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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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JANUARY ARCHIVE

Updated Jan. 26 at 12:24 p.m.

I've come to realize that NHL All-Star Games are kind of like the last five Will Ferrell movies. If you go into them with high expectations, chances are you're going to be a little disappointed.

That wasn't exactly textbook hockey we saw out there last night -- a 12-11 shootout victory by the East -- but if you were only hoping to see the best players in the world do what they do best (well, except for the defensemen), then you were happy. Scoring is great, but sometimes too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. That being said, it was cool to see the shootout decided by a Montreal guy (Alex Kovalev, who was named MVP) and probably the most popular guy in the game right now (Alex Ovechkin).

Ovechkin provided one of the game's highlights during a break in the action, when he was caught on camera watching the in-arena video board that showed two busty blondes wearing pink All-Star shirts and dancing. Ovechkin had a "Wow, are they hot" look on his face for all the world to see before he quickly realized he was on camera. "I didn't think the camera was going to look straight at me," he said after the game. He was then asked if he thought the girls were attractive. "I don't know," he said. "I'd have to see them live. They were dancing pretty well."

None of the three Ducks in the exhibition did anything particularly noteworthy, though Ryan Getzlaf and Scott Niedermayer each had assists mixed in there somewhere. I found myself rooting hard for J.S. Giguere in his first and only period of work, knowing full well that it was probably going to be futile. The All-Star Game is not kind to goalies, considering they're facing the best scorers in the world and the defense in front of them does about as much checking as your typical figure skater. (Even an occasional poke check would have been nice.) Giguere did manage to make seven saves, and he couldn't do much about any of the four goals scored on him in the period. At least he didn't have it as bad as Minnesota's Nicklas Backstrom, who faced a whopping 22 shots in the second.
Said Giguere, "The game is not a goalie's game for sure. It's a little difficult. I'm not a goalie who likes that type of game. I like when it's intense and kind of straight up and down, but it was fun. It was a good experience. I'll never forget it."

If a guy can say "It was a good experience" after giving up four goals in the first period, you know he's just played an All-Star Game. he could have added to part of that quote by saying, "I'm not a goalie who likes that type of game ... you know, the type when my teammates aren't playing ... what's it called ... oh yeah, defense."

Getzlaf actually had a chance to be a hero for the West in overtime, getting out on a mini-breakaway that was thwarted in part by a hooking penalty by Mike Komisarek, remarkably the first penalty in the game since 2000. (Actually, that's not all that surprising.) But alas, the West couldn't convert on the resulting power play.

It did seem as if the NHL was trying to match the Super Bowl when it came to the length of that game last night. Even though the VERSUS telecast started at 3 p.m. Pacific, the puck drop didn't come until 3:30. And the thing didn't finish until around 6:15. The late start was partly because of a bizarre Cirque du Soleil-type pregame show that featured a number of acrobats and even an upside-down violin player on a trapeze.

As if VERSUS isn't hard enough to find on your channel guide, you flip to NHL All-Star Game a little after 3:00 and you find this on your screen?

More than three hours later, the All-Star Game was mercifully brought to a close, and Ducks fans can now focus on the real games and their team's hopes over the final three months. According to GM Bob Murray in a story in the L.A. Daily News, the next month or so could have a huge impact on the direction the Ducks choose, with the March 4 trade deadline looming.

"Something's not right in the dressing room," Murray said. "Within that group of players, it doesn't for some reason lend itself to the team coming and playing with enthusiasm. There's no energy. That could be a chemistry issue."

As if we need further reminder that the Ducks have some work to do to get back to the pace of the past few seasons, the team was honored Friday at the L.A. Sports Awards for their top moment of 2008: reaching the 100-point mark for the second straight year. The moment was selected via online fan balloting over two other choices: "Selanne and Giguere Set Franchise Records in Same Game" and "Ducks Finish 2007-08 With Complete Season Sellout." Here is David McNab accepting the award.

Moving on, if you want further proof that there's no showboating in hockey, take a look at what happened in this game last week between the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League. Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kyle Beach decided to add a little taunting flair to his empty-net goal that sealed a 7-5 win for Lethbridge, which promptly ignited a monster brawl. Three Lethbridge players and one Medicine Hat player were suspended, and the Hurricanes were fined for having players leave the bench during the fight. Beach was not disciplined, which means the WHL doesn't take the same approach as the NHL in punishing guys for being arrogant.

Even uglier than the violence were the comments by Lethbridge's color guy, Dick Gibson. Gibson reacts to the Medicine Hat players going after Beach as "absolute crap" and later calls it, "garbage, garbage, garbage." He fails to acknowledge that Beach kind of sparked the whole thing with his little look-back move. Then again, Beach has a reputation of being the junior version of Sean Avery, so something tells me the Medicine Hat guys were just looking for a reason to pummel him.

Either way, Gibson was promptly taken off the air and can probably say goodbye to his aspirations to be a color guy in the big leagues. Maybe instead he can begin a career of picking up garbage, garbage, garbage.


Updated Jan. 24 at 6:10 p.m.

Yesterday's post about the state of the Ducks deserves a little replay review. My first indication of that was when a co-worker told me late in the day that reading my blog left her wanting to go searching for the nearest noose. In retrospect, the two losses in New York left me feeling a little gloomy, but if you know anything about this Ducks team, things are not nearly as bleak as they seem.

I'm just going to say it. No team with Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, J.S. Giguere and -- yeah, I'll say it -- Bobby Ryan is missing the playoffs. It's just not going to happen. As long as this season has already seemed so far, there's 2 1/2 months left, plenty of time for the Ducks to regroup and make that charge they now desperately need. And let's not forget, we're not looking at a team that's 10th in the conference right now. They're tied for sixth. Let me say that again. They're tied for sixth.

And yeah, I know about the "games in hand" that every other team in the West has right now on the Ducks. But let's not get too carried away with the games-in-hand phenomenon. Keep in mind that just because a team has played fewer games than another, they're certainly not going to win all of those games, or even get one point out of them. Meanwhile, most of those games are coming against other teams in the conference (notably over the last month and a half). And last I checked, only one team can win each of those games.

It also needs to be mentioned that the Ducks haven't exactly been dramatically outplayed over these past couple of months. In the last 15 games going into the break, the Ducks led in the third period in seven of them and were tied in the third in 11. Too many times the bounces just haven't gone their way over the final 20. Eventually, that kind of thing comes back around.

If the last three years of this team are any indication, things will turn around. Yes, they've struggled in the past month, but in much of that time they've been missing key guys like Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry and Todd Marchant. They've thrown on the ice as many as six guys who started the year in the minor leagues. I don't care how much energy the young guys bring, when you've only had a handful of NHL games under your belt, it's typically going to be a slow progression to playing winning hockey at this level. As valuable as it's been for these guys to get a taste of the NHL game, when it comes to winning hockey games, the Ducks need their veteran guys in there.

And when it comes to Selanne and Marchant, they both look like they'll be back soon after this All-Star break, when the entire Ducks team (aside from their three All-Stars) are getting some much-needed rest. And I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Ducks spring out of that break in a big way.

So don't go rummaging under the sink for some rat poison just yet. I can't help but think we're going to see some good stuff from this team over the next couple of months. There is way too much pride and way too much talent to expect anything less.

I write this as I'm watching Bobby Ryan not play for the Rookies team in the YoungStars game. But judging from this relative snoozefest (be careful what you wish for, NHL, when you hope for more scoring in the sport), it doesn't look like he's missing much. In retrospect, for Ryan the YoungStars Game is kind of like a party you really don't want to go to, but you're still annoyed that you weren't invited.

Before that game, Ryan Getzlaf showed a couple of slick moves in the Breakaway Challenge, notably when he skated around the back of the net, lifted the puck up and pushed it into the top corner of the net. Alex Ovechkin actually won the thing, which was decided by fans text messages (guess Ducks fans didn't come through with their phones this time).

By the way, good to see that my wish last year for the league to use non-NHL goalies for this event came true. Instead they apparently used guys they found scaling tickets in front of the arena. But that's a good thing. The fewer saves in this thing, the better.

That being said, I enjoyed watching Giguere make some pretty stops in the inaugural Elimination Shootout, although he did give one up to ballcap-wearing Ryan Getzlaf. And Giguere looked to playfully lament giving up that goal, as he fell dramatically backward into his net after it was scored. Both Getzlaf and, a little surprisingly, Scott Niedermayer, scored twice before being eliminated in the third round. And Jiggy was victimized in the end when he gave up two goals to Phoenix's Shane Doan, the eventual champion.

Speaking of the weekend All-Star festivities, you may have seen that Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom were suspended for their first real game after the break for playing hookey.

And our new favorite Detroit blogger, George James Malik, has chimed in with his opinions on the suspensions, including another extremely well-thought-out attack on the Ducks. First off, he actually had the stones to write: Not that the league's trying to screw the Red Wings or anything. Then later, he references this quote from J.S. Giguere: "It's our duty as players to help promote the league as much as we can," he said. "We have to try to increase revenues. The more revenue there is, the more money we make as players. This is a weekend where the spotlight is on the league so it's important, especially for the star players. We'd like to see them here."

To which blogger George responded with: You go, puffy-chest-protector wearing jerk...

Wow, that's some unprovoked name-calling aimed toward a guy who had a pretty intelligent take on the importance of players trying to grow the game.  How about the fact that Sidney Crosby had a quote that basically reflected the same feeling: "That's their decision," Crosby said of Datsyuk and Lidstrom's absence. "It's up to the players and the teams to keep that in mind. For the All-Star Game, it's important to get everyone on board. I don't see anything wrong with that as long as everyone is aware of the situation."

George actually ran that quote in his blog. And his response? Conspicuously absent, just like the two Detroit guys. But when Giguere says it, he's apparently a "jerk." I'm confused.

You think somebody's still bitter over Western Conference Finals, May 2007? (And now I'm bitter that I just dedicated four paragraphs to this guy.) Either way, let's hope we see those guys again in this year's playoffs.

Yeah, I said it.

Updated Jan. 23 at 1:20 p.m.

It feels a little like the day after Christmas around here, having returned home from a New York trip I was looking forward to for months. And I'm now back in not-so-sunny SoCal with my gut a little larger, my liver a little more damaged and my hockey team in a bit of disarray.

Losing to the Rangers was one thing, but falling to the hapless Islanders in a game where the Ducks allowed a season-low 14 shots and whipped 40 of their own on net, was horrendous. Of course, it was tough for our group to get too mad during that 2 1/2-hour train wreck, since the Islanders treated us to a suite packed with free food, free beer and two professional masseuses who gave us shoulder massages while we sat and watched the game. I will never, ever say another bad thing about Nassau Memorial Coliseum as long as I live.

Of course, as we left the suite and embarked on our journey back to Manhattan with the world's worst bus driver behind the wheel, that sense of "What the hell was that?" kicked in. Where do I even begin? The Islanders had lost eight in a row coming into that game, and had won just twice in their last 22 games. They had exactly one shot in the third period. One. They had 10 players out with injuries, including two goalies, which is why Yann Danis was in net. And while he definitely had a little luck on his side on several Anaheim scoring chances, he saved 39 to earn his first win since the 2005-06 season.

That goalie was good. The one at the other end of the ice in the first period? Not so good. Jean-Sebastien Giguere hasn't been so good in awhile, and you could see that frustration reflected in the tantrum he threw on the bench after getting pulled. He almost took a couple players out with him, as youngsters Brett Festerling and Brendan Mikkelson had to dive out of the way as Giguere threw equipment into the bench area and jammed his stick so hard against the wall that it snapped.

Ironically enough, the Western Conference All-Star starter just got pulled in the first period in his last start before the game. Not sure that's happened in the history of the game. And it's not great timing for Giguere that his next start is the All-Star Game. Facing the best scorers in the world with a defense in front of him that's not exactly going to be going hard isn't going to help his confidence much.

Corey Perry had a quote after the Islanders loss that could have been uttered after several games this season. "We probably had 15, 20 point-blank shots, but it hit the post or he got a pad on it, whatever,” said Perry of Danis. “Until they scored those first two goals, they were giving it to us. We finally clicked in and said ‘Oh, we have a game here.’ Then we started to play. By then, it was too late. We talk about that. We can’t have those kinds of starts.”

Giguere had composed himself enough after Wednesday night's game to say this about the team: “We have to use the break, take a step back and not worry too much about what has happened, but worry about what’s coming up,” Giguere said. “It’s going to be a good four days for us to do that. I’m the first one who should do that.”

The Ducks go into that break in probably their worst shape of the season, having won just five times in their last 16 games. They've lost twice in that stretch to teams that had the worst record in the league at the time. They're tied with the Oilers (really?) and the Canucks for sixth in the West, but of course the Ducks have played more games than every other team in the Western Conference. And of their final 33 games, 18 are on the road, including a five-game stretch at the end of what will be a critical February where they play at Detroit, Columbus, Buffalo, Boston and Dallas (I feel ill).

Granted, the Ducks are without Teemu Selanne, Todd Marchant and Kent Huskins right now and have had rookies taking their spots. Selanne and Marchant both hope to be back after the break, but that won't be the case for Huskins. We just learned that his fractured right foot isn't healing like they hoped and he had two screws inserted today. He's going to be out an additional four to six weeks.

Let's hope the Ducks come out of this break looking like a new team. Otherwise, planning vacations around April 15 might be a safe move. My sister called this morning and asked if I would be available for a family trip the second week of May. "Do you think you might be still in the middle of the playoffs then?" she asked.

I just laughed.


Updated Jan. 22 at 3:28 a.m. (New York time)

Once again, I don't have a lot of time because it's the middle of the morning in New York and we fly out of here at 11-something a.m., just a few hours of sleep from now. But I will say this: Losing to the New York Islanders, a team that had only won 12 games all season and came into this game with the Ducks having lost eight in a row? That, ladies and gentlemen, is what's commonly known as rock bottom.

More on that when I get back to Orange County.


Updated Jan. 21 at 12:37 p.m. (New York time)

You know what's not fun? When 18,000 people leap out of their seats and yell and clap, and you're left in your seat, a dour look on your face, eye level with the butt of the guy in front of you.

Not fun.

And that's what I and the handful of fellow Ducks employees/fans were left with last night when Scott Gomez scored that power play goal in the third period. And it happened again when Blair Betts scored the empty-netter with a half-minute left, with the Ducks skating 6-on-4 and trying to tie the game.

It was a bitter end to a game in which the Ducks played pretty solid hockey, aside from some special teams letdowns. Then again, those letdowns proved fatal, as Anaheim gave up goals on the penalty kill to Gomez and Markus Naslund, and the Rangers got their other two shorthanded. The Ducks gave the Rangers way too many opportunities, commiting eight penalties in the game, the last one a questionable interference call on Sammy Pahlsson that paved the way for that final Gomez goal.

Those were the bad times. The good times came when Bobby Ryan scored yet another goal, and Corey Perry continued to make it look as if that suspension shook something loose in him. Since he sat for those four games, Perry has four goals in his last five.

Despite the result, it doesn't get much better than a hockey game at Madison Square Garden. I have been in that arena a handful of times before (for both Rangers and Knicks) and I had almost forgotten how small and intimate it seems. You take a look around the place and it's very hard to believe they actually seat 18,200 for hockey. You can't really tell when you're watching on TV, but the ice is a lot more dimly lit than your typical NHL rink, and it gives the game a more -- I don't know -- classic look.

It's the little things that count, and a friend of mine and I thoroughly enjoyed the concession stand they had set up on the concourse, which serves beer in big plastic mugs. The handle on the mugs have a hole in the top, and they put a pretzel stick in it. Loved that.

Take a look at this picture I took with my Blackberry during the second intermission. You don't see this too often.

Going from the Garden to Nassau Memorial Coliseum on Long Island is like switching from steak and lobster to prison food. But our group will be there tonight, loudly rooting for the Ducks to get a much-needed victory in their last game before the All-Star break.

The Islanders, to put it delicately, suck. They've won just 12 games all year and they come into this one having dropped their last eight in a row. They also just announced that super-goalie Rick DiPietro will miss the rest of the season because of trouble with his surgically repaired knee. His backup, Joey MacDonald, has also been hurt, so the Islanders have in net Yann Danis, whose name always looks like a typo.

So, all signs point to the Ducks getting this one tonight. But then again, too many times this year the Ducks haven't won when they should have. We'll see what happens with that tonight on the Island.

Our gal Lauren was at it again yesterday with the camera, and she sent some photos of the day at the Garden.


As he prepares for the morning skate, Bobby Ryan marvels at Madison Square Garden. Last night marked the first time he's played in the building.


The Ducks dads walk into Madison Square Garden for the first time and check out the view. It was many of the father's first visit to MSG and for some, their first visit to New York City.


Jim Parros (L) and Steve Getzlaf (R) take look at one of the many Stanley Cup championship pictures that adorn the walls just outside the Rangers locker room.


Ducks dads sit in the stands of Madison Square Garden as they watch their sons take part in the morning skate session.


The Ducks dads celebrate Bobby Ryan's goal during the first period.




Updated Jan. 20 at 2:57 p.m. (New York time)

I just got back from watching the inauguration at a bar/restaurant with four fellow Ducks staffers, along with several dozen strangers. It has to be the first time I've been in a bar with a large group of watching anything other than a sporting event, and it was truly a cool moment. That being said, it wasn't easy waking up for it, considering our group ate and drank ourselves half to death during a big Italian dinner last night.

I have absolutely no time before our group heads to a tour of the NHL offices, then feed ourselves with food and drink before Ducks-Rangers tonight. So, the best I can do for now is post these photos taken by Ducks Media & Communications Manager Lauren O'Gorman during yesterday's practice at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. The rink happens to be located on the exact portion of the Hudson River where the U.S. Airways plane crashed last week.

In addition to the 20 Ducks staffers on this trip, this also happens to be the annual Ducks "Fathers Trip," with 14 dads on hand to see their sons play the next two nights. Here are some of Lauren's photos:


The Ducks stretch in a circle on the ice at Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers.


Ducks dads James McIver, Bill Mikkelson and Jim Parros watch their sons practice at Chelsea Piers.


The view of the Hudson River from the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers. The US Airways plane landed in the Hudson right in front of the rink.


Brendan Mikkelson and Ryan Getzlaf made a promotional appearance at the famous Carnegie Deli and were joined by dads Bill Mikkelson and Steve Getzlaf.


Getzy trying to get his mouth around one of their trademark high-stacked sandwiches.


Updated Jan. 18 at 12:33 p.m.

If the frustration of the Ducks' season could be summed up in a weekend, this was it.

The Ducks looked absolutely miserable Friday night in falling 3-1 to a Pittsburgh Penguins team missing so many players to injury (including their best one) , they considered suiting up actual penguins. Then less than 24 hours later, after arriving in Minnesota in the wee hours of the morning, the Ducks looked spectacular in shutting out the Wild 3-0. So spectacular, in fact, they looked like a completely different team. Remember this quote from Randy Caryle a few days ago?:

"We’re still trying to carve out our identity with this team. What kind of team are we?”

Now, that question is even harder to answer.

Brendan Morrison, whose up-and-down play this season is a perfect representation of the uniform he's worn this season, said last night that the effort against the Pens was, “probably our worst game of the year” and called it "embarrassing." 

“The good thing is we rebounded and played more like the team we’re capable of being."

And it's even more confounding that it came in the second game of a back-to-back, when teams are typically supposed to lose a little something from the night before. But remarkably enough, the Wild is a puzzling 1-6-1 in the past eight games when facing a team that played the previous night.

One of the reasons the Ducks turned it on is that the back-to-back scenario prompted the use of Jonas Hiller in goal, who in a year of inconsistency has been one of the more reliable Ducks. Hiller had 30 stops in earning his fourth shutout of the year, never really having to do anything spectacular the whole night. Although, have you ever noticed that when Hiller reaches out to make a glove save, he has a tendency to overract like a modern-day Al Pacino? (Here's an example from last night of the way he whips that glove around following a save.) Then again, I don't care if he runs around the rink like Rod Tidwell on Monday Night Football, as long as the puck is in the leather.

Hiller got a little help in the second period, after the Wild were all over the Anaheim net and after a scramble in front, Owen Nolan muscled the puck in the net. But the official had blown the whistle after losing sight of the puck, assuming Hiller had covered it.

“I couldn’t find it,” Hiller said. “It was lying in front of my pad for a while. I tried to cover it, but couldn’t reach it. Then I lost track. So did the ref, I think, because he was right behind me."

It didn't exactly make up for the high-stick goal the officials gave Detroit last Wednesday night (I promise that's the last time I mention it), but thank you very much nonetheless. “I was lucky," Hiller said. "Sometimes you have to be a little lucky, but I think we deserved to be lucky tonight because everybody fought to win. If you fight, you also get lucky.”

On the other end of the ice, Corey Perry came through twice to give him three goals (and six points) in four games since coming back from his suspension. Both Perry goals came off fantastic feeds from teammates, the first from rookie Andrew Ebbett, and the second from Ryan Getzlaf with 23.7 left that put the lid on the game. That came at a juncture where the Wild remarkably elected not to send goalie Nicklas Backstrom to the bench for an extra attacker, despite being down 2-0. But the way the Wild played in that final minute, it looked like they'd given up anyway.

The Getzlaf-to-Perry feed also came despite the fact that the two didn't play much together all night, as Carlyle juggled the lines to try and shake things up. Ryan Carter played with Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer on the checking line, while Sammy Pahlsson played with Perry and Drew MIller. Morrison skated the wing with Getzlaf and Chris Kunitz and Bobby Ryan teamed with Ebbett and call-up Troy Bodie. Meanwhile, George Parros was a healthy scratch, surprising considering Minnesota's Derek Boogaard has a tendency to run around like a lunatic and might have needed someone on the Anaheim side to discuss things with him.

Ryan proved he can score no matter who he's paired with, as he knocked in a huge rebound goal with 13:56 left in the third that gave the Ducks a much-more-comfortable 2-0 lead. Watching the game from my couch, the way I yelped "Bobby Ryan!" after that goal prompted this conversation:

Girlfriend (in her best third-grader tone): "You looooove him."
Me (suddenly much quieter): "Stop it."

The Wild were without winger Andrew Brunette from the start of the second period to the finish, as he left the game with an apparent right leg injury. It was just the latest in a bizarre tendency for the Ducks to mess with the league's ironmen. Brunette has the longest consecutive games streak in the NHL at 497 and now looks to miss at least a couple of games. Two years ago, Karlis Skrastins of Colorado had his 495 straight games (a league record for defensemen) snapped when he sat out a game with the Ducks because of a knee injury. Last season, the reigning NHL ironman snapped a streak of 542 games when he decided not to play a game in Anaheim because of wrist problems. That guy's name? Brendan Morrison.

Reader Susan noticed some love for the Ducks from Minnesotans during the telecast last night, and sent along this screen capture to illustrate it. OMG, #15. You make me LOL with glee. And I'm not JK.

You have to hand it to the people of Minnesota who actually are Wild fans. In case you needed a reminder how hockey-crazy they are out there, consider the fact that they sell out every game with one of the more boring teams in the NHL. They hardly score any goals (traditionally toward the bottom of the league in that category) and their biggest star right now is Mikko Koivu.

The way the Ducks looked last night, they prompt us one more time to say, "If they can only play like that every game..." while we're reminded that the Minnesota victory was just the third in the last 11 road games. And now they're tested with two games in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday. Of course, the Rangers team the Ducks face in two nights just lost 3-0 on the road to Pittsburgh, which had Sidney Crosby back for that game.

The Ducks flew east on Thursday to play in Pittsburgh, then back west to play Minnesota, then back east again to play two in New York, and that stretch was made a little easier to swallow with last night's victory. The Ducks can now relax and watch some football today feeling a little better about themselves. I'm about to do the same thing, and as I was going through the channel guide to find the NFC championship game, I noticed a show on CBS called, "Pride, Passion and Power." Since that is remarkably similar to the Kings' slogan for this season, the inexplicably all-caps "PRIDE=PASSION=POWER," I momentarily thought it was a show about this year's Kings (though I was really hoping it wasn't). When I looked into it further, I found the show was: "An up-to-date look at the 2008-09 NCAA women's basketball season."

How appropriate.

I think I can safely predict the winner of the Breakaway Challenge (OMG #15) during the All-Star Game weekend after reading the news that the winner will be picked by fans text messaging. Then again, Getzlaf is going against a Canadien and a Blackhawk, two fan bases that also texted their little fingers off over the past few months. Oh, it's on.

I was asked to offer my comments on the first half of the Ducks season for a piece on a Swedish website called SvenskaFans.com. Bet you didn't know I speak fluent Swedish.

Once again, I probably won't be posting anything in any language during the day tomorrow since for most of the day I will be joining about 20 other Ducks staffers on a flight east to begin our NYC trip. Keep your fingers crossed that our plane doesn't run into a flock of geese on takeoff.

I'd hate to see this team have to fold.



Updated Jan. 16 at 12:34 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Penguins without Sidney Crosby is kind of like the Bulls without Jordan. The Oscars without Jack. "Knight Rider" without David Hasselhoff.

It's just not quite the same, is it?

Crosby is supposed to miss tonight's battle with the Ducks with a left knee injury suffered two nights ago against the visiting Washington Capitals. But the Ducks won't get too torn up over the fact that tonight's game has lost some of its cache. They're not lamenting the fact that Crosby and Bobby Ryan won't be facing each other for the first time since being drafted 1-2 in 2005. The fact is, the Ducks need a win, and not having Crosby in the way makes things just a little easier against a Pens team that's struggling even with him on the ice.

Crosby actually did try to skate this morning, captured in fine detail with 14 seconds of compelling video by our guy Mike Levy. But he said afterwards, "I don't feel comfortable enough to play. It didn't feel good. That was the first time I skated since it happened. No go."

Of course, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was dubious when hearing of Crosby's impeding absence, saying, "That’s news to me. If I see Crosby not in the starting lineup, or not in the warm-up, then I’ll believe he’s not playing."

Not exactly the most trusting person in the world, is he?

Even when it seemed Crosby was playing in the game, Bobby Ryan didn't offer much when he was asked by reporters earier in the week what he thought about playing the guy drafted ahead of him for the first time. “Not much,” he said. “It’s just another game. There are plenty of young guys on that team that are doing well. It’s two points for us that we need on the road.”

The Pens are having a hard enough time this season, even with Sid the Kid, as they're just 21-20-4 and 10th in the Eastern Conference. (If I were to choose one of of the two Stanley Cup finalists I'd rather see go through a hangover this year, I certainly would have preferred the other guys.)

And it's not just Crosby who they're missing tonight. Big-time defenseman Sergei Gonchar has been on the shelf all year with a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, defensemen Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang were also injured in that game, while, center Maxime Talbot, left wing Ruslan Fedotenko and left wing Pascal Dupuis will also miss tonight with various ailments.

But the Ducks aren't sympathizing, as they have their own injury problems, though one of those remains to be seen until later today. Brett Festerling missed the team flight yesterday morning to get an MRI on his bruised left knee, suffered after blocking a Marian Hossa shot two nights ago. He flew on his own through Chicago yesterday and got into Pittsburgh at around 10 a.m. this morning.

Needless to say, Festerling didn't take part in the morning skate and his status for tonight "will be a game-time decision," according to Carlyle. "If he skates warm-up, then I would say he'll be available." If Festerling can't go, Nathan McIver will be thrown in there. The Ducks haven't recalled any other defenseman from Iowa, probably because there's no one left down there.

It's funny how things work out, isn't it? Who would have thought back in September, when the Ducks had a defensive unit that included Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Sean O'Donnell, Francois Beauchemin and Kent Huskins, that we'd be concerned about the injury status of Brett Festerling?

After tonight, the Ducks have to somehow turn right around and face Minnesota the very next day, then it's two games in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday. I'll be in New York for both of those games, as part of a company outing involving about 20 Ducks staffers. I won't be doing a live game log during those two games, instead electing to experience them from a fan's perspective. But I will be writing about our experiences in New York throughout the week.

Looks like my moaning about the officials yesterday caught the attention of blogger George James Malik, on a Michigan blog site called mlive.com. Ignore the fact that he botches my job title and references my blog post by calling it "a whiny game preview prior to the Red Wings' 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks." Huh? Game preview? I'm confused.

Malik points out that the photo I ran to show the high stick on the last Detroit goal, you can't tell where the puck is. It's a good point, since I probably should have mentioned that the blur you see next to Franzen's stick blade is actually the puck in motion. You can really see it at the 2:12 mark on Ducks TV.

He also writes that he believes the Ducks traditionally play overly physical hockey against the Wings and deliberately try to hurt other players. But, he adds, I don't presume to believe that I have the right to tell you that my biases and extreme dislike for the Ducks, their players, coaches, and some of their fans are opinions which you should share. How I perceive what's going on in a game and what's actually going on can be two very different things, and I accept that, so I try to keep my mouth shut and not tell you what to think.

Too late for that, George.

He closes with this line: Eventually, regardless of how ridiculous one thinks that the referees are mismanaging a game, you've still got to battle through that, and if your team can battle through, they win.

Now, that I agree with.


Updated Jan. 15 at 12:50 p.m.

It's hard enough to beat the Detroit Red Wings. But when you have to beat the officials as well, it becomes a huge undertaking.

The goal that Johan Franzen scored last night to take a 4-3 lead on the Ducks in the third period was knocked in with a high stick. Plain and simple. It was not a goal. It wasn't immediately clear on the ice, but replays clearly showed that his stick blade was above the crossbar when he made contact with the puck. That's no goal. Let me say that again: That's no goal. And as we watched the replays while it was being reviewed back in the War Room in Toronto, it seemed obvious the goal would be overturned.

It was not.

As a result, the Wings finished turning a 3-2 Ducks lead into a 4-3 Ducks deficit in a manner of 35 seconds. And the Ducks did little to counter until the final minute of the game (more on that later).

I'm traditionally not one to complain about officiating. I typically think bad calls/good calls even out for both teams over time. But the failure to overturn that goal was hardly the only blown call that went against the Ducks last night. And by the way, this one was gagged by the guys who weren't even on the ice, but by the replay officials who 9 times out of 10 seem to get the call right. This one? Well, maybe the boys in Toronto couldn't manage to stay awake, since it was past midnight Eastern time. I imagine the referee placed the call to the War Room and got no answer while the guys in Toronto were slumped low in their office chairs, heads thrown back, mouths wide open and snoring. Meanwhile, the referee back in Anaheim just pretended to be on the phone for a couple minutes before announcing the goal would stand. That's the only explanation for what happened.

And while that was the worst of it, it was hardly the only questionable call that buried the Ducks. One of the most egregious was the phantom tripping call on Sammy Pahlsson 6:45 into the third period, when it was clear Brad Stuart simply lost an edge and went down, with Pahlsson doing nothing more than skating next to him. Meanwhile, just before that happened, it look as if goalie Chris Osgood played the puck outside the trapezoid. So not only should the Ducks not have had to kill that penalty for a critical two minutes, but they probably should have been on a power play themselves for a delay of game.

I have a friend whom I sit next to in the press box at every home game, and every time a bad call goes against the Ducks (real or imagined), he jokingly says, "What, are we playing Detroit?" I laugh every time.

Today, it doesn't seem so funny.

But the blown calls shouldn't take away from the fact that we saw a heck of a hockey game last night, and the Ducks fought hard enough to take a 3-2 lead into the final period. Unfortunately, they lost that lead for the first time this season, as they came into last night 14-0-0 when leading after two. (By the way, fourth straight 4-3 score for the Ducks and eighth in the past 12 games. Weird.)

The Ducks did everything they could to win, but as J.S. Giguere said, "We found a way to lose." One Detroit goal came off a ridiculous carom off the seam in the glass, as the puck bounced to Jiri Hudler all alone in the slot and he beat Giguere. Another Wings tally came when the normally reliable Scott Niedermayer not only whiffed trying to get the puck out of the corner, but uncharacteristically lost Dan Cleary before he wristed it through.

If it's possible for a guy who only plays 21:44 of a 60-minute hockey game to completely dominate, Ryan Getzlaf did it last night. Seemingly every time Getzlaf touched the puck, he did something magical with it. And three times that magic led to Ducks goals (one of which was his), the prettiest of which came on this fake-shot-and-deke move that set up Corey Perry for the one-timer.

But as much as the Ducks did over the first two periods to put themselves in front, they didn't exactly pour it on for a good part of the third. Between the 3:42 mark to the 14:41 mark, the Ducks had exactly zero shots on goal. And they didn't put much pressure on the Detroit net until the final minute, when Giguere headed off for an extra skater. Pahlsson had an opening on a shot from the slot, but rocketed it wide. Perry jumped on a rolling puck with only Osgood in front of him, but couldn't flip it over him. And with two seconds left, Niedermayer managed to put the puck on net, but there was just too much traffic for Bobby Ryan to push it through.

You can find satisfaction in the fact that a Ducks team with so many injuries and so many young guys on the ice gave the still-very-good defending champions all they could handle. But the fact is, if the Ducks hope to be back among the league's elite, they simply can't lose leads like that in their own building, no matter who they're playing. "At this time of year, in our own rink, these are the types of games that you need to have at the end of the day," Giguere said. "They know how to win, and we’re a team trying to figure out how to win.”

Let's hope they figure it out on this Eastern-bound flight they're on right now, as the Ducks play four straight on the road going into the All-Star break. There were hopes Anaheim would boost its ratings with this extended stay at home (and on in L.A.) to start 2009. But 3-4-1 is certainly not what they had in mind, and now they have some serious work to do.

And they'll be doing it without Teemu Selanne until probably at least the end of this month. Even though Selanne skated yesterday on his own for the first time since slicing his quad on Dec. 19 at Edmonton, he declared he's not ready to suit up yet. “I’m pretty much able to do everything else, but not explosive stuff,” Selanne said. “With the controlled strides, I can push quite hard, but anything explosive or quick, it’s not strong enough. That will come from skating.”

Tomorrow marks exactly four weeks after the injury occurred, and even though it was originally diagnosed he'd be out that long, he's several days away. “Four weeks is the time that the muscle should be strong enough to start really pushing,” Selanne said.

As if the Ducks don't have enough injuries and enough former Chops taking their place, Brett Festerling limped off the ice in the second period after taking a Marian Hossa shot off the knee. He didn't return and the x-ray, "Didn't look favorable," according to Randy Carlyle. Festerling is getting an MRI today and isn't on the flight to Pittsburgh. (Update: Festerling's MRI showed nothing more than a left knee contusion. He's flying to Pittsburgh tonight.)

His injury put a burden on the Ducks last night, as the other Ducks D-men were forced to play a few more shifts than normal. That showed a little bit when Anaheim gave up those two huge goals in 35 seconds. 

Well, make that one goal in 35 seconds.


Updated Jan. 14 at 12:43 p.m.

I’ve had a little trouble finding the energy this morning, considering the girlfriend and I spent pretty much all of last night trying to power through an hour of “Real Housewives of Orange County,” two hours of “American Idol” and two hours of “24” (we didn’t quite make it through the latter).

If I’m going to make it over these next few months, I’m going to have to cut some shows out of my life. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to do it. I see an intervention coming:

“Adam, we’re here because we love you and we care about you. We can’t watch you do this to yourself anymore. Do you really need to watch ‘Real Housewives of Orange County’? And don’t you think two nights a week of “American Idol” is a little excessive? Maybe you could find a different outlet, like, say, exercising?

Despite the bad-TV-induced fatigue, I’m still fired up for tonight’s bout with the Red Menace, an opponent that always makes it feel like more than just another game around here. The Ducks have had a tendency this season to play down to the level of the opponent (latest example: a 4-3 loss to Tampa last Friday night). At the same time, they’ve picked up their level of play on many occasions against the top teams in the league, and that includes Detroit.

Both games against the Wings this season have been barn-burners, starting with an Oct. 29 matchup at Honda Center that included five Ryan Getzlaf assists, a Teemu Selanne hat trick and an overtime goal by a guy named Francois Beauchemin that gave Anaheim a 5-4 victory. Last month in Detroit, Jean-Sebastien Giguere was in net for the first time since visiting his since-departed father Claude in Montreal, and was nearly unbeatable over the first two periods with 37 saves. But he was pulled for the third because of groin crampage (I know, not a word), and Jonas Hiller gave up a quick Marian Hossa goal that gave Detroit the 2-1 victory. Despite that loss, the Ducks are 7-2-1 in their last 10 in the regular season against Detroit. And oh yeah, there was that victory in six games in the '07 conference finals.

The Wings come in tonight in the middle of a five-game road swing that opened with a surprising 5-4 overtime loss at Dallas on Monday. After all, the Stars had been trounced 6-1 by the Wings just a few days earlier. Here was the AP account of Monday night's game:

The Dallas Stars made up for that debacle in Detroit.

Only four days after a pathetic performance against the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings, shot-happy Dallas overcame an early deficit and took its only lead when Trevor Daley scored on his own rebound 1:51 into overtime for a 5-4 victory Monday night.

Good lord. A little emotional for an AP writer, aren’t we?

That loss to the Stars snapped a six-game winning streak for Detroit, which at 29-7-6 appears to be just as strong as last year’s Stanley Cup champions (as much as it pains me to admit it). Many saw a taste of their strength in the way they came back on Chicago in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day.

(Speaking of New Year's Day, I got a "Happy New Year!" in an email yesterday. January 13? Really? What should be the deadline for that? January 3 or 4? You might recall I milked the life out of this concept when I wrote about it last year.)

The Ducks will be facing the Wings tonight with most (if not all) of the six guys who started the year as Chops in the lineup. And that looks like it might be the case for awhile. Todd Marchant is expected to not play again until after the Jan. 25 All-Star Game with that broken pinkie, which he mentioned the other day is the first broken bone of his career. Meanwhile, Teemu Selanne (lacerated quad muscle) and Kent Huskins (broken foot) are supposed to start skating soon, but neither will likely make an appearance on the four-game trip that launches Friday.

Tonight marks the end of an eight-game stretch for the Ducks in which their only road game was up the freeway in L.A. With just 15 homes games left in the regular season after tonight, this homestand was thought to be the opportunity for the Ducks to play themselves into better position to start the second half of the season. But they haven’t quite done it, going 3-3-1. Carlyle was asked today if he’s disappointed.

“Oh, for sure,” he said. “We’re disappointed that in some of the games we’ve played, we didn’t play anywhere near to the level that was required. That’s what’s frustrating not only for us as a coaching staff, but for the players. We’re still trying to carve out our identity with this team. What kind of team are we?”

Honestly? Your guess is as good as mine.

As if we weren't feeling bad enough about the Ducks losing to Tampa Bay last Friday, the Lightning were stomped by the Sharks 7-1 in San Jose, as the Men of Teal still haven't lost in regulation at home this season. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the Ducks don't win the Pacific Division this year. Just a guess.

Jeff Miller of the O.C. Register has an entertaining feature on how Brent Severyn and John Ahlers teamed up to call the Kontinental Hockey League's outdoor all-star game, which was played in Moscow just a few hours after the Ducks played Tampa in Anaheim on Friday night. How did they do it? They actually called the game while watching it on a monitor from a Los Angeles television studio, starting at 5 a.m. Pacific time. "Three cups of coffee and two doughnuts did it for me," Severyn said of the early wakeup call. Two doughnuts, Sevy? Did that really wake you up?

I also like that it said when the two met at 3 a.m. to carpool to L.A., "Ahlers had slept barely an hour and a half. Severyn not at all." Sevy, taking it deep on a Friday night.

Miller also shares this in the article: After the game, the KHL released the following quote attributed to [Jaromir] Jagr: "I summoned Marcel Hossa, and he did the hat trick. One should know on whom to count."

And there was this observation, credited to Hossa: "I had to fight against a very oppressive frost."

Today’s edition of “How Phenomenal is Bobby Ryan?” includes mention that Ryan’s spin-o-rama third goal against the Kings last Thursday night was the No. 1 choice on TSN's Top 10 1st Half NHL Plays. And judging by the caliber of the other nine, to be No. 1 on that list is pretty impressive. (So is his selection to the YoungStars Game. Oh wait, that didn't happen.) Thankfully, the audio they used for the clip is Steve Carroll's radio call, not the infamous "Bobby Smith" call by the Kings' Bob Miller. Love the fact that you can hear Severyn laughing after the goal is scored.

I was chatting with Bobby today after the skate and he politely interrupted the conversation to point at the TV in the locker room. I turned my head and saw that TSN had a graphic up showing the top four rookies in the league and their numbers. Ah, rookies. They still get a kick out of seeing themselves on TV. (Although, I'm hesitant to write anything about Bobby anymore because he told me today that he reads this blog.)

Maybe he should be watching more TV.



Updated Jan. 13 at 2:25 p.m.

A couple things were notable from the aftermath of today's practice at Honda Center. One, Bobby Ryan fever is in full swing, as Ryan was shuttled around to several different TV interviews throughout the afternoon. Two, here was the message on the grease board in the locker room:

HOW DO YOU SEE IT?

Two stone cutters were asked what they were doing.

The first one said, "I'm cutting this stone into blocks."

The second one said, "I'm on a team that's building a cathedral."

As far as blog material goes, thank goodness Casino Night was last night, since we haven't had a game since Sunday and we don't have one tonight. And there was plenty to observe last night on the Honda Center floor during the Old West-themed event, for which the players and guests came dressed as cowboys and cowgirls.

The event got off to a great start hours before it even began, during this pre-event segment on the KTLA morning show. Steve Montador, sporting the mustache and hair under his bottom lip (I won't say what it's traditionally called), which he cut specifically for the night, said of the look, "That's just how Steve 'El Matador' hangs it." And Chris Pronger, who reporter Allie MacKay calls, "A whole lotta man," points out that "our in-house commentator Kent French" is clumsily riding the bull. Meanwhile, MacKay takes some heat from the people behind the anchor desk as they introduce her as "no stranger to locker rooms" and one of the guys tells her, "You know, that bull is running so slow, you might want to tighten the nuts on that bull."

Ah, KTLA, where their motto is, We're no CNN, and we're proud of it.

Later in the day, the actual Casino Night had plenty of things to see and hear, both that I caught first-hand or were shared with me. A sample:

- Teemu Selanne being the only Duck to actually wear chaps over his jeans, explaining he borrowed them from, "a neighbor who is a cowboy."

- Kent French speaking to the crowd from the stage at the beginning of the night and awkwardly asking them for a YEE-HAW, which he pronounced, "HEE-HAW!"

- Scott Niedermayer speaking to the crowd and saying he wanted to see Travis Moen ride the mechanical bull, "to see if he's a real cowboy." (He never did.)

- Frenchie throwing it to Chris Pronger and Ryan Getzlaf sitting on the raised platform above the bar in the middle of the room so they could say some words, and Pronger adding a "HEE-HAW!" of his own. And in grand Ducks tradition, he asked the newest Ducks rookies (Brendan Mikkelson and Matt Beleskey) to come up and say a few words. But instead of calling for "Brendan Mikkelson," Pronger kept intentionally calling him, "Phil Mickelson."

- Mikkelson rambling through an impromptu speech that went on much longer than it should have, the highlight of which coming when he revealed he has a Chris Pronger poster in his bedroom back home in Regina (tee hee).

- Mikkelson mentioning that his last game before he was called up from Iowa was a 6-0 loss, pointing to himself and saying, "Yeah, minus-3 in that one."

- Beleskey revealing that when he was growing up, his dad's favorite player was Scott Niedermayer.

- Brett Festerling, who was forced into uncomfortable speech duty at Ducks in Tux and was off the hook for this one, heckling his fellow rookies from the bar.

- Festerling line-dancing several different times throughout the night.

- Bobby Ryan and Festerling letting people handcuff them in the makeshift "jail" that was set up for fan photo opportunities.

- Me being handed a cheap cowboy hat and wearing it for the first half of the night, until so many people told me I looked more like Indiana Jones than a cowboy that I ditched it. The last straw was when Rob Niedermayer took one look at me and said, "Nice hat, bud." And of course, later in the night, Ryan Carter greeted me with, "Where's your hat?"

- The frequently talked-about girl in the unbuttoned red-and-white-checkered picnic tablecloth top, who had huge ... personality. (I'm dying to show her picture, but I just can't do it.)

- The fact that the Ducks were given cowboy hats that were either black with a sheriff's badge pinned on the front, or off-white with a shiny Ducks logo sticker slapped on there. 

- The so-called "saloon dancers" who danced the entire night on the raised platform over the bar, next to a guy playing the piano. And staying in character, part of their dancing included frequently pulling up their dresses just a little bit, which earned them plenty of attention.

 - The former Britney Spears lookalike, whom I wrote about last year in describing her quest to give Ryan Getzlaf her number, finally reaching her goal this year. Sort of. She actually slipped it to ... I better not say who. (She's a brunette now and doesn't look much like Britney anymore, by the way.)

- George Parros being possibly the most convincing-looking cowboy, as he went rogue and didn't wear the issued shirt that every other player wore, but his own black number with roses stitched on the front.

- Since my job was officially labeled as "roamer," me being able to get out of awkward conversations by saying, "Hey, I have to go roam. I'll talk to you later."

- The very good country band, which actually performed some songs I'd actually heard of.

- Me meeting the tennis balls for the first time (they weren't wearing the sweatshirts) and taking a picture with the female one.

- Corey Perry singing along word-for-word to nearly every country song.

- Watching girl after girl ride the mechanical bull and finally understanding the appeal of country bars.

- Every last Ducks player being extremely gracious with every fan that approached for a picture, autograph or quick conversation.

That's just one of the many reasons events like these are so successful, and why they're able to raise so much money year after year. It's a pleasure to be a part of it, and I can't wait until next year.


Updated Jan. 12 at 12:02 p.m.

Just when things were starting to get pretty bleak for the Anaheim Ducks, they go and do that last night.

They play very solid hockey from beginning to end, only allow 21 shots (including just 10 in the first two periods), get a mostly strong effort from their struggling goalie and even more remarkable, for the first time all season they have more goals than penalties. That's right, the Ducks only committed two penalties the entire night in their 4-3 win over the visiting New Jersey Devils. And that came ironically on a night when Corey Perry, the guy who committed the most egregious penalty of the year for the Ducks, returned from his four-game suspension for an elbow to the head.

And no one seemed to benefit more from Perry's return than Chris Kunitz, who shined last night on the top line with Perry and Ryan Getzlaf with two huge goals. The first one wasn't exactly pretty, as Kunitz came around the net to jam it under Scott Clemmensen's leg pad and I'm still waiting to see the actual puck over the actual line. But the official on the spot determined that it was indeed a goal, leading to the most awkward celebration by the fans we've seen all season. A handful reacted to the official's signal and subsequent half-celebration by the Ducks on the ice. But they got a little louder when several seconds later the horn went off, and let out the appropriate roar when it was announced that the replay review determined the call on the ice was the right one. (Incidentally, I don't think the replay showed anything more revealing.)

Kunitz's second goal, which would prove to be huge insurance, was much more picturesque, as all three guys on that top line made it happen. Perry dropped the puck to Getzlaf, who made his 1,000th great feed of the season, a cross-ice pass that Kunitz took in, and tinged off the happy half of the post.

(By the way, love the fact that Doc Emrick is making the call on these highlights, since he's the Devils play-by-play guy. Don't love the fact that even the NHL has trouble getting Ducks' names right. Check out the second paragraph.)

In between those Kunitz goals, J.S. Giguere made a huge save to keep the Ducks in front by a goal, staying patient as Jamie Langenbrunner somehow got the puck with no one around and made a couple of deke moves before trying his shot on the breakaway. Unfortunately, Giguere wasn't as strong on the goal that pulled the Devils to within 4-3 with 31 seconds left, a goal that officially went to Zach Parise, but could have been credited to Travis Moen as he tried to poke it out of there.

But that goal was too little too late for the Devils, as the Ducks gave them nothing more over the last half-minute and Giguere earned his first win since, hard to believe, Dec. 14 against Minnesota.

“That one feels good. I won’t lie to you,” Giguere said. "It's been awhile since I got a win."

And you could hardly blame Giguere on the first Devils goal, which Bobby Holik scored with his face. Notice how Emrick can only describe it at first as, "A goal by the Devils off the face-off!" He could have taken off the word "off." (I also love how in the official NHL scoresheet, it lists the goal as "Snap Shot." What, they don't have a term for redirecting a shot with your face?) Afterward, Holik decided to take a shot at his teammate when talking about the goal.
"Luckily it was Mike Mottau shooting the puck," he said. "He can't hurt a fly with that shot, so it's all good."

As satisfying as all of it was for the Ducks last night, it's important to keep in mind that it's just one game -- just like losing to a crappy Tampa team Friday night was just one game. And the Devils were playing the second of a back-to-back (as were the Ducks on Friday ... then again, so were the Lightning).

And leave it to Scott Niedermayer to keep things properly in perspective: “We have to keep doing that. One night doesn’t mean we’ve proven that. That’s the way you have to do it. You have to believe in what you’re doing and keep doing it and it will pay off.”
And oh yeah, Bobby Ryan got yet another goal and it was yet another awe-inspiring one, as he tumbled to the ice just as he was one-timing it through. (Thank you, Doc, for actually getting his name right, unlike some announcers.) Much of the credit for that goal has to be given to Brendan Morrison, who wait, wait, waited until the ideal time to sling that pass across the ice to a charging Ryan to give him the open net.

And you can tell from this fantastic photo that Bobby was pretty appreciative about it.

Ryan was also honored this morning with the second star among the NHL's Three Stars of the Week. Hey, NHL, you can keep your second star and instead give us some YoungStars Game love.

(Okay, that's the last I'm going to mention that ... Probably.)



Updated Jan. 11 at 1:22 p.m.

The way they're toying with their fans in the past week, the Ducks are like a bad girlfriend right now.

You know the bad girlfriend. You have a nice night out together and you think things are going great. Then you catch her texting her ex-boyfriend. 

You introduce her to your friends and they all tell you how much they like her. Then she has too many Vodka cranberries and tells everyone what a jerk you are.

By the same token, the Ducks make us feel like everything's going okay with wins over division rivals Phoenix and Los Angeles, only to turn around and lose to the Kings and the last-place Tampa Bay Lightning on consecutive nights.

In two straight games they string us along by quickly erasing multi-goal deficits, only to give up a go-ahead goal in the third and never make another peep. Their best player makes us think he's making good decisions by electing not to drop the gloves with an opposing player not even close to his talent level. Then a few minutes later he's throwing punches with that guy and spending the next five minutes off the ice.

But just like that girlfriend, we love this team -- or at least really like them. And we'll keep going into every test over the next few months with high hopes. And for now we have some excuses for this team, just like we would make for her. Teemu Selanne's out. Corey Perry has been out. Todd Marchant was out Friday night. We have six guys who started the season as Iowa Chops.

Ironically enough, at the same time the puck drops for tonight's battle with the Devils, the NHL Network will again be showing the 2007 Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup Video. So, set your DVRs if you have NHL Network. Then again, you might think twice about that. While watching that video might bring back great memories -- and there are at least 84 different goosebump moments in it -- it might further reinforce how much different this Ducks team is from that one.

With that team, you could pretty much guarantee they're not dropping a home game against the team with the worst record in the league. With this one? You just never know. Just when you think you've got it figured out, it throws a cereal bowl at your head and storms out, and you're left shaking your head.

(By the way, let none of this reflect on my actual girflriend, who is as stable as they come. My ex-wife on the other hand...)

But if there is an equivalent of the girlfriend hitting the gym and losing the 10 pounds she put on after you started dating her, the Ducks have that tonight. Corey Perry returns for his first game since serving that four-game suspension and he'll probably be back on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Kunitz. Meanwhile, the second line is looking like it might be Bobby Ryan, Andrew Ebbett and Brendan Morrison.

(I'll be on with Steve Carroll and Brent Severyn during the first period intermission tonight. So, tune in and boost their ratings for a few minutes.)

I talked to Teemu Selanne last night at a charity casino night event, and he said he feels great but needs probably one more week for the cut on his thigh to heal enough to play. Later in the night, as he played blackjack, he saw my (not fat) girlfriend holding her coat in front of her and drinking a bottle of water (after a couple martinis earlier in the night). So he asked her, "How many weeks are you?" The look of shock on her face ("I'm not pregnant!) was only matched by his look of horror. Somehow, she took it very well, and at least she got a Teemu Selanne hug out of it when the night was over.

There are plenty of girlfriends who would take that trade any day.



Updated Jan. 9 at 1:46 p.m.

When it's all said and done, the Ducks didn't deserve that one last night.

Bobby Ryan, on the other hand, certainly did.

If it's possible for a 21-year-old rookie to carry an entire team on his back, that's what Ryan did in last night's 4-3 defeat to the Kings at Staples Center. Ryan's natural hat trick that covered a span of 2:21, was the fastest in Ducks history and the first three-goal game by a rookie in Ducks history. And more importantly, it pulled the Ducks all the way back from a 3-0 deficit that came out of some pretty lackluster play by the rest of the team in the early going

Despite the momentum created by those three goals, it wasn't enough for the Ducks to steal that one. Alexander Frolov cashed in on the power play set up by a too many men on the ice penalty (that's happening a lot in Ducks games lately) to take the lead with 12:17 left, and the Ducks never struck again.

It's unfortunate because while any Ducks loss is tough to take, I really can't stand losing in that building in front of those fans, who constantly strive to come up with new ways to chant, "Ducks suck!" There was even one fan sitting just in front of the press box last night who was especially charming. When Corey Perry was announced as a scratch before the game, he yelled out, "HAAA-haaaaa," not realizing that Perry was sitting not far behind him in the front row of the box. He also inexplicably yelled "Fornicator!" at Chris Pronger, and I wrote last night that I wondered if the guy was a church elder. One fan named Monica emailed to say she heard him yell, "Ryan Getzlaf kisses his dad on the lips!"

Huh?

Meanwhile, Kings fans continue the classy tradition of putting Ducks trading cards in the Staples Center urinals.

Thankfully, there were enough Ducks fans in the house to rain a few hats on the home team's ice when Bobby Ryan scored that unbelievable third goal, which might have been the best the league has seen this year. Take a look at the video (if you haven't seen it already) and tell me this thing doesn't give you goosebumps. (Also, try to ignore the fact the Kings announcer Bob Miller calls him "Bobby Smith" during the play and almost does it again after the goal.)

And how great is this photo of that third goal, especially the reaction of the fans? Well, except for that one guy who is making his way to his seat during the goal, not only missing it himself but ensuring that a few people behind him don't see it either. And here's something that was just brought to my attention. Take a look just above Ryan in the second row. Is that not Pat Sajak?

Bobby talked about all three goals in a quick interview I did with him as he was heading to his car after the skate this morning. Earlier in the morning, in the locker room, I congratulated him and said, "Too bad it got wasted." He apparently thought I said, "Too bad I got wasted" because he replied, "Well, at least one of us did." I thought about that for about two seconds before I realized what he thought I said and I quickly clarified it. 

We learned more on the statistical significance of Ryan's three goals. The previous fastest three was by Teemu Selanne on Nov. 10, 1997 vs. San Jose, and that was in 12:18, almost a full 10 minutes longer than Ryan's (if you don't count the 17-minute intermission last night). It was also the fastest three goals by an NHL rookie since 1938 and the third-fastest overall by a rookie in league history.

And last night's performance makes it all the more outrageous that the rosters for the YoungStars Game were named this morning and BOBBY RYAN DIDN'T MAKE IT. Ryan is tied for second in the league in rookie scoring with 25 points, and no rookie can top his 1.04 points per game. Yes, he's only played in 24 games, but why should that matter? Seriously, NHL, I have no earthly idea what you're thinking here. Don't punish Ryan because the Ducks already have three starters in the All-Star Game. That's just shameful.

You never want to root for a player to get injured, but I'm doing just that, so Bobby can get into that game. He deserves it. Meanwhile, the likes of Mikkel Boedker, James Neal and Steven Stamkos got the nod over Ryan.

Incidentally, Stamkos, last year's No. 1 pick, is supposed to be a healthy scratch tonight against the Ducks, for the first time this year. A healthy scratch on the worst team in the league. Yeah, he should have made it over Ryan. Absolutely.

All signs point to Jonas Hiller starting in net tonight for the Ducks, since J.S. Giguere was alone in the locker room while the rest of the Ducks were having their penalty kill meeting in the player lounge. We asked Giguere if he felt the earthquake that shook Staples Center in the middle of the first period (and scared me nearly half to death) and he said he never felt it. As players filed back into the locker room, he asked a group of them if they felt anything and no one said they did. But how appropriate is it that a game between two Southern California teams would feature a mid-game earthquake?

That had nothing to do with Giguere not looking his best on those two Kings goals and getting the quick hook from Randy Carlyle. “I didn’t think he was square to the puck in the first goal and I didn’t think he was square to the puck…the puck, in my mind, should not go in from those angles on the stick side on both goals. So, I made the decision,” Carlyle said.

It was surprising that Carlyle started Giguere in the first place since Hiller has been hot of late, and has a 4-0-0 record and 0.65 goals-against average in five games against the Kings. “We had to get Giguere back into some games for us,” Carlyle said. “He’s gone through some situations on a personal standpoint and the best healing is to get back to work and play. That’s what our plan was and that’s the way it goes.”

Said Giguere, “I’m disappointed. As a goalie you don’t want to get pulled. It’s the last thing you want. It’s the way it went. There is nothing you can do about it.”

I forgot to mention it the other night, but has anyone noticed that Rinkside View quietly went away, and isn't being used anymore for the Ducks' HD telecasts? I think it's safe to say that's a good thing.

Brad May quickly made himself welcome in Toronto, getting in a fight in his first game with Francis Bouillon of the rival Canadiens. (I linked to the video of the French telecast, not only because it's better quality than the other options, but I think the fight is funnier in French.)

May hurt his hand in this one after pounding on Bouillon's visor, but somehow it wasn't bad enough to keep him from replying to my email late last night. Among his thoughts was this: I am very moved by your efforts and thank you for everything. I am very happy that I was able to make a difference and will be missed ... I loved it there and hope to be back one day.

Meanwhile, the May stories keep pouring in from readers, and I've added the newest ones at the bottom of this page, including one of the several poems sent in by a reader named Stefanie.

Ted Sobel of KFWB did an interview with Brad soon after he was traded, and here's that for you.

And finally, fans who have been to Honda Center in 2009 may have noticed the new opening that incorporates those very cool comic book images that FSN has used for Ducks telecasts this year. As far as the Fort Minor song that accompanies it, I liked it the first time when it was called "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. Nevertheless, it's still a perfect song and I think the whole thing is fantastic. Here it is.



Updated Jan. 8 at 12:46 p.m.

The Kings? Again? Man, it feels like we just played them.

This will be a slightly different-looking Kings team tonight than the one the Ducks beat 3-1 two nights ago at Honda Center. For one thing, they'll be wearing dark uniforms, and actually they're schedule to break out their snoozefest third jerseys. For another, they will have hot rookie (and by "hot," I mean playing well) Jonathan Quick in net, after Quick sat out Tuesday night's game with "flu-like symptoms. (Seriously, can't we just called it "the flu"? When did this "flu-like symptoms" thing start? And why is it only used in sports?)

The Kings are also shaking up their lines tonight, as they practiced with different combinations that included a top line of Alexander Frolov, Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds. You can't blame them, since they have exactly one goal in the last 181 minutes against the Ducks.

As if the Kings don't have enough hard luck, they allowed youngster Oscar Moller to play for Sweden at the World Juniors, and what did he do? Fractured his clavicle. He won't be in there tonight for L.A., and he's not supposed to play until after the All-Star break. I guess you could say Oscar is a bit of a grouch about that. (Seriously, why do I even bother?)

By the way, if you're interested in more bad jokes like that, I'll again be up at staples tonight doing the live game log. (Yes, I made it that small on purpose. See Tuesday's blog for a reminder.)

There was no indication at this morning's skate of who will be in goal tonight for the Ducks, but I would almost guarantee Hiller will be back in there, considering his success against the Kings. That would mean J.S. Giguere gets the start tomorrow night against Tampa Bay at Honda Center.

Congrats to Drew Miller, who despite being up with the Ducks right now, was just named to the PlanetUSA team for the AHL All-Star Game. (Actually, it's technically called the AHL All-Star Classic presented by Charter Communications, but I couldn't bear to write that.)

By the way, is anyone else blown away that Jarkko Ruutu only got suspended two games for biting another player? Meanwhile, Corey Perry gets four for elbowing a guy in the head? I know, I know, blows to the head are much more dangerous than a biting. But I think the NHL could reason that Ruutu should get a longer suspension simply because what he did was so ... how do you say it ... weird. I think that's reason enough.

Okay, so here's how I understand it: Say the term "sloppy seconds" in an interview and you get six games. Bite an opposing player, you get two. I see. That makes sense. 

On to the most important topic, and that's yesterday's trade of Brad May. One thing I'd really like to hear a lot less of regarding that trade is the comment that Brian Burke is somehow fleecing players from the Ducks. Nothing could be further from the truth, and taking that approach kind of intimates that Bob Murray and David McNab are helpless in giving Burke players he wants in Toronto. The fact is, May wasn't playing, the Ducks need cap room, they wanted to give him a better opportunity at this point in his career and Toronto happened to be a good fit. Burkie clearly is a May fan, since he's had him in Vancouver, Anaheim and now Toronto. Meanwhile, the Leafs are in desperate need of some toughness, as indicated in this quote from coach Ron Wilson after Tuesday's 4-2 loss to Florida. 

"We had zero energy at all from any veteran players, to show up and lead the way. It was a quiet room before the game, it was quiet on the bench. We've got to find a way to get a little bit more passion or energy when we play a team like that."

Enter Brad May.

Here was Murray's take on the trade: “It was something I had been watching for a bit. When it became evident that he wasn’t going to get more playing time, my attention turned to Brad and what was best for him. Different players have different degrees to what’s important to them. This was something Brad wants to do. I didn’t think it was going to happen here and I think Brian will give him the opportunity to get it done.”

By the way, the condition behind the sixth round pick in the 2010 draft the Ducks got for May is, if he re-signs with Toronto after this season, the Ducks get the Leafs' pick. If he doesn't, the Ducks don't get anything.

I linked yesterday to May's fights with Krys Barch last season, and a reader named Jori emailed me a link to this classic brawl between May and Steve Montador. May was with Vancouver at the time and Montador was with Calgary. My favorite part is May raising his fist to the sky after absolutely pummeling Montador, as if he's Muhammed Ali.

You'll recall yesterday I asked fans to email me with stories of encounters with May Day or just their favorite memories of him, and the response was huge. (Definitely one of those "be careful what to wish for" moments for me.) But after pouring through all of them, I have compiled them onto a separate page, since there was so much and I didn't want to clog up this already-way-too-wordy page. You can take a look by clicking here.

I'm going to email Brad with a link to the page too. Thank you to everyone who sent something in. Reading your thoughts definitely made it even tougher to see him go.


Updated Jan. 7 at 12:27 p.m.

It wasn't until the last game of the first half of the season that the Ducks played the kind of hockey they should be playing all year. Stifling defense, solid goaltending, success on both the power play and penalty kill and the ability to hold a lead down the stretch. That's supposed to be Ducks hockey, and that's exactly what they displayed last night against the Kings.

You know what else is true Ducks hockey? Beating the Kings. And after taking an embarrassing loss in the third game of the season when Anaheim was definitely not playing Ducks hockey, they have now beaten L.A. in three straight and five in a row at home. Not only that, the one goal the Kings scored last night was their first in just over 143 minutes against the Ducks.

The paltry 18 shots the Kings managed last night were the fewest the Ducks allowed since last Feb. 22 against St. Louis. And Jonas Hiller saved all but one of them, as he continued to put up ridiculous numbers against the rivals up the road. Hiller is 4-0 with a 0.65 goals-against average and .974 save percentage in five career appearances against them.

But as much as I gush about Jonasty, I continue to be a huge Sammy Pahlsson fan, and the babyfaced Swede came up big last night. In addition to the normal yeoman's duty he did on the defensive end and penalty kill, he got a huge tip-in goal on the power play, thanks to a great feed from Scott Niedermayer, to give the Ducks the lead they never relinquished. Pahlsson was thrust into the first power play unit when Corey Perry was suspended and he's been on the ice for all four PP goals the Ducks have scored in the past two games. In fact, Anaheim has six power play goals in the last three games. Who would have thought a unit that once had a formidable trio of Perry, Getzlaf and Selanne at the forwards would start shining with the likes of Getzlaf, Pahlsson and Bobby Ryan?

Speaking of Ryan (and about Ducks I'm absolutely loving right now), the kid got another goal last night, on the power play of course, a pretty one-timer from the slot that gave the Ducks their first lead. Ryan now has 22 points in 23 games and he's a lock to be named to the NHL YoungStars Game when the rosters are announced Friday. By the way, the NHL announced the remaining All-Star rosters today, and frankly I am shocked there weren't any Ducks named to the team.

Kidding. Like there was any way that was going to happen with three starters in there already.

As many good feelings as there are over last night's performance, it's a dark day in Ducks land today, as Brad May has been traded to Toronto. May has always been unquestionably the most friendly, outgoing and approachable guy on the team and I'm definitely sorry to see him go. But he was battling some knee problems this year and even when he was healthy, he was getting scratched time and again. And even when the Ducks have had forwards go down with injuries or suspensions, AHL call-ups like Andrew Ebbett and Drew Miller have been getting the nod over May. The trade to Toronto gives him the opportunity to play again, and gets him closer to 1,000 games (he's been stuck on 963). As tough as it's going to be for him to move with his kids in school here, Toronto is at least his hometown and the place he spends his summers. For the Ducks, it gives them just a little more cap room, as May was making about $600,000 this year.

May leaves his mark on the Ducks in so many ways, both on and off the ice. May was the only pickup the Ducks made at the trade deadline in 2007, when Brian Burke described him as, "tougher than a night in jail." He certainly proved that in helping the Ducks to the Cup in the ensuing four months, giving them just a little more grit and toughness than they already had. May Day's legacy in Anaheim will forever remain on the Ducks Stanley Cup champions DVD, where there are several sound bites from when he was mic'd up during a game in the Final against Ottawa. Among his comments caught on tape were two of the best pieces of trash talk I've ever witnessed.

One is where he passed by an Ottawa player and told him, "I am absolutely running your show" (He later admitted, "That's the one comment I wish I could have back.") Even better than that was when he was checked hard in front of the Ottawa bench, and one Senators player yelled to him, "Watch out for the boards." May calmly turned around, took one look at him and said, "Who the [bleep] are you?"

Honestly, how do you respond to that? Tell him your name?

A few days after the Ducks won the Cup, when they had the fan rally at Honda Center, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was there and went down the line shaking hands with each Ducks player. May was the only one who said to himself "What the hell" and gave him a hug.

I was at an Angels game with a friend and fellow Ducks staffer soon after the Ducks won the Cup, and it was the same day that May and some other Ducks threw out the first pitch. I barely knew May Day at the time and as we passed him on the concourse during the game, I expected a quick wave hello and not much more. But he stopped us both and sounded like a little kid as he talked about how cool it was to throw out the first pitch and meet Angels owner Arte Moreno. A few minutes later when he left, my friend and I just looked at each other, shook our heads and said, "What the hell was that?"

Once I asked him if he was Mormon because a fan emailed me to point out that the wording on his personalized license plate was a verse from the Book of Mormon (ALMA something or other). He had no idea. The car just came that way. There was the time in London when I asked him if he frosted his hair and he said with a straight face, "No, my hair is naturally two different colors." I actually believed him for a few seconds before he started laughing.

(I'm sure plenty of Ducks fans have had good personal experiences with May, and not to get overly sentimental, but email me if you have a good one and I'll run it in the future posting.)

There was that friendly side of May, and then there was the side that loved to fight. He and Krys Barch dropped the gloves no less than four times last season, all of which you can see on this video. He fought Nick Tarnasky of the Predators last November and crushed him with an uppercut while Tarnasky was down on his knees, after which he repeatedly asked him, "Are you okay?" and actually apologized.

That sequence might have been a microcosm of Brad May: as tough as they come on the ice, but deep down a compassionate and thoughtful guy (not to mention a man who loves to talk). In one of several interviews I did with him, he said with a smile, "I don't know. Am I a lover or a fighter? I'm not sure."

For all of that, May Day, you'll be sorely missed around here.


Updated Jan. 6 at 2:35 p.m.

It's a big one tonight for the Ducks, and not just because they're facing the they-hate-us-way-more-than-we-hate-them Kings. But also because tonight marks the 41st game, or the exact halfway point of what has been an up-and-down season at best.

If the Ducks can play anything like they did two nights ago in a 2-0 win over the Coyotes, things will bode well for them tonight and for the rest of the campaign. One indication they might do just that is that suddenly-hot goalie Jonas Hiller will likely be in net tonight again after earning his third shutout of the season against Phoenix. His first blanking came against these very same Kings the last time they matched up, a 2-0 Ducks win Nov. 16 at Honda Center. Before that, J.S. Giguere let nothing through in a 1-0 overtime winner at Staples Center. (By the way, I was told by a Kings person that you're supposed to write "Staples" in all caps, and I did that for a little while. But you know what? Screw it. That's stupid. I'm not doing it anymore) 

Anyway, the Kings haven't scored a goal against the Ducks in more than 121 straight minutes, and they come into this one having won two of their last three (though they've only won three of their last nine). They have been riding hot play of rookie Jonathan Quick, who has posted some very good numbers since being called up from Manchester. That made the Kings feel comfortable enough to ship Jason LaBarbera to Vancouver in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick. The Kings have still given up the fewest shots in the NHL with 999, or an average of 26.3 per game.

Late-breaking news out of L.A. indicates that Quick is too sick, and he'll be replaced in goal by Erik Ersberg. It's the first start from Ersberg since going down with a groin injury on Dec. 15. Ersberg had been good, but not quite good enough, against the Ducks, with a record of 0-1-2 despite posting an impressive 1.30 goals against and a .957 save percentage.

There's usually a tradition with a friend and fellow Ducks staffer every time we play the Kings. He texts me sometime during the game with the same message every time: Did you know we could have had Kopitar instead of Bobby Ryan? Indeed, the Ducks took Ryan second overall in the same '05 draft in which the Kings nabbed Anze Kopitar at No. 11. But with Ryan on nearly a point-a-game run this season, and Kopitar tied for just 65th in the league in scoring, I wonder if I'll still be getting that text.

(Actually, he reads this blog, so I know I'll still be getting that text.)

Much of the talk at today's practice was the work of Scott Niedermayer during that huge penalty kill Sunday night in which the Ducks denied the Coyotes for four straight minutes, despite Rob Niedermayer playing without a stick. Scotty played about a 3 1/2 minute shift during that stretch and Randy Carlyle remarked how he came back to the bench and hardly seemed winded. Carlyle, a standout defenseman in his own right during his NHL career, recalled that he had a couple shifts nearly that long during his tenure. "But I didn't play at that level, I guarantee you," he laughed. "They might have needed resuscitation or pounding on my heart."

Yesterday's George Parros Cut for the Kids event outside the ESPN Zone at Downtown Disney yesterday evening was a major success, despite the fact it was freezing cold out there. There was a pretty good sized crowd there to watch Parros get his hair cut and/or get his autograph and a picture with him afterwards. It was kind of funny how the large crowd gathered around the tent in which he and other fans were getting their hair cut got thinner and thinner as the evening went on. I think more than a few people kind of looked at each other and said, "Wait a minute. We're watching a man get his hair cut. And it's 42 degrees out here. What do you say we go get something to eat?"

Nevertheless, it was great to see so many people out there and you couldn't find a better guy than Georgie to greet all of those people. Click here for a few photos.

Remember how the Coyotes had some trouble with too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties on Sunday night, and the Ducks scored power play goals after both of them? Well, they don't have the excuse for them that the Vancouver Canucks have. The Canucks lead the league in those penalties with nine this season, and according to a story in the Vancouver Sun, some of them are happening because of Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

It's not that the twins are jumping on the ice early. Rather, it's that some of the other players are having trouble recognizing which Sedin is approaching the bench for a change. Kyle Wellwood was the latest to have the problem in Sunday night's game against Dallas. He was supposed to be replacing Henrik, but jumped onto the ice when Daniel came to the bench. Unfortunately, so did Daniel's replacement.

"I haven't talked to him (Wellwood) yet because I know what the answer is," [coach Alain] Vigneault said Monday. "He's going to tell me he saw Danny come off the ice and I thought it was Hank. That is what he is going to tell me . . . I jumped on and Hank is on the other side. That is what he is going to tell me because it has happened a couple of times."


So, which one of the twins are they going to ask to shave his beard? I mean, come on, these guys are trying to win a Stanley Cup. Or, they could take the Michael Scott approach when he couldn't tell two Asian girls apart (and I'm totally stealing this joke) and mark one of their arms with a Sharpie.

Vigneault admitted that even he has trouble telling them apart and jokes that the team might put their names on the front of their helmets. Actually, why is that a joke? I say do it.

And finally, if you've watched hockey on Versus lately (seriously, they air hockey games), you may have noticed a new promotional campaign that encourages fans to send in photos to their website that represent the first letter in the network's name. The name of the campaign?:

"Show Me Your V"

Honestly, I can't even comment.


Updated Jan. 5 at 11:08 a.m.

It wasn't as thrill-inducing as Friday's multi-goal extravaganza with the Flyers, but last night was just what the Ducks needed. It wasn't a boring game by any means, but compared to what happened Friday night, it was downright dull. But that's okay. Dull wins hockey games. Dull wins playoff games. Dull wins Stanley Cups.

There was a point last night where I looked out on the ice and thought I had jumped back in time to a September preaseason game. Three of the Ducks skaters on the ice were Andrew Ebbett, Drew Miller and Brendan Mikkelson. On the other bench were the Phoenix Coyotes. The game wasn't televised. And the Ducks had their backup in net.

But Jonas Hiller proved once again last night that hey, he's no backup. Jonasty was simply outstanding in net the entire night, saving 29 on his way to his third shutout. And he was never more leaned on than during that four-minute penalty kill in the second period, during much of which the Ducks were defending something closer to a 5 on 3 1/2. That's because Brett Festerling's stick broke in half and Rob Niedermayer lent him his. But the Ducks couldn't seem to clear the puck out of there for a long time while Niedermayer did all he could to defend stick-free. Meanwhile, the Coyotes threw eight shots at Hiller, all of which he shooed away.

With the way the Ducks played fast and loose with their leads in the last game, they badly needed Bobby Ryan's power play goal in the third period last night to take that all-important 2-0 lead. The way Ryan took that feed from Scott Niedermayer and quickly slung it from the bottom of the circle inside the near post reminded me of someone. You remember him, right? Finnish guy? Wears No. 8?

Ryan said a few days ago that he's watched most of Selanne's power play goals on tape, and it sure looked like it there. Go to the 2:00 mark on Ducks TV for the highlight, which is the only place that has it, since the game wasn't televised by either team last night.

With seven goals and 14 assists, Ryan has 21 points in 22 games. That's a .95 points per game output, which ranks first among all NHL rookies (not including New Jersey's Matt Halischuk, who has one assist in one game). 

Ryan's goal last night helped beat a Phoenix goalie that's had a ridiculous amount of success against the Ducks since they let him go a year ago November. Ilya Bryzgalov came into the game with gaudy numbers: 4-1-0, a 2.05 goals-against average and a stellar .943 save percentage. And Bryz was a little upset that both Ducks goals came right after his Coyotes took penalties for too many men on the ice.

“We’re not playing our first game,” Bryzgalov said. “Our changes have to be better. It’s very frustrating when you give up goals on a power play because of too many men on the ice. It’s one thing when you give up … a breakaway and you get a penalty. It’s another to get it for nothing and they come out and score. It’s tough.”

It's a funnier quote if you imagine it in a heavy Russian accent. But then again, Bryz, why you haf to be mad? Is hockey. Is only a game!

And this was Bryzgalov's comment on the current Ducks, compared to the team he beat in the home opener at Honda Center on Oct. 12.

“They look more aggressive, more mobile.”

Maybe. I think they look more ... guys with really high numbers on their backs.

An added bonus to last night's win is that it denied the Coyotes the chance to overtake the Ducks in the Western Conference and Pacific Division standings, as the Ducks held on to that No. 6 spot in the playoff race. I don't care how improved they might be, the thought of the Coyotes passing the Ducks in the standings this late in the season is pretty unappetizing. So, holding them off (at least for now), was one of those phew moments.

Despite all the important cogs missing for the Ducks last night because of injuries and suspensions, Randy Carlyle still called it "our best team effort that we've had" and I have to agree. And by the way, if you want to see the reason for Corey Perry's suspension for that elbow to Claude Giroux's head, here it is.

I don't know that we've possibly said enough about how impressive it was that Ducks fans got three of their players into the All-Star Game, but Jeff Miller properly puts it in perspective with his story in the O.C. Register over the weekend. A couple of great quotes from the always-introspective J.S. Giguere:

- "I'm not having my best season so far, so I needed help. And I got it. This one goes to the fans. This is all about them, not me."
- "I'll buy everybody a beer next game ... You know, maybe not. That would be an expensive ticket."
- It's kind of a sweet feeling. You go seven, eight years working extremely hard to get to this point. This is like a little candy."

Last thing: We may be adding another hot celebrity blonde to the NHL player dating pool. Rumor has it that Carrie Underwood is dating Ottawa Senators Mike Fisher (just three goals in 33 games this season).

Welcome, Carrie. We're happy to have you. Just stay away from Avery.


Updated Jan. 3 at 1:54 p.m.

Ever seen the movie "Tin Cup"? The film about the driving range pro who makes it to the U.S. Open, only to lose the lead on the last hole when he hits about a dozen balls into the water? Very entertaining movie. Horrible ending.

Last night was the "Tin Cup" of hockey games for Ducks fans. It was hard-hitting, fight-filled and high-scoring, and it all went on in front of the largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game at Honda Center. But in the end, it was just a little disappointing. Frankly, with the way the Ducks have been playing lately, I wouldn't have minded a slightly less entertaining game, one in which the two different leads the Ducks took in the second period (one a two-goal cushion) held up through the end. Seriously, Ducks, bore me to death if you like.

But alas, that was not to be last night, as two different times after Ducks goals, the Flyers charged back with scores of their own literally as the Anaheim goal was being announced to the crowd. One came 16 seconds later and one came 14 seconds later. While that was unfortunate for the Ducks, it only added to the excitement of that six-goal second period, and certainly pleased the inordinate number of Flyers fans in attendance (many of whom must have been holdovers from the USC-Penn State Rose Bowl game).

You could find some added significance in each of the three Ducks goals in that second period, aside from the fact they either gave the Ducks the lead or added to it. First was Rob Niedermayer's, in which he not only briefly played the unexpected role of sniper, but scored his ninth of the season, bettering his 2007-08 output in just his 37th game.

Next was Andrew Ebbett's, a sweet redirect off a high Chris Pronger shot, in which the kid had to wait until a replay review to officially get the first of his career. Not only that, but it was his 26th birthday last night.

And then there was Getzlaf's, which on paper doesn't seem all that significant, until you remember that earlier in the period, he was laid out on a hip check by Josh Gratton (thanks for the non-interference call, officials) and hobbled to the locker room as horrified Ducks fans looked on. I got an email from a co-worker immediately after Getzlaf headed off the ice that said simply, "We're done." But thankfully, he came back about two minutes later and added emphasis with a goal that was set up by two guys not named Ryan Getzlaf. There was Steve Montador, who drilled Andrew Alberts into the wall behind the net to give the Ducks even more room on the power play. Then Corey Perry sent a breathtaking spinning, backhand pass out of the corner to Getzlaf, who hammered it home with some flair.

Getzlaf, by the way, was skating today and looked fine. Meanwhile, he's an All-Star starter for the first time (more on that later).

But while the Ducks took two different leads in that period, they could not hold onto it, bringing further notice to the fact that their once-stellar defense isn't quite what it once was right now. In fact, because of the injuries the Ducks have had, combined with the players that have left town, last night they had two defenseman on the ice -- Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger -- who were on the roster last year.

The Ducks had a shot to win it in overtime and the shootout, but they couldn't get much going in OT and all three of their shootout attempts were stopped by Flyers goalie Martin Biron. That included an attempt by Bobby Ryan, who would have loved to win it for the Ducks. The Flyers were Ryan's favorite team growing up on the East Coast, and his mother, Melody, was in attendance last night for a rare chance to see him play in person. But Ryan's attempt was saved by Biron, making Ryan 0-5 in shootouts in his NHL career.

"It’s something I’ve alway prided myself on," Ryan said of the shootouts. "It’s a little frustrating to not be able to get that right now. I’ll work on it a little bit more in practice. I’d like to get the weight off my shoulders, pop one and hopefully that will get me on a roll.”

The Ducks can find solace in the fact they didn't lose the game in regulation, since they handed the Flyers plenty of opportunities in the third period with a rash of penalties. That included a four-minute high sticking call on Corey Perry, which in actuality was an elbow to the head of Claude Giroux.

And that hit is coming with more repercussions. The NHL will be announcing later today that Perry is being suspended four games for it and the Ducks are bringing up Drew Miller to take his place. (We'll have more on that later today.)

But there were positives from last night. The Ducks played hard, hit hard and scored often. And they did come away with a standings point, no small feat for a team that has now lost five of six.

And more good news came officially this morning, as Getzlaf, Giguere and Niedermayer were officially named All-Star starters. Once again, it’s a testament to the enthusiasm Ducks fans showed over the past month and a half (and especially over the past few weeks) that those three got voted in. You should be proud of yourselves, Ducks fans.

Sure, you may hear arguments that among the three, Getzlaf is the only one truly deserving of a spot. But let’s look at it this way: While there are Western Conference goalies with better numbers than Giguere, there have been other seasons where Giguere had better stats than the starters and didn’t make it to the game. Take a look:

2007

Wins

GAA

Save %

Shutouts

Roberto Luongo

27

2.38

.918

3

Giguere

23

2.17

.924

4

2003

Wins

GAA

Save %

Shutouts

Patrick Roy

15

2.42

.909

2

Giguere

21

2.44

.913

6


Meanwhile, the game’s in his hometown of Montreal, his father just died last month and it’s a heck of a story to have him in there for the first time. And Scott Niedermayer should be there because he’s Scott Niedermayer. Enough said.

So once again, Ducks
fans, congrats. You made this happen.

Last thing: Congrats to Ducks TV analyst Brian Hayward for being mentioned in Sports Illustrated as the top guy at his position in the NHL. Here was the blurb, in which SI listed its best broadcasters of 2008:

Jim Hughson and Brian Hayward
Hughson, Hockey Night in Canada's silky new voice, blends revealing information into his call. Ducks man Hayward is clever and low key; he's also done Hockey Night and he tailors his analysis to the sophistication of his viewers.

Well deserved, Hazy.


Updated Jan. 1 at 4:43 p.m.

The Ducks closed out the year doing something they did far too often in 2008:

They lost a game they shouldn't have lost.

Hot rookie goalie or not hot rookie goalie, a team that considers itself a Stanley Cup contender can't afford to lose at Honda Center to a team like Columbus. The Jackets typically win on the road about as often as Kate Hudson stars in a watchable movie, so getting beaten 2-0 in your home rink by them is, frankly, a little embarrassing.

"It was kind of a funny game," Randy Carlyle said. He didn't go on to say this, but he was probably thinking, Not funny "ha ha" but funny, as in, "What in the hell was that?"

What he did go on to say was, “It was a flat game, emotionally, for us. We had a lot of trouble getting any noise on the bench. You don’t know why. You try to pump people up, try to push. It just seemed like we couldn’t get any emotion going."

Not normally a problem for people on New Year's Eve, but that's what the Ducks were faced with. And it showed on the ice. Even though Mason continued a blazing streak in which he has now shut out three straight opponents (a team record), there weren't too many instances on the night where he had to make incredible saves.

The one save he failed to make -- on a Corey Perry wrist shot late in the second -- he got some help on, as officials waved off the goal because they said Ryan Getzlaf interfered with two Jackets in front of the net. That should have been the first indication it wasn't the Ducks' night.

"He said I went to the net and ended up taking a couple guys with me,” Getzlaf said. “I think it was a matter of us kind of running into each other. It was his interpretation of the play, and we had to live with it. Those are ones that can go either way. You don’t really agree with them all the time, but that’s the way it went.”

In other words, that was a call that I guess you could make, but you probably shouldn't. And this might sound like a giant case of sour grapes, but it sure does seem like a call that goes against the Ducks more often than not. Getzlaf makes that same play in a Detroit Red Wings uniform? You've probably got yourself a no-call and a goal.

But why dwell on it? That squashed goal wasn't the only reason the Ducks didn't win that game. (It was one of the reasons, sure.) Aside from Perry's shot, the Ducks didn't generate too many chances the entire night, and Columbus did just enough to spoil what was actually a pretty decent night for J.S. Giguere.

The Ducks finished a we-won't-miss-you-all-that-much 2008 losing four of its last five games, and they'll try to get back on track tomorrow night against Philadelphia. But they'll be doing it without yet another injured defenseman, as Kent Huskins is now out 2-3 weeks with a broken bone in his foot. And with Hedican still day to day with an injury (which we thought was his head, but it's a stiff back), the Ducks are having to rely on the likes of Nathan McIver and emergency callup Brendan Mikkelson.

And they take on a Flyers team that's in the middle of a six-game road trip that saw them win Tuesday against Vancouver following losses to Chicago and Columbus. But they did take a hit in that Vancouver win as they lost No. 2 scorer Simon Gagne for 7-10 days to a ... wait for it ... upper body injury. Still, the Flyers have been tough this season, ranking fourth in the league in goals scored and second in power play percentage (26.76). They only trail the Red Wings, who looked agonizingly fantastic in what was a pretty entertaining Winter Classic this morning.

Ducks fans should already be pretty fired up about this one, considering it's Friday night, the Ducks desperately need a win, and they're taking on a good Eastern Conference foe we don't see here very often. (Their last visit was a 7-4 trouncing they handed the Ducks in November of '06, one of the few blowouts the Ducks suffered that Cup-winning season.)

But if Anaheim fans need any extra incentive to blow the roof off the joint (both in the cheering and booing variety) for this one, here's something. Former Duck Joffrey Lupul has a blog he's writing for the Flyers website while he's on the road, in which he answers questions from fans. One question asked: What do you miss the most from Philly while you're on the road? Here was Lupul's response:

From a game standpoint, I miss our fans. On the road, there's not a whole lot of buildings that compare to the energy of Philadelphia, especially when you go to places like Columbus and Anaheim. It just doesn't have the same emotion as it does when you play in front of your home fans in Philly, and as far as I'm concerned, they are the best fans in the league and we definitely miss them.

That's right, Ducks fans. Not only is Lupul publicly questioning the energy at Honda Center, he's even lumping you in with the likes of Blue Jackets fans. The gauntlet, as they say, has been laid down.

Please respond in kind.

And speaking of that, you have until 5:59 p.m. Pacific time Friday to continue voting for the Ducks for the All-Star Game. You know the All-Star Game voting, right? The one where three Ducks are in position to be voted in as starters and the Flyers have exactly zero, despite somehow having five players on the ballot?

Now there's some serious energy.

But what do you say we hear even more of that energy tonight? Just remember, Joffrey, they're not saying "Luuuuuuuuupul."


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 8 7 1 0 29 15 14
2 NSH 7 5 0 2 19 13 12
3 LAK 7 5 1 1 17 10 11
4 CGY 9 5 3 1 25 19 11
5 DAL 7 4 1 2 24 22 10
6 CHI 6 4 1 1 18 10 9
7 SJS 9 4 4 1 28 27 9
8 VAN 7 4 3 0 23 24 8
9 EDM 8 3 4 1 23 32 7
10 MIN 5 3 2 0 12 4 6
11 COL 8 2 4 2 19 27 6
12 STL 6 2 3 1 13 13 5
13 ARI 6 2 3 1 16 24 5
14 WPG 7 2 5 0 13 20 4

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Perry 8 9 3 8 12
R. Getzlaf 8 3 9 5 12
S. Vatanen 8 3 4 -2 7
R. Kesler 8 3 3 1 6
C. Fowler 8 0 5 5 5
M. Beleskey 8 4 0 3 4
D. Smith-Pelly 8 2 2 4 4
J. Silfverberg 8 0 4 2 4
W. Karlsson 7 2 1 4 3
A. Cogliano 8 1 2 1 3
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 6 0 0 .951 1.32
J. Gibson 1 1 0 .875 3.50

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