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

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DECEMBER ARCHIVE

Updated December 31 at 12:59 p.m.

Thought about writing a piece about the Ducks' game in Dallas tonight (available on TV via Center Ice/GameCenter Live only) and about the year that was 2009. But I figured so many people had today off or are darting out of their offices halfway through the day, that nobody would read it.

Also thought about writing about how much I dislike it when people say "Happy New Year!" before Jan. 1, but re-considered. (Some of you may recall I also don't like it when people say it after, like, January 2.)

That being said, hope everybody has a happy and safe New Year.


Updated December 30 at 1:37 p.m.

Scott Niedermayer offers some thoughts on representing his country in a blog he wrote for the L.A Times website. In it, he shares what the Olympic experience is like away from the rink:

Being in the Olympic village, to see the other athletes, to go down to the cafeteria, which is just a huge place with all sorts of different foods, is a really great experience. You're down there with other athletes from your own country who are competing in different sports. Then you see other athletes from all over the world. Everyone's in their uniforms, so you know who everybody is with.

It's a big difference from the NHL, where you're with your guys 24/7 and not really exposed to different things. And obviously there are both male and female athletes, big, little, all different shapes and sizes from all over the world. It's a fun thing just to sit down and eat and see what's going on around you.

NHL players are used to staying in hotels. And these days, the older guys, we have our own rooms. But in the Olympic village, you get put into a dorm-room type situation. I actually shared a room with Chris Pronger. It was a little room with two little single beds. There were four attached rooms with eight of us total, and then a little TV in the corner of the shared room. It was a lot different than what we're used to, so you have to make adjustments. But it was fun because you have a different experience. I'm looking forward to being part of that again. Just to be part of the whole Olympic Games ... it's a great thing.




Updated December 30 at 12:14 p.m.

Pretty awesome last 24 hours for the Anaheim Ducks.

A big home victory last night over the streaking Wild (in front of 16,960 at Honda Center) was followed by the news this morning that no less than seven Ducks made their respective Olympic teams.

Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were named to Team Canada, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu were named to Team Finland and Jonas Hiller and prospect Luca Sbisa were selected for Team Switzerland. Of the current Ducks, the only guy there was some question about going in was Perry, but he locked up a spot with a stellar first half of the 2009-10 season that has seen him rack up 16 goals and 25 assists in 39 games. Not to mention, in a tournament where you have to develop chemistry in a hurry, the possibility of the already-familiar Perry and Getzlaf playing together was pretty enticing to the Team Canada management.

Perry was among the Ducks made available to the media this morning at a private terminal at LAX, just before the team took off for Dallas. And though he doesn't often smile during interviews, he couldn't helped but crack one while talking about his selection.

"It was pretty exciting," Perry said of getting a call from Team Canada deputy general manager Ken Holland this morning around 8:00. "It was a little nerve-wracking last night trying to sleep. But when I finally got that call, it was a relief. It's something I've been waiting for a long time and the dream finally came true."

Quipped buddy Ryan Getzlaf, “Pears was one of those guys that kind of could or couldn’t go. Being one of my best friends and someone I had to drive to the airport with today – it made the car ride a lot more exciting for us.”

With seven Olympians, the Ducks organization is tied for the most in the NHL right now (with San Jose, Nashville and Columbus), and they are expected to add at least one more in Bobby Ryan when Team USA is named immediately following the Winter Classic on Friday on NBC. The New Jersey kid had two goals and an assist last night, though that probably won't have a huge impact on a team that GM Brian Burke has likely selected already. Ryan, who leads the Ducks and all American players with 19 goals right now, mentioned to reporters last night that he actually ran into Burke very briefly in San Jose.

“I told him that I was going to go on a little bit of a run,” Ryan said. “It was in a joking way but I meant it.”

It has been a nice little run for BR, who has eight goals and seven assists in the 12 games the Ducks have been without Teemu Selanne. Coincidentally, when the Ducks lost Selanne to a leg laceration last year, Ryan reeled off 12 goals and 10 assists in 18 games.

“I thought about it more at the beginning of the year,” Ryan said of his Olympic hopes. “But I’ve tried to just let my play do the talking and try to get this team out of the basement. We’ll worry about that when it comes. I’ll be tuned into the TV like everybody else, waiting for the announcement. I hope to wear the colors in February.”

Ryan was the star of a pretty entertaining win for the Ducks last night, with two goals and a pretty assist on a Dan Sexton goal that came at a huge time for the Ducks. The Wild had just tied it 1-1 on an Antti Miettinen goal, but Ryan and Sexton teamed up on the rush just 35 seconds later to give Anaheim back a lead it never relinquished.

Of course, holding on to that lead was made easier by Ryan's second of the night, a power play goal he dumped into a wide open net when Saku Koivu gave him a gorgeous feed across the crease. That two-goal cushion came in quite handy when Minnesota made a charge late in the game, and some of us started having flashbacks to the game in Minnesota three weeks ago (the first without Selanne). The Ducks had a two-goal lead on the Wild with 4:55 left and ended up losing in a shootout. And they were in danger of suffering a similar fate last night after Minny cut the lead to 3-2 and went on a power play with less than a minute left.

The Wild sent goalie Josh Harding to the bench to give them a 6 on 4, but the Ducks thwarted it when Todd Marchant got a feed from Koivu and bumped the puck to himself off the wall before chasing it down and laying it in the empty net.

That power play the Wild received came on a high stick when Sheldon Brookbank got Andrew Brunette in the mouth after a Hiller save. But the officials incorrectly sent Nick Boynton to the box, and it wasn't the first time last night Boynton thought he got wronged.

He showed huge guts when he took on 6-8, 257-pound Derek Boogaard after the heavyweight took a run at the ironically nicknamed Big Sexy. Both Boynton and Boogaard fell to the ice in the fight, and Boogaard threw an extra punch with Boynton down, receiving a 10-minute misconduct for that move. The Ducks didn't like it either, and you could clearly see Koivu jawing at Boogaard as the big guy headed to the box.

“If a guy that big needs to do that, he’s got no respect,” Boynton said to the O.C. Register. “I’d never hit somebody when they’re down.”

Linesman Tony Sericolo actually got injured trying to break up the fight, leaving the game briefly to get an X-ray on his ribs, but he returned in the middle of the third.

He wasn't out there when a second fight lit up on the next faceoff, as Troy Bodie and another Wild big guy, John Scott, dropped the gloves. Scott actually pushed intervening linesman Lonnie Cameron out of the way before he and Bodie exchanged blows. Both players received unsportsmanlike conduct minors and 10-minute misconducts, presumably for fighting after officials had tried to break things up.

It was all part of a pretty thrilling night at Honda Center, a nice final home game of 2009 before the team embarks on another critical road stretch in Dallas, Nashville and Chicago. Teemu Selanne did get on the plane with the team this morning but is supposed to be out of the lineup another week with that broken bone in his left hand. The next Ducks home game, January 5 against Detroit (six Olympians so far), is a possibility for Selanne's return.

The Ducks did get some help with their forward corps last night when Ryan Carter was in the lineup after missing 22 games with a broken foot and played, I thought, very well.




Updated December 29 at 2:59 p.m.

Yeah, the Ducks have had some tough luck with injuries in the past few weeks, but they'll definitely get no sympathy from the rest of the NHL. And that goes double for tonight's opponent, the Minnesota Wild, who know a little something about bad luck.

The Wild are on the road for the first time since a fire destroyed more than two-thirds of their equipment a week and a half ago in Ottawa. The fire is believed to have started when a blowtorch (used to tweak stick blades) ignited in the back of a truck that was carrying the Wild's gear from the practice rink to Scotiabank Place, and did an estimated $100,000 worth of damage.

Bruce Brothers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes: The aftershocks still are being felt as the Wild prepare to play the Kings in Los Angeles tonight and the Ducks in Anaheim on Tuesday night. Some players are wearing old skates that they had stopped using, some are using new skates right out of the box and some don’t have extra skates. The team’s trunks still smell of smoke. Damaged equipment still is being weeded out.

The Wild lost the game to the Senators the night of the incident and lost the next one two nights later at home against Colorado. But since then they have reeled off three straight wins, including a 4-3 victory over the Kings last night at Staples.

Tonight they'll take on a Ducks team that is trying to patch things together as best they can. Ryan Getzlaf is most likely out tonight as he continues to nurse the leg laceration suffered Saturday. And while Randy Carlyle said this morning it would be "foolish" to play Getzlaf tonight, he indicated the center would join the team on the road later this week and could play Thursday in Dallas.

Speaking of that three-game road stretch, Carlyle offered some moderately surprising news when he told reporters that Teemu Selanne will join the team on the trip and could be in the lineup soon. Selanne broke a bone in his hand Dec. 3 in Dallas and was scheduled to miss 4 to 6 weeks.

“Teemu’s timeframe is after the first of January,” Carlyle said. ”So we will take him with us to skate. He will wear a protective device. We’ll probably have an X-ray or an MRI done on his hand before he’s cleared to play. It’s promising from a standpoint when the injury first happened, they always put the 4-to-6-week time frame on it and he’s close to four weeks. He’s on schedule and he seems to be eager to get back in the lineup.”

Meanwhile, Ryan Carter looks like he should be in the lineup tonight after missing the last 22 games with a broken foot. But Carlyle cracked a smile when he commented on whether Carter will play center or wing. “At this point, we’ve made a decision on where he’s going to play," he said, "and we’re just not going to tell you.” 

Carlyle added a little more humor when he revealed that Steve Eminger is battling the flu and probably won't be in there tonight after leaving midway through the morning skate.  “We thought he was over it," Carlyle said, "but now he’s back visiting the white throne on a regular basis.”

Thankfully, Carlyle spared us the details.

(By the way, who would have thought we'd see the words "white throne" and "Big Sexy" in this blog within a span of just a couple weeks?)

One interesting matchup tonight could be the Ducks power play (ranked fifth in the league) against the Wild penalty kill (ranked sixth). But it's an Anaheim power play that takes on a different look in the wake of all the forward injuries, prompting Curtis Zupke of the O.C. Register to write: If there was anybody at the beginning of the season who had Dan Sexton, Ryan Carter and Petteri Nokelainen on a Ducks’ power play unit, please raise your hand.

By the way, I discovered something odd when I was looking up the league's power play rankings this morning. You know who is dead last in the league in power play percentage? The fourth-place-in-the-Eastern-Conference-and-defending-Stanley-Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Weird.
- - -
Tomorrow promises to be a big day for the Ducks, who are hoping to have several members named to respective Olympic teams representing Canada, Finland and Switzerland. The naming of the Team Canada team will be aired live on CTVOlympics.ca tomorrow at 9 a.m. Pacific.

The members of Team USA will be named Friday during the NBC telecast of the Winter Classic at Fenway Park. 


Updated December 28 at 4:12 p.m.

The Ducks' last game was so unappealing, and at this point seemed so long ago, that there is little point in overly rehashing it.

Except to say the Sharks continued to show that they get up a little more for the Ducks, especially after what happened last spring. They jumped out to a 5-0 lead with the help of their top line -- and some fortunate bounces. “They’re probably one of the best lines in the league,” said James Wisniewski, who took a stick to the face just before the Sharks scored their third goal. “It doesn’t make it any easier when they get the best bounces in the league either. When you put all that together, you’re going to be tough to stop.”

To add injury to insult in that game, the Ducks lost Ryan Getzlaf in the second period when he cut himself with his own skate. Getzlaf hasn't practiced the past two days but has worked out, and the injury remains not overly serious since there was no muscle damage. But Getzlaf is unlikely to play tomorrow night at home against Minnesota.

“The whole issue with that right now is infection," Randy Carlyle said, "to make sure the healing process is well on its way.”

The Ducks were also without another forward from the recent top line after Kyle Calder was put on waivers this morning and all indications are that he'll be reassigned if he clears by 9 a.m. (Pacific) tomorrow. “We felt Kyle played hard for us,” Carlyle said of Calder, who had two assists and was minus-7 in 14 games with Anaheim. "The situation we’re in, there wasn’t enough results to play him with our best players. He worked hard. It just didn’t work this time. Maybe next time it does.”

(The Ducks recalled Troy Bodie later in the day.)

There were indications the Ducks might get one forward back in Ryan Carter,  who has missed six weeks with the broken foot. Carter practiced with the team for the second straight day and said he was on the ice "for three or four days" while the team was on the road. Before that he was mostly working on the bike, a frustrating circumstance he found some humor in today. “I had a mini Tour de France in here," Carter said. "It was a six-week-long bike session. Call me Lance Armstrong.”

Yesterday Carter told reporters he's so anxious to play that, "You can see my fingernails are short. I’ve been chewing them.”

(Ryan Carter, you're on fire, bud.)
Carlyle indicated after practice today that Carter is a possibility for tomorrow night. “We’ll make one more skate and assessment on him tomorrow morning,” Carlyle said.


- - -

Think the Ducks have some pretty decent Finns on their team right now? The future looks pretty bright as well. Defenseman Sami Vatanen, who was drafted by Anaheim in the fourth round in the last draft, had two ridiculous goals last night for the Finnish national team in the World Junior Championship in Regina, Saskatchewan. 

The second goal tied the game with five minutes left, and Finland went on to win it 4-3. Watch the two goals (with particular emphasis on the second one) and remember that HE'S A DEFENSEMAN.



Updated December 22 at 8:25 a.m.

I don't have a lot of time because I'm heading out of town for the holiday first thing in the morning, but just a tremendous win for the Anaheim Ducks in Denver last night.

Throwing 43 shots on net, not getting flustered after Craig Anderson stood on his head for the first 2 1/2 periods, getting four unanswered goals in the last 7:34 (including an overtime-avoiding goal from Ryan Getzlaf with 25.9 seconds left), only allowing 17 shots from a very good Avs team and Dan Sexton potting yet another big one? What's not to love about that victory?

Tonight they're right back at it in Phoenix. And that's a good thing, because right now I can't wait to watch this team again.

(Late note: Joffrey Lupul will be part of a live chat on the new ESPN Los Angeles website today at 2 p.m. Pacific.)


Updated December 22 at 1:59 p.m.

Among the oddities in the Western Conference so far this season is the stunning play of the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs were not only the last-place team in the West last year, they were 10 points shy of the second-to-last Kings. And this year they were picked to not fare much better. The team's strong play over the first couple of months was expected to even out eventually, yet here the Avs are, still atop the Northwest Division and third in the entire conference.

(By the way, how topsy turvy is the West right now? The bottom four teams from last year -- Colorado, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dallas -- are all in the top 9 right now.)

The Ducks, who won all four games against Colorado last year, will get their first look at this year's Avs tonight at the Pepsi (proud sponsor of the Anaheim Ducks) Center in Denver. And it's an Avs team that is built on a foundation of young depth, including standouts Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski and a group of four rookies that includes 18-year-old center Matt Duchene (who happens to be Ducks assistant coach Newell Brown's nephew).

Anaheim can match Colorado as far as hot play as of late, as the Ducks look for their fourth win in their last five tonight. Colorado took down the Wild last night for its fourth win in the last five. The Ducks, meanwhile, are hoping their relative success over the past couple of weeks is a sign of things to come.

“I think we know what our potential is now,” said Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who like Jonas Hiller, shares very good career numbers against tonight's opponent. “As a team, we realize what we can do and how well we can play. We’re at a point here at Christmas time where we need to reach that potential every night. There’s no excuses any more. Everybody knows each other. Everybody should be comfortable with everything. I think we’re at a point right now where we should hit our full stride and really just lay it on the table and see what’s going to happen. We’re desperate right now.”

Randy Carlyle, on the other hand, remained focused on the next challenge only, which he admitted is one of "these old cliches." But nine times out of 10, there is a reason a cliche is a cliche -- because it rings true. "You’ve heard it a thousand times," he said yesterday, "but we can’t focus on anything other than the game we play next, and that’s at Colorado.”

- - -
The Ducks continue to get some love from Sports Illustrated, which offers a retrospective of the decade in this week's issue. All-Decade teams are named in each of the major sports and for the NHL, Scott Niedermayer was named to the first team, while J.S. Giguere was named to the second team. (Chris Pronger was selected to the second team as well, while former Ducks head man Mike Babcock was named the coach of the team.)

- - -

George Parros' latest blog entry on the L.A. Times website includes this beauty:

Sometimes on our long plane rides that go along with playing in the Western Conference, entertainment is at a premium. While on our last trip, Getzy, Perry and I grew tired of playing cards so I suggested we hold a drawing contest, having no idea what I was about to get into. What ensued were perhaps the funniest few minutes I have ever had on a trip. We first decided to all draw a walrus, then a horse…. Corey’s drawings were so amazing, I was in tears. We drew quite a crowd with everyone howling over his creations. Even the flight attendants joined in because they couldn’t wait to see what he would envision next. These drawings are so life-changing that I felt I had to share them with the masses.

Click here to take a look

All I have to say is, Wow, Corey Perry. Wow.


Updated December 21 at 12:05 p.m.

For any team, one of the great rewards of a Saturday victory is a day off on Sunday. And the Ducks undoubtedly earned that with a 4-2 victory over Phoenix on Saturday afternoon that was Anaheim's third win in its last four games. They cooled off a hot Phoenix team that came in having won eight of its last 10 games.

There were a number of positives to take from the Phoenix win, not the least of which was Jonas Hiller's 39-save performance in earning his third straight win. Hiller improved his record against the Coyotes to an astounding 8-0-2. Check this out, according to Elias Sports Bureau: Hiller's .900 points percentage versus the Jets/Coyotes franchise is the highest for any of the 91 goaltenders, active or retired, who have faced them at least ten times.

And that wasn't the only continuing trend on Saturday. The Ducks, who earlier this season won a home matinee over Chicago on the day after Thanksgiving, interestingly enough are 13-1-4 since 2002 in day games at home. (It's not too late to change some of the game times on this year's schedule, is it?)

Hiller kept the Coyotes on the board in a first period when Anaheim need it most, as Randy Carlyle said his team was "slapping the puck around and were flat." And by far his biggest stop of the night came five minutes into the second period, when he somehow threw out a leg pad to deny a wide-open rebound try on the power play by Keith Yandle. 

Phoenix did ultimately get the tying goal later in the period, but the Ducks re-took the lead just 34 seconds later when Kyle Chipchura got lost by the Phoenix defense and backhanded the puck off Ilya Bryzgalov and through. It was the first of the year for Chipchura (traded to the Ducks from Montreal on Dec. 2) and came after Mike Brown got his third of the year (a career high) in the first period. 

"We’re going to be going out there with energy and anything we get is a bonus," Brown said of his line. "We are going to play that hard game. All we do is pretty much get the puck to the net and crash the net. That is how we have to play."

Meanwhile, the Ducks got their other two goals from two guys who got off to slow-for-them starts to this season, but have been scoring in bunches as of late. Ryan Getzlaf got the power play goal that stood up as the winner with 3:34 left in the second, and Bobby Ryan provided some comfort with a goal that made it 4-2 with 19.5 seconds left. That goal came off a rebound following a Scott Niedermayer shot from the point. I don't know how Niedermayer does it, but somehow -- despite probably having the softest point shot on the team -- he's able to make that knuckleball rebound favorably in front. The Ducks have gotten a ton of goals and near-goals on that same exact shot over the past five seasons.

Back to Getzlaf and Ryan's late blooming this season. Getzlaf, after having just two goals through the middle of last month, now has nine, including three in his last three. Ryan, benefitting a bit from the energy provided by Dan Sexton on that second line, has three goals in the last four, five in the last eight, for 16 on the season.

The Ducks were back at it this afternoon at Honda Center, looking ahead to a stretch of three straight road games. That starts with yet another back-to-back, beginning in Colorado tomorrow night and followed by a rematch with Phoenix on Wednesday.

“You look at the standings every day and we don’t seem to be moving very much,” Todd Marchant said of a Ducks team that's now in 13th. “But we’re getting points in games. And the more games you get points in, the farther up the standings you’re going to go. Right now is the time we’ve got to start making our push.”

More from Marchant: "We could easily say, 'Well, that's it. We're not going to make the playoffs, so this season's over.' But we're not saying that. We're saying all the right things, and we're doing all the right things, and you know what? You'll be rewarded for those things later in the season."
- - -

The Ducks have gotten some love from a couple of major sports magazines of late. Dan Sexton was part of the Who's Hot group in the last issue of Sports Illustrated: Two weeks ago the 22-year-old winger was playing minor league hockey in Manitoba (3° the day he left). Now the rookie's in Anaheim (63° on Sunday), where he had four goals in his first five games and was slotted on the second line. His teammates call him Big Sexy.

And Bobby Ryan was listed No. 10 in ESPN The Magazine's annual NEXT feature ("the Mag's quest to find the future of sports"): By going one spot behind top pick Sidney Crosby in the 2005 NHL draft, Ryan began his career as the answer to a trivia question. But after bouncing between Anaheim affiliates in Maine and Iowa, the New Jersey native made a name for himself when he joined the Ducks roster full-time last fall. By season's end, Ryan had scored a hat trick, led his team in plus/minus and earned bragging rights as a finalist for Rookie of the Year. Currently the Ducks' shot leader, the 6'2" right wing is clearly gunning for more this season. Says coach Randy Carlyle, "Bobby is proving he's worthy of his pick in the draft."

- - -
I don't usually get involved in potential Ducks trade talk, but if we could please make a play for Mike Fisher, I'd really appreciate it.

- - -

Joffrey Lupul's first blog post since the end of October is definitely worth the wait, as he writes about his thoughts before and after last week's back surgery that will keep him out six to eight weeks. One of the highlights is his admitted excitement over Dan Sexton:

Fans, you're not the only ones who have Dan Sexton fever! This guy's awesome! It's great as a veteran player to see a young guy come in and bring so much energy. He looks like a young Martin St. Louis... No pressure, Dan. Better name...

Bobby Ryan scores, Ducks win! Hope the boys enjoy their Saturday night. They deserve it. I'll be here in bed, alone, shopping NHL.com for a Sexton jersey (HA HA). 



Updated December 18 at 2:34 p.m.

We knew it going in, that last night's bout with the San Jose Sharks was going to be a tall task for the Ducks. As if beating San Jose in the Shark Tank isn't already tough enough, the Ducks had to try and do it less than 24 hours after a win over a tough Vancouver team, and after getting into their beds at no earlier than 3 in the morning. Meanwhile, the Sharks had four non-game days to figure out how to lift themselves out of a mini-slump.

As it was, the Ducks skated with the Sharks in the first period, and the two teams were tied scoreless through the first 29 minutes. But the Sharks got goals from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in the second and a Ryan Getzlaf power play strike early in the third was all the Ducks came back with.

"We made too many mistakes," Scott Niedermeyer said. "They stuck to their game plan and we took too many penalties. We didn't have as much energy as we needed for most of the game."

Of course, the Ducks had an opportunity to pull even with the Sharks after Getzlaf's pretty goal, where he showed Perry-like patience in waiting for Evgeni Nabokov to commit before firing the shot. With a little more than 12 minutes left in the game, Jed Ortmeyer took a tripping minor to set Anaheim up on another power play. But that was wiped out by a Ryan Whitney roughing call that left more than a few shaking thier heads.

“We drew a power play and then we get taken out of a power play on a pretty difficult call to swallow,” Carlyle said. “As a coach, when you’re watching it on the replay, the penalty on a Whitney, that’s just taking the body on a player behind the net. The other penalties were deserved.”

And Thornton scored for the second time with 6:37 left to all but put the game away.

"We had a little bit of complacency coming in," Ryan said. "We didn't get emotionally involved until the third period and it's tough to win a game in 20 minutes."

J.S. Giguere was a big reason the Ducks hung in there early, as one of his 33 saves came on a Torry Mitchell penalty shot 6:20 into the game, coming after being hooked from behind by Whitney on a partial breakaway.

And while Anaheim's energy was a concern in this situation, Carlyle didn't see it that way. “I don’t think it was the energy issue," he said. "I didn’t think we were emotionally involved in the game until later.”

The Ducks are back in town, and are practicing at Honda Center as we speak, getting ready for a rare 1 p.m. start tomorrow against the Coyotes.
- - -

I owe Bobby Ryan a retraction and a pat on the back for his sense of humor and movie line recall. When writing the other day about his appearance in Sports Illustrated's Pop Culture Grid, I made a snide remark about his comment that crepes are "just thin pancakes." It didn't occur to me at the time that he was repeating a line from the movie "Talladega Nights" (here's the scene right here.). It was later pointed out to me by a reader and Bobby Ryan himself. So, nicely done, BR.

- - -
Earlier today the Ducks and Honda Center staffs had their holiday luncheon, which included a contest for staffers who came dressed in the best and most creative holiday attire.

As you can see here a few people got into it. From left to right, this is Jesse, Mariana, Ryan and Matt. Jesse was declared the winner, probably for showing a little skin. Ryan, on the other hand, finished third and had to be thinking to himself, I came to work dressed like one of Santa's elves and I finished third???

- - -

If you have any last-minute holiday gifts to purchase (lord knows I do), I wanted to pass on this website: www.berlz.com/ducksfoundation. Half of the net proceeds from every purchase will go to the Anaheim Ducks Foundation.


Updated December 17 at 12:06 p.m.

For a team facing a daunting two-night stretch against two perennial Western contenders, you couldn't have asked for a much better start than what the Ducks gave last night. Defense, goaltending and timely scoring -- that's what it takes to win hockey games. And the Ducks had all three of those in spades last night in Vancouver.

You want defense? The Ducks didn't even give up the first shot on goal until 13:49 into the first period, in what was clearly one of their best periods of the year, despite the 1-1 score when it was done. You want goaltending? Jonas Hiller had 28 stops, a number of them spectacular in what could be argued was his best game of the year. And you want timely scoring? Bobby Ryan fires one under Roberto Luongo midway through the first to give the Ducks a mammoth 1-0 lead in an unfriendly building against an always-unfriendly goaltender. And Saku Koivu breaks a 2-2 tie with a power play goal with 4:13 left in the game that held up as the game-winner.


(As far as the photo on the right goes, I've seen the Grand Canyon, I've been to Hawaii, I've lived next to the Pacific Ocean almost all my life. But is there a prettier sight than five jubilant Ducks standing over a crestfallen Roberto Luongo? I say not.)

As much as the Ducks had going for them last night on both ends of the ice, last night was all about that second line of Koivu, Ryan and the guy even Koivu called on the postgame TV interview, "Big Sexy."

That trio sparkled yet again, as Sexton had assists on Ryan's opening goal and Koivu's power play strike. On the latter, Sexton made a nice pass to the front of the net to Kyle Calder, who was the real star of that play. Calder, instead of trying the quick one-timer on Luongo, instead fed to a spot near the crease that Koivu quickly filled, leaving Koivu with a wide open net to tap it into. Last night I rewound the DVR and watched that goal a half-dozen times, and I still can't see how Calder saw Koivu, who was lurking behind the net when the pass was made. But that was a veteran move by the underrated Calder to not rush a shot but instead see the easier option in a split second.

Even Koivu said, "I don't know how he saw me on the back door there. And from there it was a fairly easy tap-in for me to get that goal."

Koivu and Sexton also got assists on Ryan's icebreaking goal, with Koivu doing a great job to swipe the puck from former Duck Shane O'Brien and Sexton making a nice headman pass that Koivu tapped back to Ryan. BR suddenly has 15 goals on the season and that second line has combined for a ridiculous 20 points in the last four games.

Much of the credit for that goes to the fun-to-watch Sexton, who in his short time here already reminds me a lot of how we felt about Bobby Ryan at this time last year. When he's on the ice, you just feel like something good is going to happen. And in addition to him doing it with the puck, the 5-9, 170-pound Sexton is even flexing some surprising muscle. He had a check on Fedor Tyutin last Saturday that made it into the NHL's Top 10 Hits of the Week, and last night in the first period he laid out a Sedin twin. 


Almost lost in the excitement of that second line was the performance of Hiller, who made a number of huge stops, including some glove saves accompanied by his trademark dramatic waving of the mitt. His biggest stop of the night came on this kick save on Henrik Sedin (you'll see even the Vancouver announcers can't tell which is which). That  thwarted a near-goal with less than two minutes left that would have been tough to take considering Scott Niedermayer was blatanty interfered with by Alex Burrows on the rush.

(Hiller was so hot, in fact, he was even able to perfect the very difficult floating puck trick.)

So the Ducks secure a big victory, their third in the last four and their six straight game with at least a point. Meanwhile, they reached the .500 mark for the first time since Oct. 17.

But they face a challenge tonight in San Jose, despite the fact the Sharks have dropped five in a row. The men of teal haven't played since Saturday, while Anaheim -- sprinting out of Vancouver and going through Canada-to-US customs -- didn't get into their San Jose hotel until around 2:30 a.m.

How the Ducks react will be evident right off the bat, and here's hoping it resembles the statement-making first period they had last night. One thing we do know, that second line will be flying yet again.


Updated December 16 at 3:14 p.m.

Tonight begins a tough two-night stretch for the Ducks, with two games against teams with ocean-dwelling predators as their mascots.

(Why I felt the need to point that out, I have no idea why.)

Tonight that means the Canucks, a different Canucks team than the one Anaheim trounced 7-2 back on October 30. Roberto Luongo missed that game with a rib injury and Henrik Sedin's brother was out with a broken foot. The Ducks will see both of them for the first time tonight, and both are doing what they usually do since coming off the shelf. Luongo has won nine of his last 12 games, while Sedin has seven goals and eight assists since leaping off the IR on November 22.

Starting tonight, it's yet another critical stretch for the Ducks, who may still be in 15th place in the ridiculously tough Western Conference, but are just eight points short of a playoff spot. (Yes, just eight points. Remember, it's only mid-December.) They've gotten points in four of the last five games and nine of their last 11. That includes five wins and four overtime losses. 

If they do go an extra frame tonight, it will be something Vancouver hasn't been all that accustomed to this season. In 33 games, they've only had to work overtime twice. Before taking down Columbus in regulation last Saturday (wow, was it really that long ago since the Ducks last played?), Anaheim had played four straight overtime games.

The Ducks got a bit of bad news made official today, though we had kind of seen it coming in the last 24 hours. Joffrey Lupul will indeed have surgery to repair a herniated disc, and will miss six to eight weeks. Despite playing in pain pretty much the whole season, Lupul got hot in the last four games he tried to play after suffering from back spasms, scoring four goals in three games before being sidelined again.

“He played incredibly well,” Bobby Ryan said. “This certainly takes away from us a little bit.”

Indeed it does, and it certainly doesn't help that it's coming at the same time the Ducks are without Teemu Selanne until probably the middle of next month with that broken bone in his hand. “Now we have other people who are getting an opportunity,” said Randy Carlyle after the skate this morning. “These are things that stretch your lineup, but it gives us an opportunity to evaluate our depth.”

On the bright side, the Ducks are getting a ton of love from that second line of Ryan, Saku Koivu and that Sexton whippersnapper.

We'll find out tonight whether they can keep that production up, during a two-night voyage when they'll need plenty of it.



Updated December 14 at 12:34 p.m.

Prior to the weekend, if you'd asked most Ducks fans how they would have felt about coming away with three points from back-to-back games in Detroit and in Columbus, they'd be pretty satisfied. But the Ducks' sentiment after the weekend? Man, it shoulda been four.

The agony of an overtime loss Friday night in Detroit, in a game where the Ducks lost a 2-0 in the third period, was slightly quashed by a very solid 3-1 win in Columbus the next night. And the Ducks did in that game what they weren't able to do the previous evening in Detroit -- not only protect a third-period lead but actually build on it.

"We tried to take on the attitude that we were going to build off of last night's third period," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We couldn't let that type of thing happen to our hockey club tonight."

And the Ducks did it early in the third period by withstanding a Columbus 5-on-3 that lasted nearly a minute, a sequence that Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock called, "the turning point of the hockey game." And later in that period, the Ducks got a gargantuan goal from Corey Perry on the power play to give Anaheim that all-important two-goal cushion with a little more than six minutes left.

"(Killing) that 5-on-3 was huge for us," Perry said. "If we killed that off, we were in a great situation. Then we get the power play right after that, get the goal. It was a great pass from Whit. I just got enough wood on it."

But while that goal was huge, it may have been the third-most-exciting tally of the night. The team's first goal of the night had TV-watching Ducks fans shouting in unison, "Dan Sexton AGAIN???" (that is, when they figured out it was him). It was hard to tell at first, but Sexton used some quick hands to chip in a rebound off a Bobby Ryan try, leaving a flabbergasted John Ahlers to proclaim, "He's starting to live up to the nickname Big Sexy!" (Well, not really. But still, that's a lot of goals.)

In fact, check out this stat they posted on the broadcast. Among active NHL players, two players have scored five goals in their first five NHL games -- Evgeni Malkin and Teemu Selanne. And among the five players who have had four goals in their first five NHL games? Dan Sexton. (Of course, Selanne had 76 that rookie year. Might be a stretch to ask Sexton to get there.)

"If you would have told me by the end of the weekend I would have accomplished what I have ... I'd have a pretty hard time believing it," said Sexton. "I just wanted to come in and play my hardest and contribute. But, to get some good bounces and play with some great players, contribute the way I have, it has been a special week for sure."

And that line of Sexton, Ryan and Saku Koivu was a remarkable +12 in those two weekend games.

Ryan had yet another highlight reel goal in putting the Ducks up 2-0 over the Jackets with less than a minute left. Ryan's change of direction and score from point blank after streaking down the left wing looked awfully familiar, so we put together a mini-montage of three of his similar-looking goals from the past year.



That goal turned out to be huge when Columbus got one back from R.J. Umberger when his shot from a low angle hit off Jonas Hiller's skate and went over the stripe. That was the only smudge on Hiller's record on the night, as he had 35 saves to notch his first win since Nov. 19.

And a good game out of Hiller was a great sign for a Ducks team that faces two more back-to-backs in the next week and a half. That includes Vancouver-San Jose this Wednesday and Thursday and Colorado-Phoenix next Tuesday and Wednesday. Despite being in the middle of a road stretch, the Ducks had enough time to come back to Anaheim and practice at Honda Center today. They head to Vancouver after a practice here tomorrow afternoon.

"I thought these last two games, we played pretty good games," defenseman Scott Niedermayer said. "Pretty good road games and came up with three of four points. Now we're halfway through the trip and we've got a pit stop at home. Hopefully we can keep doing the same thing in the next couple of games."



Updated December 11 at 2:54 p.m.

For the last few seasons, the Anaheim Ducks and the Detroit Red Wings have shared so much in common: perennial playoff contenders, a Stanley Cup title, more playoff rounds played than any other team in the league.

So far this year, they share a not-so-enviable one -- they're both trying to get their seasons in gear. Last year's Stanley Cup finalists, the Red Wings are 14-11-5 so far this campaign, 11th place in the Western Conference, and they're struggling of late. A 1-0 loss two nights ago to St. Louis at Joe Louis Arena dropped them to 1-5-1 over their last seven at home, with four of those losses coming against backup goalies.

Here's something else the two teams have in common -- they just got a bit of recent bad news on the injury front. For the Ducks, Joffrey Lupul will miss tonight's game with a leg injury that possibly stems from his back problems. And it's a tough break, since Lupul has been hot since coming back with four goals in the last three games. Detroit learned yesterday that winger Dan Cleary (who broke Ducks fans hearts with that late goal in Game 7 last year) will be out up to a month with a separated shoulder. That makes six Wings scheduled to miss at least a month this year, including defensemen Andreas Lilja (concussion) and Niklas Kronwall (sprained knee) and forwards Johan Franzen (knee), Valtteri Filppula (wrist) and Jason Williams (leg).

The Ducks, by the way, could have Kyle Calder back for the first time since suffering an eye injury in practice on Nov. 28, and Calder could replace Lupul on that top line. Calder, of course, is a former Red Wing, while Detroit has three former Ducks in Todd Bertuzzi, Brad May and Drew Miller. 

And in case you hadn't already figured it out, these two teams play tonight at The Joe in a matchup that is never short on stimulation, both hoping to use this game as a launch pad to greater things. The Ducks certainly need that, as they're facing a tough run in which they play at Detroit tonight, at Columbus tomorrow and then at Vancouver and San Jose in back-to-backs next week. 

There's one thing Anaheim and Detroit won't have in common a few hours from now, however. Only one of them will have a much-needed W. I don't know about you, but I'm hoping it's Anaheim.

- - -
Bobby Ryan was one of the four athletes featured in the Pop Culture Grid in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated, and he did a heck of a job with it. The grid asks five questions to each of the athletes and here's how B Rye answered: 

My advice to Tiger would be:
Check the rearview mirror

Fad that should never come back: Trucker hats

Weirdest thing a fan ever said to you: Was I Scarlett Johansson's brother

When I'm done playing hockey, I'll likely ... Gain 150 pounds

Crepes, pancakes or waffles? Crepes

In the comments section of the grid, it notes that Ryan chose crepes despite the fact that Honda Center "is 30 miles from the International House of Pancakes main office in Glendale, Calif." and that Ryan acknowledged that crepes are, "Just thin pancakes."

Thanks for that.
- - -

Our video guys have put together a very funny piece to promote the ongoing Who Wants to Host Ducks TV? contest. Poor Man's Seacrest is absolutely phenomenal in it. And since I have a little "acting" scene too, I'm even more pleased with it.


Updated December 10 at 2:24 p.m.

Big day for the Ducks when it comes to page A1 of the Orange County Register. I'm of course talking about the George Parros feature written by Curtis Zupke that chronicles Parros' on- and off-ice persona, as well as his charitable efforts. Some of the best parts of the story are the comments by former Parros teammate Sean O'Donnell, who has a theory on why enforcers often have such big hearts:

"I think there's a certain humbleness that comes with it," O'Donnell says. "You're playing with pretty amazing players. You're more of a blue-collar work kind of guy. I also think there's something, from a psychological point, I think you're able to get away a lot of your frustrations. People get mad at their boss or co-workers. This is one job where you can kind of get rid of all your frustrations. There's a certain respect there. George respects the game. He respects the guys that he fights. He respects his teammates."

- - -


Two days after that dramatic victory over Dallas and "Big Sexy" fever is still in the air. That's because Dan Sexton is getting media love from everyone from the Orange County Register to the Los Angeles Times to even the Winnipeg Free-Press. Each has chronicled these tidbits on the kid:

- His head-spinning rise from Bakersfield of the ECHL to the Manitoba Moose of the AHL to two-goal-scoring hero of a dramatic Anaheim Ducks victory, all of it coming in the last 2 1/2 weeks. “Coming into this, I just was hoping I’d play," he said. "I wasn’t expecting to play this much or in these crucial moments of the game.) And from Manitoba teammate Matt Pettinger" "Here's a kid who three weeks ago was in the East Coast Hockey League and was ecstatic to be playing in the American Hockey League. And all of a sudden he gets the call, he's in the NHL and obviously had a great game. It gives all these guys the hope that anyone really can make it."

- The fact that he's listed at 5-9, 170 pounds and 22 years old, but hardly appears to be either, making "Big Sexy" probably the most ironic nickname in pro sports.From the Winnipeg Free-Press: Moose head coach Scott Arniel recalls being shocked when he first saw Sexton in the Moose dressing room. He's listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, but looks a fraction of that size and half his actual age. "He's a funny kid," Arniel said. "He came here and the first time I saw him, he looked like a 14-year-old kid. I'm sure up there they must have giggled when he walked into that Anaheim dressing room the first time.")

- The fact that he's the fraternal twin of pro snowboarder Joe Sexton. From the Times: "He's unbelievable ... probably a top 20 or 30 guy in the world," Dan Sexton said. "He came to my game against Ottawa. He probably hadn't seen me play since I was 16, and he was at Big Bear for, like, a photo shoot, and I gave him some tickets and got him down here, and we went out to eat afterward. It was really cool to see him. It was pretty sweet."

- That he was actually cut from his junior team at 19 years old, went on to play at Bowling Green and was signed by the Ducks last spring. "Three or four years ago, I was in no position to even dream about this, so it's pretty cool," he said.

“It’s fun to see when a young kid comes from the minors and gets his opportunity,” Koivu said. “He’s really excited about it. This was the third game he played on my line and you could tell it was a big difference from the first game to this one. He seems to be a lot more comfortable with the puck. Obviously right now it paid off for him.

"Hopefully," Koivu added with a smile, "his head’s not going to get too big.”

That little warning goes for all of us when it comes to Sexton. Not to be a Debbie Downer (Negative Nancy?), but it was just one game -- albeit a heck of a game. The "second coming of Andy McDonald" talk I'm hearing might want to be put on the back burner until Sexton's played, oh I don't know, more than three games.

But for now, it's pretty fun watching Big Sexy, who seemingly couldn't have a better attitude about his time up here. He's so polite, in fact, that when Ducks staffer Matt Vevoda interviewed him for this feature earlier this week, Vevoda led off a question with like, "You got off to a nice start in your first professional season in the ECHL..." and Sexton interjected with a surprisingly sincere, "Thank you!"

Yesterday he humbly told reporters, "To get ice time was great for me and my confidence. To be able to go out there and contribute … I just want to help the team as much as I can. Just work my butt off. That’s something I’m going to do every shift.”

I think we're all looking forward to our next chance to see that again.


Updated December 9 at 12:58 p.m.


A half day later and the feeling still lingers:

Man, that was fun last night.


A rookie with no more than three games of NHL experience scores twice, including the tying goal with a minute left in regulation, and the Ducks win it in overtime to cap a three-goal comeback. It was without question the most exciting, dramatic, spine-tingling game of this Ducks season.

And in a game with the Dallas Stars that looked like it was out of the Ducks' reach midway through, inspiration came from a surprising source -- little Dan Sexton. The 5-10, 170-pounder out of Bowling Green got the first goal of his young career 6:20 into the third period to pull the Ducks within a goal, and more importantly, light a match under a team that had seemed headed for a less desirable outcome in the game. Sexton got the goal when the puck rolled off the stick of Bobby Ryan in front of the net, and the rookie chipped it just past a teetering Marty Turco.

It wasn't just the goal, but the reaction afterward that was so endearing. Sexton sprinted away from the net, going to a knee to punch the ice with his gloved hand. Then three teammates converged on him for hugs, but conspicuously absent was Ryan. That's because he had headed all the way to the other side of the ice to retrieve the puck from the official, knowing the kid would want it as a keepsake. Meanwhile, Sexton skated by the Ducks bench for high-fives, completely unable to play it cool as he sailed by his teammates in about 0.8 seconds flat before meeting up with Ryan at the other end of the ice for a glove bump.

If you were in the arena and the hair on your arms didn't stand on end, then you don't have a pulse.

"I'd say it was probably the coolest feeling -- take my previous coolest feeling and multiply it by 10, if not more," Sexton said later in what has to be one of the best quotes of the Ducks season. "That's what it was. It really just felt like a dream. I was kind of like in shock."

The whole thing clearly lifted the the Ducks, who for the rest of the period completely dominated play (outshooting Dallas 14-2 in the period) and seemed destined on so many occasions to find one more goal to tie that thing up. Then again, that window starting inching closed as the clock wound down, until SEXTON DID IT AGAIN with just over a minute left.

Seconds after he peppered the Dallas net with a couple more of the game-high nine shots he had on the net, the rookie skated back to retrieve the puck at the red line (zooming past Ryan Getzlaf in the process), weaved to the right wing and snapped a shot from a bad angle that got under Turco.

Game tied. Crowd going absolutely bonkers.

And they would erupt again minutes later when Saku Koivu skated patiently with the puck on a 3-on-1 before firing a shot off Turco and punching in the rebound for the winner. And after five straight losses, three coming in overtime or shootouts, the sight of the entire Ducks team celebrating against the glass in the corner was a beautiful one indeed. 

There were goosebumps then and again a few moments later, when "Sexy" had to pause before speaking to rinkside reporter Patrick O'Neal because the crowd was way too loud. When finally the noise died down enough for him to hear himself, the kid uttered something we were all thinking:

"This," Sexton said, "is unbelievable."



Updated December 8 at 12:14 p.m.

In a season dotted with gut-wrenching losses that could have (and should have) easily gone the other way, the Ducks will have a reminder of a recent one tonight at Honda Center.

In town are the Dallas Stars, those same Stars that managed to "steal two points" (James Wisniewski's words) in a 3-1 victory in Dallas just five nights ago. In that game, the Stars turned a 1-0 Ducks third-period advantage into a 2-1 lead, thanks to two fluky goals just 71 seconds apart. Tonight, the Ducks will look for a semblance of payback against their division rivals.

"We've got some unfinished business with them," Bobby Ryan said this morning. "We played a good game down there and had a lot of chances. We gave up a couple of goals that we'd probably like to have back. It really hasn't cooled off in our minds at all. It's certainly a game that we'd like to get some revenge. We gave away a couple of points and we'd like to have it back."

But no matter the opponent, no matter what happened with them last time, the Ducks just need two points after dropping their last five games in a row. And it looks like they might try to do it with a slightly different look to their back end, as Randy Carlyle has done some defensive pairings shuffling. James Wisniewski and Ryan Whitney have been split up the last couple of days in practice, with Wisniewski skating with Sheldon Brookbank and Whitney going with Nick Boynton. Recent call-up Brett Festerling is paired with Scott Niedermayer.

“First and foremost, we think Scott Niedermayer is more effective on the right side,” Carlyle said yesterday. ”And second, we think that the Wisniewski and Whitney combination hasn’t played to the level of our expectations as a pair. So we felt to split those two up for parts of the game. We’re just trying to see if we can find another four players that complement one another.

As far as the very back end of the Ducks defense, Carlyle of course didn't indicate who will be between the pipes tonight, but two nights ago after the Ottawa game (in which J.S. Giguere took the loss), he did stray from his "win and you're in" mantra. "As I've discussed before, we were going to start that way," Carlyle said. "When we make that change, when we make that determination, we'll make the selection based on who we feel will give us the best chance to win, versus, 'you win, you're in.' We'll have to make a decision when that changes."

Not that the Ducks haven't already had their share lately of overtime and shootouts, but they might be at an advantage if they end up there with Dallas tonight. The Stars, who have gone to an extra session a league-leading 11 times this season, have only three wins in OT or shootout. And a Dallas team that went an astounding 12-1 in the first year of the shootout (2005-06) is only 1-6 this year.

- - -
File this one under: Why Hockey is the Greatest Sport in the World. In what other game do you get this headline?

ISLES' WITT HIT BY CAR THIS MORNING; WILL STILL PLAY TONIGHT

That's right, Brendan Witt of the New York Islanders was struck by a truck in Philadelphia while on his way to get a cup of coffee. The driver of the truck made an illegal turn, and Witt tried to jump on the hood but was thrown to the ground by the impact. According to the story on TSN, Witt reportedly picked himself up off the road and, after a few profanities, assured everyone he was all right before continuing on his way, prompting one witness to say, "it was like seeing Clint Eastwood, but in hockey."

And as he picked himself up in front of a horrified crowd of onlookers, the 34-year-old Witt reportedly said, "I'm okay. I've got to go play some hockey. I'm a hockey player. I'm okay. No big deal."

Witt was on his way to the morning skate for tonight's Isles-Flyers game and took part in the skate just a few hours after the accident without getting any medical care.

"I just got lucky," said Witt. "Fortunately nothing bad happened. I'm just a little sore."

Whoa.


Updated December 7 at 10:47 a.m.

Yes, they got a point in each of the two games, but the Ducks still didn't get quite what they wanted out of the weekend.  

Last night at Honda Center, the Ducks again couldn't notch that cherished second point in the love-it-or-hate-it shootout. But last night's 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators came under different circumstances than the 5-4 defeat in Minnesota two nights prior. Last night, the Ducks fought back in rapid-fire fashion three different times when falling behind by a goal, doing it the final time early in the third to eventually force overtime and that shootout. But Friday night in the Twin Cities, they went to overtime in a game they all felt they should have won in regulation, ultimately dropping the tiebreaker to the Wild. 

The Ducks had a two-goal lead with a little under five minutes left in that game, only to watch the Wild score twice to even it. It was a lapse that might have been forgotten had the Ducks come through in overtime, and they certainly had their chances when they peppered the Wild goal on a 4-on-3 power play in the extra session. But they couldn't get anything through in that furious couple of minutes and eventually lost in the shootout.

Joffrey Lupul had a big game in his first since missing seven straight with back spasms. He had two goals in the contest, offensive production Anaheim will need in the 4-to-6-week absence of Teemu Selanne.

Which brings us to last night's game, when Lupul again had a goal, a big one that tied the game 2-2 late in the first just 31 seconds after Jason Spezza put the Sens up by one. That, remarkably, was one of three times in the game the Ducks erased an Ottawa lead in less than a minute. The first came on a kooky goal in which Ryan Getzlaf sent the puck off the glass, only to have it take a kick off the stanchion and bound into a net Ottawa goalie Brian Elliott had abandoned to chase the puck into the corner. Listen on the highlight how the Ottawa announcers don't seem too amused by it.

That goal came just 15 seconds after Ottawa had taken its first lead. And early in the third, the Ducks did it again, as Corey Perry's backhander from the slot dented the net just 50 seconds after Ottawa went up 3-2.

But if there is ever the chance to quickly wipe out a lead for a hockey team, it's in the shootout. And while the Ducks did it once (Getzlaf converting after Ottawa's Alex Kovalev did), they couldn't do it a second time -- Lupul shooting wide of the net after Daniel Alfredsson connected. (Alfredsson, by the way, is one of seven Sens remaining from the 2007 Stanley Cup Final team. The Ducks have seven as well, and last night broke a four-game winning streak, including that Final, against Ottawa at Honda Center.)

"It’s tough on everybody," Randy Carlyle said. "You can’t live and die by everything that goes against you. That is what the frustrating part is for your group. We battled back, had chances and then we don’t get it done in the shootout. We had our opportunities in the hockey game and didn’t get the job done. We lost a point in the shootout. These are the tough ones when you have to pick the group back up tomorrow morning and get ready for Dallas."

Said Perry, "It’s desperation for us right now. We’re at the 30-game mark. We have to put something together and go on a run here or we’re going to be out of it pretty soon. Everybody has to come together and be a team in here. That is how we have to play."



Updated December 4 at 10:43 a.m.

It's been said a few times by a few Ducks -- and unfortunately, a few times this season: In this league, you make one mistake and it can cost you a game. 

That truth was never more evident than in last night's 3-1 loss in Dallas, when a junk goal off a Ducks miscue tied the game, and and unfortunately opened the gate to a tough Anaheim defeat. That agonizing goal came when the puck kicked out of a crowd toward Giguere, who attemped to simply guide it with his stick over a defenseman. Unfortunately, James Wisniewski was right next to Giguere, and the puck deflected off the back of his skate and over the stripe. (It reminded me a little of this goal back on June 6, 2007, which came under much happier circumstances.) 

"In the course of a career, you get all kinds of weird goals," Giguere said in a solemn visitor's locker room. "That's one that ...it's a different goal for sure. I don't think it's anybody's fault. We're trying to do the right thing here, Wiz and I, and it just ..."

And he trailed off.

The calamity of that goal was nearly topped 1:11 later, when Steve Ott fired a seemingly innocent shot from the corner. Giguere made the save, but when he tried to go down in the butterfly to freeze the puck, it squirted behind him

While the Ducks fought to put those two goals behind them and find the equalizer, they couldn't do it, and Brendan Morrow's empty-netter with less than a minute left finished things off.

When the Ducks entered the third period up 1-0, you just knew it wouldn't be enough to hold off an always-relentless Dallas team (see Game 6 in 2008). But for the Ducks to give up the lead like that, when they were doing do many things right for the first 40 minutes of that game, was ... well, let's just say my living room was rated PG-13 for language. And I would imagine I wasn't alone among the Ducks faithful on that one. And it was a shame for Giguere, who had played so solidly in making 34 saves and keeping the Stars off the board before that mistake.

"They should feel like thieves right now," Wisniewski said, "to steal two points like that." 

But this morning, the loss most Ducks fans have on their minds isn't 3-1 to Dallas, but involves Teemu Selanne, who suffered a fractured hand in the second period last night. Selanne was struck on the knuckle above his middle finger (appropriate, but I can't explain why) on a shot by Karlis Skrastins and left the game. X-rays revealed the fracture and there is no timetable yet on how much time Selanne will miss. He's scheduled to meet with a hand specialist back in OC today and find out if he'll need surgery or not.

And yeah, it's ironic that Selanne would suffer such a big injury in a game he nearly didn't play in because of the stomach flu. He didn't join the team on the trip out to Dallas while he recovered, and flew in a few hours before game time. “First, I get stomach flu right after the L.A. game or in the game,” said Selanne. “Even [Wednesday] at this time, I couldn’t believe I was going to play. I didn’t feel very good before the game. I wanted to give it a shot. I felt really good in the first period. And then in the second period, I blocked the shot and it hit me right there.

“But you know, I have played almost 1,200 games. I haven’t missed one game because of the flu and I’ve played a lot of games that I was this close to saying, ‘No, I just can’t play.’ Some way, I just fight through. The same thing happened today. I’m not going to give up easily. Right now, I would say that’s the smarter thing to do but you want to play. You want to help the team. Hockey players overall, they play almost no matter what.”

Unfortunately for the Ducks, the "what" this time means he'll miss some games. Just how many that is, we'll learn soon enough.

As far as the rest of the Ducks are concerned, nobody likes playing back-to-backs, but a quick chance for redemption after a loss like that might be just what the team needs right now. They'll get that tonight against Minnesota, who sit one point in front of the Ducks in 14th place in the division.



Updated December 2 at 1:43 p.m.

If you're a Ducks fan, you've got a love-hate relationship with what you saw last night at Honda Center.

You hate that the Ducks lost to the Kings, 4-3. You love the fact they fought back to tie the game after going down two goals twice.

You hate the way the Ducks dug themselves an early hole in that game. You love the fact they played their hearts out to the final horn, just barely missing on several chances to tie it late.

You love the way the Ducks started this all-important homestand. You hate the way they ended it.

Under normal circumstances, a 4-2-1 run at home is pretty satisfying, but the fact the Ducks ended it with losses to division rivals Phoenix and Los Angeles leaves a bit of a bitter taste. "I think if you looked at every seven-game stretch, and you went, what were we, 4-2-1, you'd take it," Randy Carlyle said last night. "But it's disappointing that we lost a point the other night and then it's disappointing the way we lost tonight's game."

The Ducks made it a whole new hockey game when Todd Marchant scored off a rebound created by rookie Matt Beleskey to tie the game 5:29 into the third period. Beleskey surprised the otherwise-splendid Jonathan Quick with a shot from beyond the blue line, and after it bounced hard off the goaltender, Marchant was able to sweep in the rebound. It was the first career point for Beleskey, something Marchant clearly recognized when he made the classy move of retrieving the puck from the official to give to Beleskey later.

More importantly, it drastically shifted the momentum of the hockey game, and there were several instances where it looked like Anaheim might turn that into a lead. Instead, the Kings broke hearts with a tip-in goal by Brad Richardson off a Jack Johnson point shot with 2:20 left in the game. Looking out on the ice last night, I watched the five Kings converge for the group hug and just (here's that word again) hated the sight of it.

But the way the Ducks were creating opportunities at that point of the game, it seemed likely they would again get the equalizer. And that became even more likely when Johnson took a cross checking penalty with 1:35 left that, combined with a pulled Hiller, gave the Ducks a two-man advantage.

And while the Ducks made things happen in front of the net, they couldn't get anything past Quick, whose biggest save might have been this one on Bobby Ryan from the slot with just over a minute left. "I thought I had him," Ryan said. "He didn’t go down into that butterfly stance that he normally does. I was trying to shoot for that far corner. I had it, it was going there and he got his shoulder in the way. It seemed like it was going to fall right to the side of him, but it just fell beyond the goal line. We had a lot of shots that seemed like they were that close tonight."

That made the loss even tougher to take, but it was almost easy to forget about it with the flurry of activity this morning, as the Ducks had an early practice (minus a handful of veterans) before departing for Dallas. Anaheim made a trade with Montreal for center Kyle Chipchura, giving up a fourth-round pick in 2011 in the deal. Chipchura, who may be delayed in joining the Ducks on this road trip for immigration reasons, brings depth at the forward spot for a team missing Joffrey Lupul, Ryan Carter and Kyle Calder.  (Rookies Beleskey and MacGregor Sharp have filled in on the third and fourth lines.)

Later in the day, Brett Festerling was brought up from Toronto of the AHL and Brendan Mikkelson was sent down. Festerling played 40 games for the Ducks last season, but this is his first time with the big club this year. "Mikkelson, we felt, has struggled in the games as of late," Carlyle said this morning. "He has a tremendous skill set. Right now things are going against him more than they’re going for him, so it’s an opportunity for him to go down, get his confidence back, get his feet back underneath from the standpoint of executing with the puck.”

And Erik Christensen, who has been in Manitoba on a conditioning assignment, was claimed off waivers by the Rangers. (The Ducks won't be responsible for the remainder of his salary since it wasn't re-entry waivers because 30 days had passed since the Ducks originally placed him on waivers.)

So, a little bit of change for a Ducks team that comes off that homestand looking at 12 of the next 16 games on the road, starting tomorrow evening in Dallas. And former Duck Sean O'Donnell was among the many who see a Ducks team that is better than the one his Kings beat last night.  

“This team is going to be right there in the mix for the playoffs,” he said. ”It seems like all 15 teams are in it in the West and it’s going to come right down to April. This team’s not going to be going anywhere.”

- - -

A few readers have emailed about a contestant on the current season of the Golf Channel show "Big Break," a reality show involving up-and-coming golfers. His name is Kevin Erdman, a native or Altadena and a Ducks fan who has done some serious representing of the team on the show. Erdman, as you can see in his bio on the show's website, lists "Anaheim Ducks hockey and movies" as his interests.

And he's shown it with some of the garb he's worn on the show (along with orange checkered pants and some very bright colored shirts.) Erdman can frequently be seen on camera in Ducks caps and t-shirts, as you can see in the photo on the right and in this video (1:38 mark), this video (1:04 mark) and this video (3:03 mark).

Nice to see the Ducks getting some love on, of all places, The Golf Channel.



Updated December 1 at 1:54 p.m.

Right about now, every game is big for the Anaheim Ducks, but there is something about this one tonight that makes me want it even more than usual.

It's always a battle when the Ducks take on the rival Kings, but this one comes with the two teams in an unfamiliar position as far as the last few seasons have gone. A Kings team that since the lockout has previously spent most of its time at or near the bottom of the Pacific Division, has ridden a fast start to second place in the division. And the Ducks, traditionally a Pacific contender and perennial playoff team, are at the bottom of the division, eight points shy of L.A. (And this is one Ducks fan who has to admit that as much as the team struggled over the first month and a half, it stung just a little bit more to look up at sports tickers and open morning papers to see the Kings were winning games.)

But we'll get some indication of whether the power has shifted between the rivals tonight when these two teams face off for the first time this season. The Ducks have gone 9-3-2 against the Kings at home the past four seasons, 18-8-4 overall. But as we've seen so far this year, those were some very different Kings teams.

“This is a four-point game for us," Bobby Ryan said, referring to the impact it will have on both teams' spots in the standings. "We’re going on the road into some tough buildings here in Dallas and Minnesota coming up. We need to finish Tuesday night off the right way.”

(By the way, puck drop is at 7:30 tonight, not the usual 7:05. So you can take your time a little bit.)
 
The Kings' pickup of Ryan Smyth in a July trade with Colorado wasn't among the most celebrated transactions of the summer, but it was a huge reason L.A. got off to a 10-4-2 start. But Smyth suffered an "upper-body injury" on November 16 and is supposed to be out a month. He's missed five games so far and he's been missed, as fellow top-liners Anze Kopitar (who was earlier this year leading the NHL in scoring) hasn't found the net in nine games and Justin Williams hasn't scored in the last eight.

The Kings are also probably going to be without another of their big summer acquisitions, defenseman Rob Scuderi, as he has a "lower-body injury" and is listed as "questionable" (but really, aren't we all?). Yet, they're still hanging tough as a team, winning two of their last three, including a shootout win Saturday against the same Blackhawks the Ducks took down the night before.

For Anaheim tonight, it's not only a big one to try and maintain some supremacy over their neighbors up the freeway, but also to end this homestand on a great note. Sure, 4-1-1 has been nice, but wouldn't 5-1-1 be so much better? Especially with the Ducks on the cusp of a stretch in which they play 12 of their next 16 on the road? 

“We need to finish this homestand on the right foot,” said Jean-Sebastien Giguere, whose play in net is part of reason for that 4-1-1. “December is going to be a tough month for us. Lots of games on the road and a lot of back-to-backs. We should be really hungry for the L.A. game.”

Frankly, I'm starving for this one tonight. Should be a good one.

- - -

Crazy incident in Atlanta last night, where following a Thrashers goal by Ilya Kovalchuk, Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard swung his stick in frustration at the goalpost. Only problem was, he clipped his own goalie, Tomas Vokoun, in the head and Vokoun had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. (I believe that's called adding injury to insult.) Watching the video, Ballard clearly has no idea he got Vokoun in the head, because he swings one more time after the goalie goes down.

Can you imagine being Vokoun on that play? You're thinking: Dammit, I can't believe I gave up that goa ... OH MY GOD WHAT WAS THAT NOISE???

Vokoun, who was originally thought to have suffered a concussion, instead sustained a lacerated left ear and received stitches. As bad as that was for Vokoun, you have to also feel a little sorry for Ballard, who definitely isn't the first player to slam his stick in frustration and had to be horrified at what transpired. The normally affable defenseman didn't speak to media after the game. The NHL has said there won't be a suspension for Ballard, but you can imagine there might have been had that been an Atlanta player he smacked.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 6 5 1 0 21 13 10
2 LAK 6 4 1 1 15 10 9
3 SJS 6 4 1 1 20 15 9
4 NSH 5 3 0 2 12 8 8
5 CGY 7 4 3 0 19 17 8
6 CHI 4 3 0 1 12 7 7
7 VAN 4 3 1 0 13 10 6
8 DAL 5 2 1 2 15 17 6
9 STL 5 2 2 1 12 9 5
10 MIN 4 2 2 0 10 4 4
11 ARI 4 2 2 0 13 18 4
12 COL 6 1 4 1 9 20 3
13 WPG 5 1 4 0 8 15 2
14 EDM 5 0 4 1 11 25 1

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 6 2 6 1 8
C. Perry 6 5 2 3 7
S. Vatanen 6 2 3 -1 5
R. Kesler 6 2 3 0 5
M. Beleskey 6 4 0 3 4
C. Fowler 6 0 4 3 4
J. Silfverberg 6 0 3 2 3
P. Maroon 3 0 3 -1 3
W. Karlsson 5 2 0 4 2
D. Smith-Pelly 6 1 1 0 2
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 5 0 0 .950 1.38
J. Gibson 0 1 0 .846 6.00

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