that has them 13th in the Western Conference. He did some tinkering this morning by moving Penner off the top line to the second line, where he'll play with Shawn Horcoff and Erik Cole.

If a loss to the Ducks costs MacTavish his job, it would be the second time the Ducks were coach-killers this season. A 4-1 loss to the Ducks on Nov. 30 was the last game for Peter Laviolette as the Carolina coach, as he was canned a few days later.
In other news, the best thing about Mats Sundin signing yesterday with the Vancouver Canucks is that we don't have to hear about it anymore. I frankly was shocked that after all the talk about finding the right fit and competing for a Stanley Cup, Sundin ended up going to the team who offered the most money. (In this case, it was $10 million for one season.) I believe that's the first time in the history of professional sports that has happened.

Toronto fans are no doubt annoyed that last year when the Leafs were on their way to missing the playoffs and looking to deal him for prospects and/or draft picks, he was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause. He said he didn't want to be a "rental player" and join a Cup contender in midseason.

Well, thank goodness he avoided that fate.

Sundin, who is training in Sweden right now, is expected to arrive in Vancouver in about a week and says he probably won't play in a game until early January. That means the Ducks won't see him when they play the Canucks on Monday, and they don't face Vancouver again until March 11.

In case you missed it, last night the San Jose Sharks hardly looked like the San Jose Sharks who hadn't suffered a regulation loss in 38 days, as they got smoked 6-0 in Detroit. Granted, it was the second of a back-to-back for San Jose, but still. I had written yesterday that I had wished there was a way both teams could lose that one, but I suppose having the Sharks look very mortal is a good consolation prize.

More from YouTube:
- Apparently Sid the Kid likes hitting guys in the ...
- The preparation of the ice for the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field has gotten off to a rough start.
- And finally, worst ... refereeing ... ever.



Updated Dec. 18 at 2:25 p.m.

Every year around this time, Ducks play-by-play guy John Ahlers goes prancing around the office handing out SuperLotto Plus tickets to assorted Ducks staffers. The drawing for the tickets he handed out earlier this week was last night, and I just went online to check the numbers.

The fact that I'm still writing can tell you how that went for me.

The Ducks had a very early practice this morning, then took off for the airport to begin their three-game trip through Western Canada. I would say they hopped on a bus, but this season the Ducks have switched to driving themselves to the airport. See, it's the little insights like those that give this blog such life.

I wasn't able to catch the practice this morning, but here was this report from the O.C. Register's Ducks blog, from writer Al Balderas:

The unusual practice time might have led to the team’s poor showing in passing drills. Midway through practice, coach Randy Carlyle stopped the drill, unleashed an expletive-filled tirade at his players and ordered them to undergo a several rounds of punishing skating drills.

“They were pretty lethargic, to put it mildly,” Carlyle said afterward. “From my perspective, it’s unacceptable. If they’re not going to be awake and attentive, we’ll find ways to make them awake and attentive.”

Yeesh.

With the Ducks not playing last night and few decent TV options for me, I was able to check out some other games around the NHL.

That included Columbus' miraculous 2-1 victory in overtime over the seemingly unbeatable San Jose Sharks, who entered the game  with a 25-3-2 record that was the best start through 30 games in NHL history. Columbus center R.J. Umberger (which sounds like a chain of make-your-own burger restaurants) scored the game-winner on a 2-on-1 in OT for the victory and had this to say afterward, "It was one of the best feelings of the year, so far. That's about as dramatic as it gets."

Hotshot 20-year-old rookie Steve Mason had 47 saves in the game, and to top it off, it was coach Ken "no, I don't look like Newt Gingrich" Hitchcock's 57th birthday. All that, and considering how hot San Jose has been, could we make a case that this game -- for a team that has never made the playoffs in its eight years of existence -- was the biggest win in Columbus Blue Jackets history? I say yes.

A later game I was very interested in was the Kings-Rangers game, to see how the Rangers fared one night after dismantling the Ducks at Honda Center. Once I got past the intermission distraction of the Kings announcers giggling for several minutes as they inexplicably showed Christmas baby pictures of Heidi Androl (we get it guys, she's attractive), I saw some pretty good hockey. The Kings did everything they could (including holding the Rangers to just three first period shots) before falling in overtime, as New York went to 10-1-1 in overtime and shootouts.

You've got to give credit to the Kings for this video they've put together to encourage fans to vote for All-Stars Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Great intent, abysmal acting. Notably from rookie Wayne Simmonds. Although, I will say former Duck Sean O'Donnell did some nice work (don't forget he was once married to an actress). I love the fact that when Simmonds approaches OD, he says, "Do I know you?" It does, however, concern me that Oscar Moller doesn't seem to know how to pronounce the name "Anze Kopitar." (It's "AHN-jay," by the way.) Maybe that's why they shipped him off to Sweden temporarily.

Ryan Getzlaf has pulled to within about 18,000 votes of Patrick Kane for the top spot among Western Conference forwards. Keep it goin', folks. Keep it goin'. To paraphrase Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks: "Again ... again ... again."

The NHL has provided something pretty cool in the run-up to the Winter Classic game on New Year's Day. A semi-live webcam is showing the tranformation of Wrigley Field from ballpark to hockey venue. Then again, after about 30 seconds ... not so fun anymore.

You may have noticed that Sharks veteran Jeremy Roenick is out for several weeks with a shoulder injury that was pretty much caused by Ducks rookie Brett Festerling in the game at San Jose last Thursday. I overheard someone in the Ducks locker room yesterday telling Festerling he was a "Roenick killer" after finding out Roenick would be out for 8 to 10 weeks after having surgery on the shoulder. Here's a photo of the hit at right.

The bad news about the injury is that it's giving plenty of time for Roenick to blog (or "journal") on his new website, Roenicklife.com. Here was his comment on the Festerling hit:

I don't know what the referees in this league are thinking of, they complain about injuries in the league yet time after time they continue to let hits from behind go even if they are smaller hits.  Fact of the matter is, if you can see his number, don't hit him, have a little respect. 

That shot at the officials (and in no small part, Festerling) was nothing compared to what Roenick wrote a day after Tuesday's surgery, while (if the included photo tells the tale) laid up in bed sipping Starbucks. Here was this beauty:

Is it just me or are the Ref's against San Jose this year?  It seems they are trying to bring us down so that the standings will be more competitive.  I know they have a hard job, and they do the best they can, but I am just amazed at the calls and lack of calls that have happened in some of the recent shark games. For example, Kings six power plays, Sharks one! Give me a break!  When it comes to Joe Thornton, he is mugged constantly game in and game out, with no penalties being called.  There could be ten penalties per game on infractions against Joe Thornton, but he never complains so I am doing it for him!  Players have to be better also, and show a little bit more respect for each other out there.

To answer your question, Jeremy: Yes, it's just you. Just in case you were wondering, only three teams in the NHL have had more power play opportunities than the Sharks this season. And, oh yeah, YOUR TEAM IS TWENTY-FIVE, THREE AND FREAKIN' THREE. Maybe tone down the whining a little bit?

The Sharks battle the Red Wings tonight in one of the more highly anticipated games of the season, as the top two teams in the Western Conference clash. Is it possible for both teams to lose the same game?

Last thing: One of our staffers is working on a story on mascots for our youth hockey publication Beyond the Boards, and had me track down this photo taken at last year's All-Star Game. I don't know why, but this thing just cracks me up. Maybe it's because I have this vision of all of these guys quickly changing out of their costumes after this photo was taken and getting hammered at the hotel bar.

Seriously, I need help.


Updated Dec. 17 at 5:29 p.m.

A few things that came in just before the end of the day:

The always-good Marcia Smith wrote a very nice piece on the holiday charitable efforts of both the Ducks and Angels, focusing much of it on the Ducks' visit to CHOC last week. The parts about J.S. Giguere's memories of being at CHOC in 2007 for his newborn son are some of the most compelling.

In the wake of the passing of Giguere's father Claude, Helene Elliott posted a story she wrote during the 2003 playoffs about Giguere's upbringing, that includes plenty about Claude.

And just so you don't think I'm getting overly sentimental, there was this item on the OCRegister.com Tustin crime log about an incident that took place within walking distance of my home:

A man, described as about 40 years old, spit on an employee at In-N-Out Burger and hit the employee with a black bag. The man was wearing an Anaheim Ducks hat and a beige striped shirt. He was gone when police arrived at the restaurant at 3020 El Camino Real.

Way to represent the team, my man.



Updated Dec. 17 at 12:53 p.m.

Strange things are afoot in Anaheim, California.

Not only was it raining for the second time in three days (first time that's happened since, I believe, 1933), but the rain nearly led to the destruction of the Honda Center's marquee that hangs over the 57 freeway. During the morning commute, a big-rig truck slid off the freeway and down an embankment, coming within a few feet of crashing into the marquee.

And all this came less than 12 hours after the Anaheim Ducks lost at Honda Center for the first time in almost a month, to an Eastern Conference team they hadn't seen there in two years. Not only that, it's a team that beat the Ducks with a guy named Lauri, another guy named Blair and got the game-winning goal from a guy named ... Nigel.

Okay, they are the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, but still.

To take it even further, that goal was one of three (out of three) that were unassisted for the New York Rangers last night (somebody check the last time that's happened in an NHL game) and made a guy who rarely looks bad ... look bad. Nigel Dawes gave the Rangers the lead for good when he intercepted a Kent Huskins pass in the Anaheim zone, made a slick pass-the-puck-to-himself move around Chris Pronger, and snuck the puck underneath Jonas Hiller with 3:16 left. (By the way, if you're a frequent clicker of the highlight links, tell me you're not kinda sick of the Salvation Army by now.)

And there's even more weirdness to last night's game: New York iced the game on a goal that wasn't truly a goal. With Hiller out of the net for an extra attacker, Pronger intentionally hooked Nikolai Zherdev from behind with Zherdev on his way to dumping the puck in the open net, giving the Rangers the automatic tally. And after the game, the happy-go-lucky Hiller, still stinging from letting the Dawes shot go through, slammed his pads down in the Ducks locker room in full view of reporters.

Despite the fact the game was tied 1-1 until that Dawes goal, it certainly wasn't a game the Ducks deserved to win. New York was solid throughout the night (starting with goalie Henrik Lundqvist) and the Ducks were mostly shaky, turning the puck over on several occasions. That included a rare one from Scott Niedermayer, who in the second period tried to send the puck up ice to Ryan Getzlaf (the same thing Huskins was trying to do on Dawes' goal), and it was picked off by Chris Drury. He drilled it home to give the Rangers their first lead.

“We turned the puck over far, far too many times in the middle of the ice,” Randy Carlyle said. “We played into their hands in too many situations. I understand turnovers are going to happen. You can’t play a game without turnovers. I just think we seemed to be just a little bit off on everything we tried to do as far as execution."

Hiller, who has looked so solid all season for the Ducks, wasn't his best in place of J.S. Giguere, who had just learned the day before that his father, Claude, passed away in Montreal after a lengthy illness. (Having a hot-playing Giguere on the bench just added to the abnormality of last night.) Hiller looked to be about a split second behind all night, even on pucks he stopped, and it almost seemed like a matter of time before he let one through. That came on the Dawes shot, as Hiller was in position to make the stop, but somehow let the puck seep behind him (and was clearly frustrated right afterward).

Giguere, meanwhile, is scheduled to leave the Ducks to attend memorial services for his father, meaning he'll miss the Friday game at Edmonton, the first of a five-game road trip for the Ducks. He is expected to rejoin the team in time for the Monday game at Vancouver, as the Ducks will bring up an as-yet-undetermined goalie from Iowa. (I don't think the Ducks will pull a Washington Capitals and turn to their web guy to backup Hiller.)

Meanwhile, the Ducks are showing their support any way they can. "Everybody did something at different times and told him, 'We’re here for you. Whatever you need,'" said Scott Niedermayer. “There’s not a lot you can do, but I think that was good for him."

The Ducks had today off, but they practice tomorrow morning before heading for Edmonton. Practice is scheduled for 8:30 in the morning. More weirdness.

Okay, on to something much more positive. I am absolutely beside myself this morning, since yesterday Ryan Getzlaf was in fifth place, 13,773 votes out of third place among Western Conference forwards in the All-Star Game voting (top three start the Game). And you might recall that I urged Ducks fans to get online or get on their phones and give him the votes he deserves. As a result, I'm misguidedly taking all of the credit for the fact that as I write this, Getzlaf has rocketed up the charts and is now in second place with 318,394 votes (he had around 285,000 at this time yesterday).

And as I was bouncing around the hallways this morning, practically straining a muscle in my shoulder to pat myself on the back, one of our more cynical staffers reminded me that, oh yeah, maybe Getzlaf's play deserves most of the credit. It's a good point, and it's all the more reason for Ducks fans to keep voting to ensure he doesn't drop from that second place perch.

Once again, Ducks fans can send a message to the rest of the NHL that when they have a guy deserving of a starting All-Star spot, they're going to vote him in. A year and a half off a Stanley Cup title, with one of the most consistently good franchises in the league the last four seasons and an attendance base that backs it up, no longer can Ducks fans settle for the label of being in a second-class hockey market. No longer can we stand to hear that Getzlaf was probably deserving, but he didn't get the support because he plays in Anaheim. It's time to continue to display the fan support the Ducks have in this relatively small way -- with the All-Star voting.

With the number of deserving All-Stars the Ducks have had the past several seasons, they haven't had a starter voted in since Paul Kariya in 2001. Granted, Getzlaf is getting into the game whether he's voted in as a starter or not. But it still would be pretty cool if Ducks fans pulled this off, right?

So, let's keep it going with Getzlaf. Keep going to Vote.NHL.com, keep texting "Getzlaf" or "Ducks" to 81812 and let's get him in the game.

Heck, let's set our goals even higher. Getzlaf is less than 30,000 votes behind Patrick Kane of Chicago for the top spot among Western Conference forwards. Getzlaf got at least that many votes yesterday, so let's get him that top spot. Kane, by the way, raced into the top spot over the last week, which is being credited to the renewed fan interest in Chicago for the Blackhawks. Well, you know what? We have some pretty passionate fans out there too, and they're been around for awhile now. So, let's show that by pushing Getzlaf past him.

And while you're at it, cast a few for the rest of the Ducks. That especially includes Giguere, who is far behind Roberto Luongo in second place, but holding on to that No. 2 spot makes him all the more likely to get selected (by the NHL's hockey ops department) to the Game for his first time in his career. (That's even more likely if Luongo is still injured for the Jan. 25 affair.)

Come on. Do it. Take the couple of minutes. Cast your votes.

I'm giddy.


Updated Dec. 16 at 12:47 p.m.

There's just a little more excitement in the air when the Ducks welcome a team like the Rangers to Honda Center, a team we don't see around here all that often. The Ducks last hosted the Blueshirts in November of 2006, but with the long overdue tweaks to the NHL schedule, the Ducks will actually play them twice this season (again on Jan. 20 at the Garden).

Tonight's game is the first of three on a California swing for the Rangers, who are coming off a 3-2 shootout victory over Carolina at home. (That game was playing on the TV in the Ducks locker room this morning, and Corey Perry stopped to watch intently during the segment of the game where the Rangers were defending a 5 on 3.) The night before that one, they gave up a whopping eight goals in an 8-5 loss to the Devils in Newark.

The Ducks will look to continue the success they've had against the Eastern Conference over the past two seasons. Even though they're a middling 4-3-0 this year against the East, last year they were 8-2-0. Meanwhile, the Ducks have gone 8-1-3 in the last 12 games against the Rangers and are 6-1-2 against them at home in the all-time series.

After the skate this morning, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said of the Rangers, "When you have 20 wins at this point in the season, it's not smoke and mirrors." But actually, that may not be entirely accurate. Eight of those 20 victories have come via the shootout, as the Rangers are 8-1 in the tie-breaking skills competition this season.

Carlyle obviously has due respect for the Rangers, as one of the many things he yelled at his team during yesterday's practice was this reminder: "We're playing the New York Rangers!"

In that last shootout victory over Carolina, the Rangers played under the watchful eye of a guy who could possibly be joining them soon. Mats Sundin, who was in New York for a promotion for a poker website, was in a suite for that game and is scheduled to meet with the team's front office suits about possibly joining the team. Reports indicate that Sundin is choosing between New York and Vancouver and will make a decision by Friday.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Markus Naslund said in a story in the New York Post. The story also said, "Naslund told Sundin on Saturday that he would not be subject to the same media or public scrutiny in New York as he would in a Canadian city."

Now there's one you don't hear every day.

You remember when you were in high school and you did poorly on a test, and your friend also didn't do too well, but he got a better grade than you? Remember how that bugged you? Yeah, that's how I felt as I was watching this last night.

As I write this, Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf is just 13,773 votes back of third place in the standings for Western Conference forwards for the All-Star Game. And the top three forwards will start the game. I know that voting at Vote.NHL.com isn't the easiest thing in the world, since you have to register before you vote and you have to type in a couple of words for security reasons (thank you very much, Canadiens fans). But it's literally a 30-second process. And you don't have to vote for every position, just the guys you feel like voting for (Getzlaf, Getzlaf, Getzlaf).

So what do you say, Ducks fans? Let's get him into the game. How cool would it be if we can send a message to the rest of the NHL by giving Getzlaf a voting surge late in the process and get him that starting spot? Remember, you can vote as often as you want online, and you can do the same by texting "Getzlaf" or "Ducks" (which gets every Duck on the ballot a vote) to the number 81812. If everyone in the arena tonight texted just one time, Getzlaf would pull into third place.

Seriously, let's do it. I don't ask you for a lot, do I? Let's make it happen.

I'll end on a personal note, in the spirit of the holiday season. My sister sent out an email this morning that read in part like this (my niece's name is Samantha and my nephew's name is Brady):

Last year, Samantha was terrified of Santa Claus. We took her to see him twice, but she was not happy with the scary man sporting the bushy white beard. We ended up taking a picture of Samantha sitting in Santa’s chair alone while Santa peeked around the corner.

So, this year I was determined to make things different. I was going to get that perfect photo of Brady and Samantha sitting on Santa’s lap and smiling. I talked to her about how nice Santa was and how he was going to bring her presents this year. Samantha began to point out all of the Santa things that she saw decorating our home. She talked about Christmas and Santa Claus incessantly.

Finally the big night came. I dressed Samantha and Brady up in their Christmas outfits and we all headed to the mall. We talked about Santa Claus on the car ride there and then Samantha told me that she couldn’t wait to see him. We kept talking about how exciting it was to see Santa Claus, and then it was our turn to take the picture. Brady went to go sit on our big, jolly friend’s lap first and was all smiles. Then it was time to hand over our angel Samantha.

Here's the photo


Updated Dec. 15 at 2:21 p.m.

There was a moment in last night's 4-2 win over the visiting Wild that came just a few minutes after Minnesota had tied the game 2-2 early in the second period. The Wild continued to control the puck in the Anaheim zone and threw several shots at J.S. Giguere. It was during one particular scramble around the net that I had this thought pop into my head for the first time all night:

Wow. We could actually be trailing in this game.

The fact that a thought like that came as such a surprise is a tribute to the domination these Anaheim Ducks have displayed at Honda Center over the past three seasons. We've had the luxury of knowing that when the Ducks play an inferior (or in this case, struggling) team at home, they're probably going to win. And it's something we didn't realize we were taking for granted until the team struggled at home in the early going this year. But thanks to the poise the Ducks showed last night when they lost their early lead, they won their fifth straight at home last night and they've now picked up points in seven of their last eight in Anaheim.

Meanwhile, the Ducks were able to be a part of Minnesota Wild history last night. The loss was the fifth in a row in regulation for the Wild, the first time in their franchise history that has ever happened. Granted, they didn't enter the league until 2000, but that's a testament to the consistent winning ways that organization has enjoyed. That being said, I'm glad the Ducks could help give them a  taste of what every other franchise in this league has felt from time to time.

You could find some added satisfaction in three of the Ducks' four goals last night, which came from Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Brendan Morrison and Bobby Ryan. For Getzlaf, heck, it's just yet another of his many goals/points this season, but for the other three it meant a little bit more. For Perry, it was surprisingly his first goal in the last nine games (the last coming Nov. 22), a string of 27 straight shots that didn't tickle the twine. “I was still getting chances,” Perry said. “It just hasn’t gone in the net. You shoot a lot of pucks, they just don’t go in.”

And this one might have been the prettiest goal the Ducks have had all season, as Perry and Chris Kunitz played a little give-and-go before Kunitz gave the puck back to Perry, who chipped it into the open half of the net. I love the response of the Minnesota play-by-play guy, who simply says, "Whoa" and goes silent for the next three seconds.

For Morrison, it was a continued sign he may be crawling back from the horrors of the first third of the season, as he scored his second game-winner in the last three games. But much of the credit for the goal goes to Todd Marchant, who gave Morrison a gorgeous leading pass and Morrison repaid the favor with a pretty one-handed redirect.

And then there's Bobby Ryan, for whom every goal is a feel-good moment considering he was forced to spend the early part of this season where he didn't belong, in Iowa. Ryan got spun around by a check from Kim Johnsson, who then tried to send the puck up the middle, only to see it intercepted by George Parros. Then Parros quickly gave his linemate a feed across the crease, and Ryan deposited it netbound. Even better than the goal is the celebration afterward, as Ryan practically throws Parros into the glass to give him some love. I watched our goals on my DVR when I got home last night and rewound that celebration about three or four times, since I got such a kick out of it. 

The third period hardly had the fireworks of the first two, but it was a textbook display of holding on to the lead by the Ducks, helped in part by Giguere, who quietly is playing his rear off lately. I actually did a double-take when I saw this last night, but in the midst of dealing with his father's illness, Giguere has posted these numbers in his last five games: 4-0-0 record, 1.93 goals-against average , .942 save percentage.

I've grown into a pretty big Jonas Hiller fan lately, but there's nothing to say he should be in there right now with the way Giguere is looking. (Though he'll probably be in there next week when the Ducks play back-to-back at Vancouver and Calgary.)

Last night's game was the first in the post-Brian-Sutherby era for the Ducks, after Sutherby was traded to the Dallas Stars over the weekend for collegian David McIntyre and a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft. Time will tell if McIntyre, a promising center at Colgate (Andy McDonald's alma mater) pans out for the Ducks, but for the time being the move does create the salary cap space of Sutherby's $700,000 contract. And Sutherby, who had missed the last 10 games with a groin injury became expendable with the way fourth-liners Ryan, Parros and Ryan Carter have been looking, which has caused even Brad May to not get on the ice.

“Cap space,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said about his motivation for the trade. “There’s no sense sugar-coating it. We’re getting some room to maneuver.”

"No sense sugar-coating it." Maybe Murray is more like Burkie than we thought. The move gives the Ducks about $1.1 million worth of space, and helps with the logjam of forwards the Ducks have had since opening day. “Brian played hard for us,” Murray said. “We just had too many players. We’ve had too many players here since Day One this season.”

The downside? Apparently Murray didn't consider the fact that there is a Brian Sutherby feature in the current issue of Ducks Digest, which is scheduled to run the next several games. Just like Burkie, he refuses to consult with me on trades.

By the way, can you name the only Ducks player to never have a "minus" in the plus/minus category in a game this season? That's right, it's George Parros.

A reader named Wally sent me some YouTube clips over the weekend, and I can't believe I never saw this until now. Apparently Travis Moen appeared on a Canadian TV series called "Corner Gas" (along with the Stanley Cup) that aired last April. And I'll just say this: Travis Moen is a very talented hockey player and one of the nicest, most humble guys you'd ever want to meet. As an actor? Beyond horrendous. Take a look at this clip to see for yourself. (There is also this one and this one where he has bit parts.)

I'd love to meet the guy who wrote the scene in the diner for Moen, in which he's about to leave the place before the waitress says, "Oh wait, you forgot your cup" and Moen replies, with the raw emotion of a department store mannequin, "Actually, I'm wearing it. You can never be too careful." She then blushes and says, "Not that cup, the other Cup" and the shot reveals the Stanley Cup sitting on the counter.

It gets even better when a little kid skips into the diner and asks Moen if he can sit in the Cup, to which Moen politely tells him no. So what does the kid do? Without saying a word, he kicks Moen in the groin and it's apparent Moen actually is wearing an athletic supporter. Then he turns back to the waitress for this priceless line: "See, you can never be too careful."

And ... scene. That fades right into the show's opening theme in which we see something even funnier: that one of the actors on the show is actually named Brett Butt.

I'm telling you, you can't buy this kind of humor.

In a shocking development out of Dallas, the Stars have announced that Sean Avery's days with the team are over, one day after he was due to come back from his six-game suspension. They haven't yet quite figured out how they're getting rid of him (minor league assignment, trade, contract buyout, etc.), but he's sent packing after playing just 23 games in what was supposed to be a four-year stint in Dallas. But let's make this clear: Sean Avery was not dropped by the team for the "sloppy seconds" remarks alone. He had worn out his welcome in record time with that team long before that incident, and by the time he made that stupid move, the Stars were pretty much looking for a way to get rid of him. In the end, he made the decision easy for them.

Said Stars GM Brett Hull, "There was no issue with him on the ice any more than there was with anyone else on our team. It was the off-ice stuff that really was the problem. We brought him in as a hockey player and he obviously didn't understand that besides being a hockey player there's a code of conduct that not only the NHL but the Dallas Stars have in place. He was unable to follow that."

Hull went on to say, "And by the way, what the hell was I thinking when I signed him to a four-year, $15 million deal last summer?"

Okay, I made that last part up.

If you get your hockey news only in this blog (and God help you if you do), you haven't yet seen this interesting story from the Washington Capitals, who dressed one of their website producers, Brett Leonhardt as a backup goalie for their game against Ottawa last Friday. (If you click the link, make sure to watch the video too. It's some good stuff.) I'm a few days late referencing this story, but since I got so many "Brady, when are you going to suit up?" emails over the weekend, I felt obligated. The only difference is, unlike me, Leonhardt has actually played some hockey. He was a pretty solid goalie for two years at SUNY Oswego in New York and two years for Neumann College near Philadelphia.

Leonhardt, who has practiced with the team in the past, was signed to an amateur contract and suited up when Jose Theodore went down with a hip flexor injury during the morning skate and callup Simeon Varlamov couldn't get to the arena before the game. He eventually arrived after the first period, bringing Leonhardt's NHL stint to a close. And he was right back to doing his typical game night duties of producing video for the team site. "I had to do my job after that," Leonhardt said. "I didn't get the night off."

I can relate.

Speaking of that, you'll have to excuse the lateness of today's blog, but for those of you not in Southern California right now, it's been pouring rain for most of the morning. And as people in SoCal know, everything slows down around here when it rains. In fact, on my drive in this morning, traffic had slowed to a crawl on the 5 freeway and I expected to approach a serious accident somewhere along the way (since people down here have no idea how to drive in the rain). Then I and the rest of the drivers next to me drove through a dip in the freeway that had caused water to pool several inches deep, and even though we were all going about 10 mph, the water splashed up on the sides of our cars. Seconds after getting through that, the traffic sped up again. So, to review, a large puddle caused a major slowdown on the 5 this morning.

God bless you, Orange County.


Updated Dec. 12 at 10:14 a.m.

When it's all said and done, the Ducks never really had a chance last night.

They were facing a San Jose team that not only rarely loses these days, but never loses at home and it certainly doesn't lose to a team playing its second game in as many nights. And if you watched the game last night, you can kind of see why. Despite the fact the Ducks outshot the Sharks by a somewhat misleading 31-27, Anaheim saw very few legitimate scoring chances. The Sharks defense and forecheck made sure the puck never stayed on an Anaheim stick more than a split second at a time, and you had to come away convinced these guys are the class of the league right now.

It's true, the Ducks might have given the Sharks a better run for its money under better circumstances than what they faced last night -- schleping to San Jose on the morning of the game. And the Sharks don't give teams playing them in the second of a back-to-back much of a break, as they're now 5-0-1 in those situations. On top of all that, San Jose had been sitting back waiting for this one since their last game, on Saturday. (Thank you again, NHL schedule makers.)

“You can use that as an excuse, but we’re not about excuses,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We have to play harder. I don’t think we really got involved in the game emotionally until halfway through.”

Indeed, the Ducks did seem to get better as the game went on, as they followed a four-shot first period with 27 over the final two. But only a handful of those shots gave Evgeni Nabokov any kind of trouble, notably the play in the closing seconds of the second period, when Nabokov denied Chris Pronger twice. Pronger tried to force the issue at the end of the session by carrying the puck into the attacking zone himself and taking two shots that Nabokov made great stops on. If Pronger finds the net there, we might have had a different game altogether. Meanwhile, on a rush with a minute and a half left in the game, Bobby Ryan made a pass to Corey Perry when he probably should have taken the shot. Nevertheless, it was a nice feed that Perry redirected, only to see Nabokov make a sprawling stop. If that one goes, and the Ducks empty the net over the final 90 seconds ...

Then again, if "ifs" and "buts" were ... I don't know, something about a Merry Christmas.

“It wasn’t a bad game for us,” Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer said. “You need to score to win, but it was a good game — not great, but good.”

Of course, you'd see a quote like that from Niedermayer after a 5-2 victory, let alone a 2-0 loss.

Niedermayer hardly looked like himself when he became heavily involved in a scrap with 20.4 seconds left in the game that sprung from the classy move of Rob Blake spearing Corey Perry in the ... um ... Perrys. Now at least we know what makes the mild-mannered Niedermayer angry. You mess with his teammate's future ability to father children, and he's gonna tussle.

“I just wanted to make sure they got the right call,” Niedermayer said.

Niedermayer got into it with Sharks winger Milan Michalek during the fracas and each received 10-minute misconducts. I'm guessing that might be the only one of the year for Niedermayer.

"We're playing each other a lot, and I guess we don't like each other too much," said Nabokov. "It's kind of a rivalry. We obviously want what they had, and that's the Stanley Cup."

I do enjoy the occasional reminder that the Ducks have a Cup and the Sharks don't. 

Last night's action makes you want to see these two teams clash again soon, only they won't for another THREE MONTHS (thank you again, NHL schedule makers). Tragically, the Ducks and Sharks don't face each other again until March 15 at Honda Center. But on the bright side, that's one of three matchups over the last month of the season -- including back-to-back home-and-homes on April 4 and 5 when the Ducks are hopefully (hopefully) challenging San Jose for a division title.

Okay, that may be far-fetched considering the Ducks now trail the Sharks by a staggering 13 points in the standings this morning. But we're still in December and this Sharks team has to level off sometime.

Don't they?

Or do we have to wait until the second round of the playoffs for them to start losing?



Updated Dec. 11 at 12:48 p.m.

There's an unwritten rule that frowns on cheering in the press box, but I couldn't help but pump my fist a little bit along with Brendan Morrison when he scored that huge goal late in the game last night to beat the visiting Blues. For someone who has had a rough first third of the season, and has remained one of the friendlier guys in the Ducks locker room, it could hardly have come at a better time to a better guy.

After a couple of swipes at the puck, Morrison chipped in the eventual game-winner with 2:37 left that gave the Ducks the lead, and Chris Kunitz sealed the deal with an empty-netter with 3.7 seconds on the clock. You can't see it on the normal website highlights, but fast-forward to the 2:18 mark on Ducks TV and you can catch Morrison give a little fist-pump that seemed to exemplify relief and satisfaction for a guy who has had his troubles producing this season.

“The first part of the year has been very frustrating," said Morrison, who is still feeling the effects of offseason knee surgery." I’m not going to say it’s a total write-off, but a lot of thinking goes into this kind of start."

Even the start of this particular game was a microscosm of Morrison's early season, as there were a couple of instances where Teemu Selanne (who was phenomenal all night) gave him some prime feeds in front of the net and Morrison couldn't convert. Not not long before Morrison finally did find the net, he tried to pounce on a loose puck with some room in front of the St. Louis net, only to have it swiped away by Selanne himself.

"I was like, 'Ah, man, that's the way things are going,'" Morrison said.

No one has been tougher on Morrison during this start than Morrison (well, unless you don't count the people on the Ducks message boards) and it was gratifying to see him not only get a rare goal, but one that mattered. Whether it's a sign of a turnaround for him remains to be seen, but it certainly is a good thing for the Ducks if he, Selanne and Marchant continue to produce on that second line like they did last night, combining for 14 shots on goal.

“It couldn’t happen to a better guy that could use it,” Marchant said of Morrison's goal. “He was brought in here to bolster a second line. Unless you’ve been through the surgery, been through that process, none of us can say how hard it is. Hopefully, not only for him, but for us as a line and as a team, that will boost some confidence for everybody.”

Morrison couldn't wipe the grin off his face as he came to the Ducks bench for fist bumps after scoring the goal, and that contentment carried over after the game. "I’m planning on having a good second half," Morrison said. "My leg’s been feeling much better here the last couple weeks. If I have a good finish, no one will really remember the start.”

In Vancouver, they might have. Here? They'll love you if you finish strong.

Morrison's breakthrough was hardly the only positive for the Ducks out of a wildly entertaining game. "Wednesday night against St. Louis" is akin to "a Tuesday game with Columbus" when it comes to the go-to example around here for games that are tough to sell. But those who skipped this one last night missed a beauty.

That fourth line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Carter and George Parros produced again, as all three made their marks on the first Ducks goal of the game. On the rush, Ryan shot the puck through Carter and Blues Jay McKee and it bounced hard off goalie Manny Legace's blocker to Parros, who punched in the rebound for his career-best third goal of the year. Then Carter accidentally put Legace out of the game when he tried to avoid the goalie as he skated by him, but his knee hit Legace in the head and knocked the mask off.

After watching the replay of the incident a number of times, it's clear Carter had no intention of running into Legace. Plus, Ryan Carter's not exactly the kind of guy to do something like that. Corey Perry, on the other hand...

“I didn’t even know that I touched him until the replay,” Carter said. “I tried to jump over his stick and when I jumped is when I hit him. It’s unfortunate.”

Regardless, Legace had some comments after the game that indicated he didn't exactly think it was an accident (which is just absurd). And the Blues are listing him a day-to-day with an "upper body injury." Hey guys, we all saw him get kneed in the side of the head and he was helped off the ice looking like he'd had about 14 shots of Patron. I think it's okay to disclose that it's a head injury.

Probably as a carryover from the shot to the head, Carter was involved in his second fight in as many games, as Yan Statsny took him on in the second period. Carter gave Stastny a few good jabs with the left while simultaneously holding Stastny's jersey (which was pretty impressive). Then after Stastny was able to wrestle Carter to the ice, he gave Carter a cheap shot to the back of the head. To Carter's credit, he popped back up and socked Stastny with a straight right to the mug. Carter even acknowledged the fight was probably in response to the Legace incident.

“I think it was, yeah,” he said. “If they thought it was intentional, even if it wasn’t, they thought they had to do something about it.”

Steve Montador apparently took exception to the late head shot and went at it with B.J. Crombeen right off the ensuing faceoff, and Montador made sure to give Crombeen a couple of late shots to the head after they both tumbled to the sheet. For whatever reason, Montador headed to the locker room after the fight instead of the box, and as he went by the bench, Parros gave him a huge smile and a tap on the head.

(By the way, after I predicted yesterday Crombeen wouldn't have a second straight hat trick, you think I wasn't sweating when he scored in the first period?)

After the game Selanne sounded like a million other hockey fans when he said, "I love the fighting. I wish I could fight too. Old guys don't do that."

Although, he hardly looked like an old guy last night, as he was flying around the rink the entire game, outskating St. Louis defenseman several years his junior. It's so easy to take for granted the fact that this guy is 38 years old. And he made Morrison's goal happen by getting the puck in front from behind the net.

Yet another bright spot for the Ducks was the way they responded when St. Louis tied the game on a Brad Boyes slap shot on the power play with 7:07 left. From that point, the Ducks reeled off the next eight shots in a row, highlighted by Morrison's goal. "That's the sign of a good team," said J.S. Giguere, who looked solid in net for most of the contest. "You don't panic."

Though he probably won't be in net, Giguere also looked ahead to tonight's game at San Jose, saying "this is a test to see where we are as a team." It's enough of a challenge that the Ducks are going up against the Sharks, who have equalled the best 27-game start in league history with 46 points. They haven't lost in regulation at home yet this year, though they showed some mortality by falling in overtime to the Oilers last Saturday. They've still earned at least a point in 25 straight home games dating back to last season.

To give the Ducks an even higher hill to climb, they didn't head to San Jose after the game last night, as they would traditionally do. Instead they flew out this morning, and arrived in San Jose at around 10 a.m. Because of airport curfews in Orange County and San Jose, they would have had to fly out of L.A. and arrive in Oakland if they'd gone last night, requiring hour-long bus rides on both ends. As it is, they won't have a pregame skate in San Jose, but will just meet and get some rest before the 7:30 p.m. puck drop.

It would be nice to face the Sharks under more ideal conditions, but nevertheless, this is a game I've been looking forward to for awhile. And it's yet another chance to guage where the Ducks stand at this point in the season. And it's the last chance to make a dent in San Jose for awhile, as the two division rivals unfortunately don't play again after tonight until March 15 (thanks a lot once again, NHL schedule).

"The time has come," Giguere said, "where we have to play like an elite team."

We'll see just how elite they might be tonight.

Last thing: I'm hesitant to make fun of our AHL affiliate, the Iowa Chops, but I finally couldn't resist when I learned recently that after an online fan poll, they have named their ice girls the Baby Backs. Never again can any of these girls use the line, "What am I to you, a piece of meat?" In retrospect, Baby Backs is probably the best option among the choices fans were given to vote on: Ice Girls, Bacon Bits, Chops Chix, Hat Tricks, Applesauce and Chopettes. And I of course have my opinions on each.

Ice Girls: Too boring, especially for a team that already calls itself the Chops.
Bacon Bits: Too fattening.
Chops Chix: I've never been a big fan of intentional misspelling. Why Chix instead of Chicks? Looks too much like Corn Chex.
Hat Tricks: I don't think it's a good idea to name a group of girls in scanty attire anything with the word, "Tricks" in it.
Applesauce: Seriously? Because pork chops are dipped in applesauce or applesauce is spread over pork chops? Really, guys?
Chopettes: Too obvious.

Baby Backs it is! Now good luck getting that "I want my baby back, baby back..." song from the Chili's commercials out of your head the rest of the afternoon.

You're welcome.



Updated Dec. 10 at 12:54 p.m.

For a team not in the division, it sure seems like the Ducks have played the Blues a lot this season. Tonight is already the third meeting between the teams, and we're just barely past the one-third mark of the campaign. In comparison, the Ducks have faced Pacific rivals Dallas and San Jose just twice (although the third meeting with the Sharks is tomorrow night) and Phoenix just once.

But here we go again with St. Louis tonight, and it's not even as fun a St. Louis team as we saw last time at Honda Center. Former Ducks Andy McDonald and Paul Kariya are both out of action with injuries, but that hasn't kept the Blues from playing some decent hockey as of late. (By the way, do you ever hear anyone use the term "as of late" in everyday conversation? You only hear it from sports writers and commentators, don't you? If someone told you, "You know, I've been feeling under the weather as of late" you'd probably want to punch them. The English language never ceases to amaze me.)

Anyway, the Blues took down Phoenix at home last Saturday and walloped the Predators (are they still in the league?), 6-3 two nights ago. Rookie B.J. Crombeen had his first career hat trick in that game. You may recall -- though you probably don't -- that Crombeen made his Blues debut Nov. 21 at Honda Center, after he was let go by the Stars via waivers. Think Dallas wants him back now? I don't know, maybe in exchange for a certain loose-cannon winger with a taste for high fashion?

And don't forget, the Blues spoiled a last-second regulation goal by Scott Niedermayer in St. Louis on Nov. 21 by getting the game-winner from Lee Stempniak in overtime. There are two things I guarantee about tonight's game: 1. Crombeen will not be getting a second consecutive hat trick; and 2. Stempniak will not score a goal for the Blues. I feel slightly more confident about the second one, since three days after beating the Ducks, he was traded to Toronto.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I've never really known where the Blues got their nickname, and here's what I found: The Blues are named after a famous song by the same name written by a composer named W.C. Handy. The song has become a jazz staple performed by many of the years. According to Wikipedia, Though the name of the song may imply that it is about events in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, it instead refers to a sophisticated woman from that city who has stolen the affection of the singer's lover.

I guarantee you, ask every last member of the current Blues team and they won't know that.

Reading further about their history, I'm reminded the Blues were one of the five teams to join the NHL during the 1967 expansion, and they along with the Kings and the defunct California Seals are the three teams from that expansion year not to have won a Stanley Cup. (Although, I think the California Seals have as good a chance to break that curse in our lifetime as the Kings do.)

Just to get even further off the topic, the California Seals have an interesting history that shows you how much the NHL has changed. After nine miserable seasons in the Bay Area, they were moved to Cleveland and renamed the Barons. After two more bad years, they merged with another struggling team, the Minnesota North Stars, who were also founded the same year as the Seals. Of course, the North Stars ended up moving to Dallas after the 1993 season and became the Dallas Stars.

And, of course, the Dallas Stars right now ... are in last place. Interesting how it all comes around ... or, I guess, doesn't come around at all.

Let's get back to tonight's game, for which injured vet Brad May was on the ice during the morning skate after re-injuring his testy knee yesterday. And although Randy Carlyle indicated May is very close to being ready to go, it's unlikely he'll get in there tonight after the stellar fourth-line play of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Carter and George Parros on Sunday night.

“It’s not like I’m looking to create any controversy,” Carlyle said. “When that line goes out and has two goals, three assists and two fights, makes a contribution, I’m not going to break them up.”

Jean-Sebastien Giguere will probably be in net again tonight, though he has admitted to being somewhat distracted by the grave illness of his father, Claude. Sunday was the second start for Giguere since going back to Montreal to visit his father, and though he looked solid for the most part against Columbus, he was a bit shaky on those two quick goals in the third period that suddenly made it a game again.

“It hasn’t been easy in any way,” Giguere told reporters. “Life continues. I know for a fact that my dad wants me to be successful at work. Whenever I play he asks about me. It’s the least I can do for him when I come to the rink.”

Well said, as usual.

Much appreciated, hockey writer Scott Burnside, for mentioning Ryan Getzlaf as your "Stock Up" guy in your recent ESPN.com column. However, I do have to quibble a bit with your reasoning: Ryan Getzlaf has recorded at least one point in all but two matches. He single-handedly dispatched Columbus on Sunday with a hat trick and is fourth in NHL scoring with 34 points.

Well, one of those things was correct. Getzlaf has actually been held scoreless in seven games (don't forget that brutal stretch to start the year). And he only had two goals in that Columbus game. Although, I can understand it might be confusing since Bobby Ryan and Ryan Carter also had goals. (Thanks to reader Brett for sending this.)

One last thing I have been asked to add: As he was trying to leave Honda Center after the skate today, Bobby Ryan mentioned to me that Brett Festerling's mom reads this blog. So Bobby wanted to send this message: "Tell her I'm tired of waiting around for him to finish his hair and makeup."

You got it.


Updated Dec. 9 at 2:13 p.m.

There's been a bit of talk lately about this new Malcolm Gladwell book called "Outliers" and there is a good portion of the book dedicated to hockey. Mind you, I haven't read the book (I think the last book I read was Sports Illustrated) but I've become familiar with the interesting pattern Gladwell has discovered regarding Canadian hockey players and their dates of birth. Here's how he explained it in a recent interview:

In Canada, the eligibility cutoff for age-class hockey programs is Jan. 1. Canada also takes hockey really seriously, so coaches start streaming the best hockey players into elite programs, where they practice more and play more games and get better coaching, as early as 8 or 9. But who tends to be the "best" player at age 8 or 9? The oldest, of course -- the kids born nearest the cut-off date, who can be as much as almost a year older than kids born at the other end of the cut-off date. When you are 8 years old, 10 or 11 extra months of maturity means a lot.

So those kids get special attention. That's why there are more players in the NHL born in January and February and March than any other months.

It's true that a disproportionate number of NHL players were born in the first three months of the calendar year. In fact, ESPN.com did a quick study of all NHL players from this season who were born from 1980 to 1990. They found that an average of just under 53 players were born in January, February or March, while a little more than an average of 39 were born in each of the other nine months of the year.

So naturally, I did a quick scan of the current Ducks roster to see if they were consistent with this trend. You know what I found? Of the 25 players on the roster (including guys on injured reserve), just five were born in the first three months: Brett Festerling, Nathan McIver, Brian Sutherby, Bobby Ryan and Jonas Hiller (and those last two aren't Canadian).

So much for that theory.

I'd be remiss if I didn't include a Sean Avery update, and word has it the Stars brass are meeting tomorrow to talk about what to do with him. The official wording is that they're going to talk about "the Avery situation," but I have a vision of a big greaseboard in the conference room with the words "HOW CAN WE GET RID OF THIS IDIOT?" scrawled on it.

Owner Tom Hicks was asked if Avery has played his last game in Dallas and he replied, "I'm not prepared to say that yet because I want to give our guys the respect they deserve to make the recommendations. But certainly when (coach) Dave Tippett comes out and stakes his claim, it's pretty hard to overcome that. So I think we'll want to look at everything from what's right for Sean -- not as a hockey player. He's a troubled young man. I think that's going to be our first priority is what can we do to help him away from hockey. We've got a team of guys doing all that and I'll deal with that , too."

Translation: "We'd be glad to send some guys over and help him pack."

SI.com has taken a cue from the Avery story and compiled a surprisingly well-packed photo gallery of NHL celebrity couples. There are a couple of Ducks and former Ducks in there, including Bret Hedican with Kristi Yamaguchi, Sergei Fedorov with Anna Kournikova and Sean O'Donnell with Allison Dunbar. I had forgotten about OD's marriage to Dunbar, an actress best known for ... actually, I really don't know what she's best known for. I do know that O'Donnell met her while he was with the Kings and they were married until 2005. (You've got to love the picture they use of him for this thing, where he's not only in a Boston Bruins uni, but he looks like he rolled out of bed three minutes before they snapped the shot.) How about Wojtek Wolski with Ashley Leggat? I only have one question about that pairing: Who's Ashley Leggat? Is it bad that I've heard of Wojtek Wolski, but not her?

Also on SI.com, Sarah Kwak has a story on the NHL teams sporting third jerseys this season and notes that seven of the 19 third jerseys are black. Among her commentary on past third jerseys disasters is this: Then there was the Mighty Ducks' inaugural third. As if their logo wasn't hokey enough (they were a living, breathing Disney movie poster), their first alternate jersey featured a hockey-playing cartoon duck, arms up, leaping into the air. It was a look that made you laugh, before feeling really sorry for the guys who had to wear them. But hey, I hear they've become a rather pricey collector's item.

Along with the story, they also have a photo gallery ranking the third jerseys, with the baby blue Penguins shirt introduced during last year's Winter Classic taking the top spot. The Kings' snoozer is ranked 16th out of the 19 with this comment: Another third jersey, another boring black sweater. At least this third doesn't have "Los Angeles" across the crotch.

Meanwhile, another Anaheim enemy, the Stars, gets its boring white third jersey ranked last with this dig: You'd think a team with Vogue intern Sean Avery on it would be a little more stylish. But not only does this boring jersey bring absolutely nothing new or interesting to the table, it's white. Who makes their third jersey for road games? Maybe it's just a fashion statement about what's been going on in Dallas of late.

Let's end with something a little more positive. We've got some great photos of the Ducks' visit yesterday to CHOC hospital if you haven't seen them yet. If you can't get enough of those, the OC Register posted some great ones as well. My personal favorite? This one with the missing-teeth twins.



Updated Dec. 8 at 11:48 a.m.

Here's one thing we learned last night:

Forget trying to beat the traffic. You probably don't want to leave this place early.

If you were at Honda Center last night, you were well within your rights to feel comfortable heading to the parking lot with the Ducks ahead of Columbus 4-1 and less than three minutes remaining in the game. Heck, even this moron wrote "it's 4-1 Ducks and this bad boy is over" in his running game log after Bobby Ryan pushed in a goal  with 5:31 left. And just like that, the Ducks gave up two goals in a span of 1:19 and suddenly they were clinging to a one-goal lead.

But just eleven seconds after that last Jackets goal, Rob Niedermayer scooped up the puck when former Ducks farmhand Clay Wilson fell down (ice is slippery, remember) and Niedermayer flicked a quick wrister past Pascal Leclaire. And those fans who a few minutes earlier had done a u-turn in the tunnel to peak back in at the ice, could finally turn around again and head to the exits.

The precarious last few minutes shouldn't overshadow what was mostly a fine effort for the Ducks. Ryan Getzlaf continued to show why he's suddenly one of the best players in the league (no matter what the All-Star voting says) with two goals. His second one, which came late in the second, was the 3,000th regular season goal in franchise history. Though Getzlaf could be excused when he had a look of bewilderment on his face when Kent French told him that on the air after the game. Someone watching on TV emailed me to say, "it would seem like Kent had just told Ryan that he was gonna be a dad."

I'm probably the only person on the planet (except maybe some scouts) who saw the Blue Jackets play at STAPLES Center on Saturday night (long story) and again at Honda Center the next night. By the way, having to watch the Jackets on consecutive nights is actually a punishment for some crimes in Ohio. Let's just say after watching the Jackets get shut out by the Kings (with Jason LaBarbera in net, no less) after the Kings got off 18 shots all night, I felt pretty good about the Ducks' chances.

The most pleasant surprise of the night came from the fourth line of Ryan, George Parros and Ryan Carter, who combined for five points. And you have reason to feel good for each of the three. George, just because he's George. Carter, because he's such a good kid who's been an occasional healthy scratch (and also because he called me "Mr. Brady" at Friday night's Dux in Tux). And Ryan, because he was benched during the last half of the second and all of the third in Wednesday night's loss at Chicago. I'd personally still like to see Bobby on that top line with Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but as long as he's actually on the ice, we're fine. "It's a different role and you embrace it," Ryan said. "All they want me to do is bring energy. If we put a couple like we did tonight that's fine."

Ryan's second-chance goal late in the third (which should have been the nail in the proverbial coffin) wasn't nearly as impressive as his odd-man-rush feed to a charging Carter that gave Carter the open-net goal of his lifetime. (Props to the NHL for editing that highlight clip to the point where you can hear rinkside reporter Kent French saying, "All you have to do is go to AnaheimDucks.com" at the beginning.)

Meanwhile, Carter was involved in one of the more intriguing and then cringe-inducing moments of the night, his fight with Ole-Kristian Tollefsen in the beginning of the third. Out of a rumble at center ice involving all 10 skaters came Carter and Tollefsen with the gloves off, and after a few mostly innocent punches, Carter put his hand in Tollefsen's face and dragged him hard to the ice. Tollefsen fell so awkwardly, he smacked the back of his head on the ice. Tollefsen was pretty shaky as he was helped off the ice, but was okay enough after the game to say, "I was just woozy." 

Still, it was hard to watch, and nothing illustrates that more clearly than the look on Parros' face in this photo.

Parros had a different look on his face when he heard he was one of the three stars of the game, something he estimated hadn't happened since his minor league days. "It’s been awhile," he said afterward. "I had to ask Getzy to make sure I knew what to do."

Parros definitely knew what to do when he got into a first period fight with Columbus bully Jared Boll.“He was getting up in Pronger’s face,” Parros said. “We don’t take kindly to that.”

But for whatever reason, Boll wasn't into it the first time Parros challenged him. “I made it a point to let everybody know I was asking him to fight,” Parros said. “If he didn’t want to, I was prepared to skate away, which I did. We finished the play, and then he came back in my face. If he’s going to go around and play the role, I’m going to make sure he has a willing combatant.”

Seriously, how do you not love that guy?



Updated Dec. 5 at 3:03 p.m.

If you're a Ducks player, you're probably rarely looking forward to practice. But you're really dreading it when you had the day before off.

Like clockwork, the Ducks again followed an off day with a grueling workout at Anaheim Ice, as they underwent two sessions (separated in the middle by an ice cleaning) for what we think was the first time since training camp. It probably also didn't help that the team is coming off two straight losses in which they've allowed a total of 89 shots on goal.

The Ducks would love to reverse that trend two days from now when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, which could be a tough matchup if their game last night with San Jose is any indication. The Jackets gave the mighty Sharks all they could handle last night, until San Jose took a 3-2 lead on a Joe Thornton goal with 12:19 left and hung on the rest of the way. Sadly enough for the Ducks, if they are hoping to make any headway in the Pacific, the Sharks won their ninth in a row and have earned a point in 24 straight home games.

But Anaheim will get a shot at them in San Jose six days from now, and I can't wait for that one. But for the time being it's all about Columbus on Sunday and St. Louis on Wednesday.

I don't think the lunch put out for the team after practice is supposed to be indicative of how the team is playing, but I will say this. Usually they'll have Italian pasta or fresh sandwiches put out on the table outside the locker room at Anaheim Ice for the players to grab. Today? Arby's.

So, Sean Avery was suspended by Gary Bettman for six games in punishment for his remarks the other day, which I've noticed much of the media has now decided to tone down by calling it something like "regarding his ex-girlfriends dating other hockey players." Not only that, but Avery also agreed to be evaluated for anger management. The league, in a statement, referred to his "pattern of unacceptable and anti-social behavior."

That I agree with, but anger management? I'm not sure how angry the guy is. He seems pretty pleased with himself if you ask me.

I can't help but feel like Bettman suspended him partly because he was surprised to learn that he never had been suspended before. I could just see him hearing the new of Avery's remarks and having this conversation with an assistant:

Bettman: "Geez, how many times have we suspended this guy and he's still acting this way?"
Assistant: "Uh, none."
Bettman: "WHAT?! Get him in here."

Bettman said in a conference call with media, "I wanted it to be clear to the fans that this isn't something that we tolerate -- particularly fans with children who might have to explain to them what this statement was."

Hey, if you're a parent of a hockey fan and you've already explained why it's okay to punch another guy in the face 15 times in a row, you can certainly handle explaining "sloppy seconds." Then again, this is reason 512 why I'll never have kids.

Avery's suspension was retroactive to that Calgary game, so he has already served two games and will have to miss four more. He's eligible to return Dec. 16 against Phoenix, but that certainly doesn't mean he'll be back in a Dallas uniform, since all signs indicate the Stars don't want him anywhere near them.

The Stars could opt to buy out his contract and still take a 2/3-of-his-salary hit to their cap (the Ducks are well aware of that option) or they could bury him in the minors. That begs the question: Is it too early for the Manitoba Moose to start selling Sean Avery jerseys, or does he have to be officially sent there first?

Actually, according to this story, the Moose don't want him either. When the Manitoba Moose tell you that you aren't welcome, you've hit rock bottom as an NHL player. The story also points out that the Stars have prospects in Hamilton, Grand Rapids, Peoria, and Houston and ... wait for it ... Iowa.

Good God. I just got the shivers.


Updated Dec. 4 at 12:54 p.m.

Remember when you were a little kid and you got an ice cream cone and you were really excited and just before you got it to the car, it rolled off the sugar cone and went splat onto the ground?

Remember that?

That's a little what last night's 4-2 Ducks loss in Chicago felt like. Anaheim looked seemingly in control, carrying a one-goal lead for much of the third period with Jonas Hiller looking like there was no way he was letting the tying goal in. But the Ducks had a bit of a defensive breakdown with just 5:45 left in the period, as the Hawks moved the puck and Martin Havlat slapped a one-timer past a helpless Hiller.

A few minutes later, the Ducks were taken by surprise when the puck bounced from behind the net right in front of Hiller, and rookie Kris Versteeg made a nice feed to Jonathan Toews, who put it through for the 3-2 lead.

Somehow I couldn't help but feel the Ducks would still tie it in the closing minutes, especially after they sent Hiller to the bench for the extra attacker. And my heart broke when Corey Perry had the puck bounce to him alone in front of the net, only to have Cristobal Huet (Duet and Luet) make the huge save with 46 seconds left. That was until the Ducks lost the puck to Dave Bolland, who threw it into the empty net from the red line, essentially stomping on that scoop of ice cream.

It was a waste of another good effort by Hiller, who again shined for the most part as the Ducks continued to put pressure (41 Chicago shots) on their netminder. “Those kinds of things shouldn’t happen,” Hiller said. “With the team we have, we should never lose a game like that.”

The Ducks have some off time to think about that one, as they were given the day off today after arriving in the wee hours of the morning after their flight back from Chicago. They'll get after it again tomorrow in preparation for their home date with Columbus on Sunday. It will be interesting to see what Randy Carlyle does with Bobby Ryan starting with that game and the near future. Ryan didn't even see the ice after around the 13-minute mark in the second period, as Carlyle rotated just three lines. That left Ryan, George Parros and Brad May on the bench that entire time.

One positive that came out of last night's game was the watch party at Zito's Pizza, just down the street from Honda Center on Katella. I went and checked it out with some other Ducks staffers, since it was our first watch party there, and I admit I didn't have high hopes. It's a relatively small venue compared to an ESPN Zone or other big bar/restaurant, but I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere there. It was packed with jersey-wearing Ducks fans, and the four flat-screens on the wall were more than enough to enjoy the game. (The constant stream of pizza and beer certainly didn't hurt either.) Meanwhile, the volume in the place rose with each Hiller stop and especially during Teemu Selanne's power play goal near the end of the first and Chris Pronger's goal at the beginning of the third. (By the way, Selanne’s last 13 goals have all come on the power play, the second-longest such streak in NHL history. But that's one streak I wouldn't mind seeing him break. And soon.)

We'll have another watch party at Zito's a week from today for the highly anticipated San Jose game, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

I just heard from a Kings staffer friend of mine that Mats Sundin was working out today at the Kings practice facility, the Toyota Sports Center (where most of the team's offices are). Kings, you've got about $12 million in cap space to play with and you're team is just about a veteran player or two away from being a contender. Go ahead and make the offer.

The Sean Avery saga continues, as Avery flew to New York for a hearing this morning with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and also issued a statement that included the following:

"I would like to sincerely apologize for my off-color remarks to the press yesterday from Calgary. I should not have made those comments and I recognize that they were inappropriate. It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game, but I am now acutely aware of how hurtful my actions were. I caused unnecessary embarrassment to my peers as well as people I have been close with in the past. I apologize for offending the great fans of the NHL, the commissioner, my teammates, my coaching staff and the Dallas Stars management and ownership. As many of you know, I like to mix it up on and off the ice from time to time, but understand that this time I took it too far."

I like this part: "It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game." Oh, is that what he was trying to do? Too bad they didn't take that cue on the broadcast. Can't you just see the dramatic intro set to some intense music?: "Modano vs. Iginla ... Turco vs. Kiprusoff ... Sloppy Seconds vs. Bitter Ex-Boyfriend ... It's the Flames and Stars, coming up next on FSN!"

I'm just waiting for the response from Dion Phaneuf in response to Avery saying "it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my ..." (you know the rest). I can just see Phaneuf saying, "Um, we haven't exactly used the 'L-word' yet. This is awkward."

Damien Cox of ESPN.com has a lengthy column on why he thinks Avery's suspension is a little much, and I can't help but kind of agree. Yeah, it was a painfully stupid move, but a suspension by the league? Not sure it warrants that (then again, you've got to feel like he's being punished as a repeat offender rather than for this isolated act). That being said, if the Stars had sat him down, I could understand that.

Along those lines, Stars coach Dave Tippett had this to say: "From a coach's standpoint, I try to build a team that has an atmosphere where players care about each other and play with each other and play with continuity, and I find it hard to believe that Sean could come back in that dressing room and we could find that continuity again. My job is to build the best team possible. I don't know if we can build the best team possible with Sean coming back."

In other words, "We hate him. We don't want him on our team." (By the way, I wonder if the Stars are regretting giving Avery a four-year contract worth $15.5 mil over the summer?)

SI.com has a nice timeline of Avery's history of douchieness (can I get suspended for that word?) that includes one of my personal favorites: his run-in with Ducks announcer Brian Hayward a couple of years back. Avery responded to some on-air comments Hazy made by telling him to his face he was a "(terrible) announcer" and a "(terrible) player," only he didn't say "terrible." And Hazy responded with: "How would you know? When I played, you were in your third year of eighth grade."

During last night's telecast, in considering whether the Stars could void the rest of Avery's contract, Hayward called him "an embarrassment to humanity."

Now, that I agree with.


Updated. Dec. 3 at 1:35 p.m.

It's the fourth game in six days for the Ducks tonight in Chicago, but that didn't stop Randy Carlyle from running the team through a practice yesterday afternoon.

“Usually we don’t practice after back-to-back games," Carlyle said. "But I thought the way we played (Monday night), we had to get on the ice and get the feel of the puck.” 

But it wasn't the typical practice for the Ducks, who instead played a scrimmage between teams picked by designated captains Teemu Selanne and Bret Hedican, since they're the two oldest players on the team. “Being a former player, when you played, you always thought you were smarter than the general manager," Carlyle said. "So we gave them an opportunity to draft the teams."

Selanne's team knocked off Hedican's squad, which suffered the fate of having to buy lunch for the entire team. "Hedican’s team lost," Carlyle said, "so obviously Selanne has a future.”

It was a nice step off the beaten path for a Ducks team that will look to bounce back from Monday night's disappointment when they play the Blackhawks tonight. You'll recall that Anaheim beat Chicago 1-0 just six days ago at Honda Center, as Jonas Hiller shut the Hawks out in a mostly sleepy game. Reportedly, all signs during the morning skate indicate Hiller will be in there again tonight. But the Ducks will probably need to show more energy than they did against the Hawks last time -- and certainly more than they showed Monday night -- to knock off a Chicago team that's 6-1-4 at home. Plus, they're playing their first home game since Nov. 16, just returning from their annual "circus trip" when they have to abandon the United Center because the circus is in town. So, that building will probably be rockin'.

It was a so-so trip for the Hawks, who started off with three straight wins, but finished with defeats to the Ducks, Kings and Sharks. The Hawks are again probably without goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who continues to battle groin and hip problems. So, Cristobal Huet, the guy they had originally signed to take Khabibulin's place as the No. 1, will be back in net.

Moving on to much more important issues: You wouldn't think the term "sloppy seconds" would be bandied about in a hockey news story, but leave it to Sean Avery to make that happen. Avery gathered media (including cameras) around him prior to his Stars taking on the Calgary Flames to utter these words: "I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight."

It's even more captivating if you watch the video, as Avery approaches a guy and asks, "You got a camera?" then says, "I just have to say one thing." And of course, ZING, the camera light flicks on.

Avery was referring to the fact that his former girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert, is now dating Calgary d-man Dion Phaneuf. She also apparently dated Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek. Avery also used to date actress/model Rachel Hunter, who is now with Kings forward Jarrett Stoll.

Well, the NHL didn't think that remark was very funny, and suspened Avery indefinitely, pending a hearing with commissioner Gary Bettman. It's ironic that in a game that doesn't suspend players for beating the living daylights out of each other could suspend a guy for this, but that's the way it goes. Don't get me wrong, Avery is a complete idiot. But I couldn't help but laugh that he was actually suspended. I also enjoyed TSN's Bob McKenzie's comments on why Avery was punished:

"First is his specific choice of words, two words to be precise, 'sloppy seconds'. It's vulgar, the imagery is not good and in the mind of the National Hockey League, it's misogynistic, shows a lack of respect and objectifies women, in this case Elisha Cuthbert, his former girlfriend and current girlfriend of Flames' defenceman Dion Phaneuf. If he'd said ex-girlfriends, we wouldn't be talking about this."

Okay, that makes sense. Dammit, why didn't he just say "ex-girlfriends"?

Even if the NHL didn't suspend him, the Stars would have, as owner Tom Hicks issued a statement that read in part: "This organization will not tolerate such behavior, especially from a member of our hockey team. We hold our team to a higher standard and will continue to do so."

You know what else that means? The chances of you seeing Avery on the ice in a Stars uniform ever again is about as likely as Cuthbert dating ... I don't know ... a baseball player.

He didn't play in that Calgary game, which the Stars won 3-1. If you think one universally disliked player can't disrupt an entire team, you might be right. But here's a little bit of evidence. The Stars, who knocked off the Ducks on the way to the Western Conference Finals last year, are 9-11-4 this year, dead last in the conference. And goalie Marty Turco had this to say about the Avery suspension: "For us, the ability to focus maybe becomes more poignant right now, to bottle things up and play some solid hockey."

That's unfortunate, since I kind of like the Stars better when they're in last place. And I kind of like the NHL better when Avery is in it. Yes, he's an utter disgrace to the game and a self-absorbed piece of trash. But isn't it kind of fun hating him?



Updated Dec. 2 at 12:34 p.m.

Even my groin cramped up after watching the Detroit Red Wings throw 38 shots on net over the first two periods last night, so I can imagine what J.S. Giguere felt after saving all but one of them. Giguere once again showed his gargantuan heart and focus after returning to the ice for the first time in almost a week and making huge stop after huge stop to keep the Ducks in that game.

We were asked to keep a lid on it at the time he left town for Montreal, but Giguere was visiting his gravely ill father Claude and was able to spend five days with him in the hospital. He returned to the team Sunday for the Carolina game and Randy Carlyle asked him if he was ready to go for last night's battle with Detroit. “Of course you want to play,” Giguere said, although he might have changed his mind if he knew he was going to be placed in front of a virtual firing squad. “It’s just in you. I’ve had a tough week. I wanted to change my mind and get back into things. I know that’s what my dad would want, too. He loved hockey so much.”

Giguere looked incredibly sharp over the first two periods, denying shot after shot until Johan Franzen tipped one through with 5:34 left in the second period. During the break that followed that period, Giguere really felt the cramping in his groin area and Carlyle decided that he had, "seen enough rubber for one game.”

Said Giguere, “I think we [made] the right decision in not going into the third,” Giguere said. “After cramps, the next thing is a pull. You have to be smart. I cramp up all the time, whether it’s in my hips or calves. It’s regular for me, and I keep playing with those, but in the groin, I didn’t want to take a chance.”

Nevertheless, it shouldn't go unappreciated the fortitude Giguere once again showed after coming back from something that had every right to distract his attention away from stopping pucks. It's the same heart he showed in the spring of 2007, when he missed games at the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs after his newborn son Maxime was experiencing eye problems. When Giguere eventually got back in net in that postseason, he put up a goals-against average of 1.97 and made a good case for another Conn Smythe Trophy (which went to Scott Niedermayer).

But with his history of groin trouble, the last thing in the world the Ducks wanted last night was to risk a long-term injury to Giguere for the sake of winning a game in early December. And it's a nice luxury for the Ducks to be able to make the quick decision to put their backup in there, since Jonas Hiller has been so outstanding. But ironically enough, Hiller gave up a goal on the first shot he faced, just 1:48 into the period. Marian Hossa delayed ever-so-slightly on his wrist shot on a 2-on-1 rush and got the only goal Detroit would need in the period.

The 2-1 loss definitely could have -- and should have -- been much worse, as Detroit outshot the Ducks by an embarrassing 47-16. There were stretches when Detroit goalie Chris Osgood could have afforded to rest his head on the crossbar for a quick nap. Yes, the Ducks are a remarkable 12-3-0 when the other team has more shots on goal, but they are now 0-1-0 when the opponent outshoots them by 31. I don't see that record getting any better.

I was driving home during much of the second period, listening to the game on radio. I listened to Steve Carroll yell, "SHOOOOTS! Saved by Giguere!" so many times, I heard it in my sleep last night.

“There’s no explanation for the number of shots we gave up, other than we didn’t play well enough,” Carlyle said. “We were on our heels. If you let the Detroit Red Wings play give-and-go hockey, that’s what happens.”

Indeed it does, and it was a disappointing showing for a Ducks team that had won four in a row going into that one. And as much as the Wings were struggling going into that one, you could have thrown all of that out the door. Facing Detroit in their building on the second half of a back-to-back is a tall task, and it showed last night.

Although, it certainly didn't show from the outset, when Chris Kunitz scored on the Ducks' first shot of the game just 1:50 into it after nabbing the puck away from Brad Stuart. Who could have guessed at the time that would be the only damage Anaheim would do.

As nice as that four-game win streak was, it certainly didn't come from the best the Ducks have to offer. Like last night (but certainly not on the same scale), the Ducks were outshot in all four of those games and forced themselves to lean heavily on Giguere and Hiller. While the Ducks have gotten away with that lately, that's certainly not going to get them through the entire season and the all-important spring. And it's in contrast to the style the Ducks have lived on the past few seasons -- constant forechecking and pinning the puck in the bad guys' zone.

The Ducks will look to get back to that tomorrow night when they face Chicago for the second time in six days, a team they only managed 21 shots against last Friday at Honda Center. But again, Hiller carried the team on his back in that one and it will be interesting to see whether he's in there again.

Our guy Kyle has posted another comic depicting the Ducks' victory over Carolina on Sunday night. While I can't exactly endorse the shots at Brendan Morrison, it is once again entertaining. (Click the image for the larger version.)








Updated Dec. 1 at 12:38 p.m.

If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

By the same token, if an NHL game is not televised by either team, did it really happen?

Apparently the Ducks got three goals in the third period to bounce back from a horrible middle session and beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 last night. And apparently Rob Niedermayer had two goals in that final period -- and neither one was an empty-netter. We do actually have a photo of one of those.

There were actually rolling cameras in the building last night, since TSN managed to put together a few highlights. Here they are, if you're interested. (I would have rather seen all four Ducks goals instead of the human bowling ball bit, but why quibble?)

Other than that short highlight package, we have to rely on the written word for the accounts of last night's game. And no, those words aren't coming from a scroll delivered by Pony Express three days after the game. They are actually available on the interweb.

We do know that the Ducks bounced back from what Randy Carlyle called a "terrible" second period, with yet another power play goal from Teemu Selanne and two big insurance strikes from Niedermayer.

Selanne's tip of a Chris Pronger rocket 7:16 into that third period (the eventual game-winner) gave him 12 power play goals on the season. He leads the league by a longshot, and is the first player since 1992-93 to have 12 PPGs in his team's first 25 games.

It was a nice recovery from a second period in which the Ducks only managed three shots, two of them from behind the blue line (not that we saw that). Meanwhile, the Ducks got out of the way for 17 Hurricanes shots, all of them saved by Jonas Hiller on his way to 37 stops on the night.

It was yet another solid night for Jo-Nasty (still trying), who has been ridiculously good in his last six starts. Even including that off night against Washington on Nov. 19, Hiller is 5-0 with a 1.35 goals-against average, .957 save percentage and two shutouts over that stretch. And he got a nice honor when he was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week this morning.

As hot as Hiller has been, it's a stretch to think he'll be in net when the Ducks take on the Red Wings tonight in Detroit. That game, by the way, is going to be ... wait for it ... televised! J.S. Giguere did rejoin the team for the Carolina game after being in Montreal for family reasons. All Carlyle would say is that Giguere is "available" for tonight. It's a lot to ask of Hiller to be in there again, as he did some serious work last night (again, we have to take the numbers' word for it) and would have to go again less than 24 hours later following a two-hour flight.

Said Hiller last night (probably with a smile), “For sure, my legs are a little tired right now. Hopefully, I get a stretch and massage so I’ll be ready. Until now, we never play back-to-back, me and Jiggy. I don’t know if he’s ready to play, but if not, I’ll be there and try my best."

Giguere spent extra time on the ice during the morning skate yesterday to try and get his legs back after not having been out there since winning the Colorado game a week ago. "It’s a bit of a setback, I guess, in the sense that when you miss a week of doing anything, you kind of lose your energy, and the focus wasn’t there, too,” Giguere said. “For me, one day or two days of good practice, and then I’m right back to where I was. I felt pretty good on the ice, but these things, you never know. If anything, not being on the ice for five days is probably good for your body. It rests it.”

Regardless of who is between the pipes, it's an intriguing game tonight for the suddenly-hot Ducks, who are an eye-popping 7-2-1 on the road right now. Detroit isn't looking very Detroit-like right now, having lost 4-1 at Boston on Saturday night to go 1-2-1 in the past four games. The only win during the stretch is a 5-3 decision at home against Columbus last Friday (so, that doesn't really count.) But even a struggling Red Wings team is a deadly Red Wings team, and they still come into this one with a gaudy 15-4-4 record (second in the conference).

Frankly, I'm really looking forward to this one, as it's yet another opportunity to really gauge just how good Anaheim is right now. You'll recall one of the last times the Ducks faced a barometer like this was when they faced Detroit at home Oct. 29 after having gone 4-0 on a trip through Eastern Canada and Columbus. And the Ducks responded with a 5-4 win in overtime thanks to Selanne's hat trick and the game-winner from Francois Beauchemin.

Tonight is another one of those nights, with the Ducks riding a four-game winning streak in which they certainly haven't been a juggernaut. Yeah, you've beaten Dallas and Carolina on the road, took down an injury-riddled Colorado and struggling Chicago (they lost 5-2 at STAPLES Saturday night) at home. But the real question is: Can you win in Detroit? We'll find out in a few hours.

I kicked myself over the weekend for forgetting to comment further on the photo of Selanne and Scott Niedermayer watching their kids play at Anaheim Ice (see Saturday's post below). And I got a few emails from readers shaming me for not pointing this out:

How sweet is the "Baywatch" jacket Teemu is sporting in this photo? I don't even want to know where he got that thing. I knew Germans were into Hasselhoff, but Finns too? Unless he got that jacket while serving as an actual lifeguard. Then we have a whole other angle here.

Speaking of intriguing photos, a reader named Denise sent me this one after attending a game at the Ducks' ECHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors. After remarking how loud the arena was in Bakersfield, she also noted that Saturday night was Teddy Bear Toss night (apparently the 10th annual). When the Condors scored their first goal in the first period (which happened to be a shorthanded one by someone named Dale Reinhardt), fans threw teddy bears on the ice (more than 7,600 according to the Condors website).

Here's the photo from Denise:


















Hockey mom (in this case, that's a good thing) Alyssa sent this photo of the Orange County Hockey Club (OCHC) team that won the Western Regional Silver Stick qualifying tournament in Las Vegas over the weekend. They will compete in Canada in January at the International Silver Stick competition, the winners of which will have their team name placed on a plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. OCHC played the Jr. Ducks in the championship game, and according to Alyssa, "The Jr. Ducks played an outstanding tournament including the games against OCHC. All of the kids should be very proud. Several families on the team are longtime season ticket holders and loyal fans of the Ducks."

Here's the photo of the champs. Apparently everyone on the team thinks they're No. 1, except the kid in the very front.

















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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 35 22 8 5 101 96 49
2 CHI 34 23 9 2 106 67 48
3 STL 33 21 9 3 100 81 45
4 NSH 31 21 8 2 87 64 44
5 SJS 34 19 11 4 97 87 42
6 WPG 34 17 10 7 83 80 41
7 VAN 32 19 11 2 92 90 40
8 LAK 34 17 11 6 94 84 40
9 CGY 35 17 15 3 100 95 37
10 MIN 31 16 12 3 91 84 35
11 DAL 32 14 13 5 95 109 33
12 COL 33 12 13 8 85 101 32
13 ARI 32 11 17 4 74 104 26
14 EDM 34 7 20 7 74 116 21

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 34 12 25 7 37
R. Kesler 35 11 15 -2 26
S. Vatanen 35 9 15 -1 24
C. Perry 23 14 8 11 22
M. Beleskey 35 15 3 11 18
C. Fowler 34 3 14 1 17
J. Silfverberg 35 4 12 3 16
H. Lindholm 34 4 11 12 15
P. Maroon 27 2 12 -5 14
D. Smith-Pelly 31 4 8 3 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Gibson 2 2 0 .927 2.28
F. Andersen 18 5 4 .913 2.41

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