|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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(All times Pacific unless otherwise noted.)
Updated October 29 at 12:14 p.m.
I was asked by a friend this morning if I was "looking forward" to the game tonight. With 82 of them a year, plus seven or eight in the preseason, I'll admit you don't always count the hours before every one. But for this one tonight, there is definitely that anticipation.
After all, it's the first game at Honda Center in almost two weeks, featuring a Ducks team that showed flashes of brilliance during a 2-2 road trip that felt like it lasted forever. It's Friday night. New Jersey in in town, a team we don't see around these parts all that often. And they're a desperate team that has had a devil of a time (had to do it) with the start of this season.
Their 2-7-1 record is the second-worst start through 10 games in their franchise's history, the most recent defeat being a 5-2 defeat in San Jose two nights ago. Goalie Martin Brodeur, who was in net for that one and is expected to start tonight, was victimized by the Sharks' top line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Dany Heatley, which had all five goals and added eight assists. “The way that line played against us it was like they were playing against kids,” Brodeur said. “They were all over us. It’s not fun.
“Some losses you say, ‘Alright, let’s move on from this one.’ But the way we got beat… to get beat by one line there is no excuse. You can’t go into a building and three guys take over a game like they did.”
It's the first time Ducks fans will see Ilya Kovalchuk here in a Devils sweater, after the prolific winger re-signed with NJ following a well-publicized $100 million contract negotiation that prompted the league to get involved. Kovalchuk was last at Honda Center as a member of the Thrashers, when he had a hat trick in a span of 6:51 on Feb. 15 of 2009.
Kovalchuk was reportedly late for a team meeting and benched for a game with Buffalo over the weekend, but he's back in the lineup and played at San Jose. Asked by a reporter to explain the Devils' early struggles, he said, "You should ask somebody else, not me. I don’t know what’s wrong."
Either way, the Ducks aren't looking to help the Devils get back on track, but rather hope to build on the things they did right in that satisfying 5-2 win in Dallas. It's the start of a good stretch for Anaheim, which plays six of the next eight in Anaheim, the only two road games coming in San Jose. The Ducks have earned five of six points in their only three home games this season.
Randy Carlyle was asked this morning about the status of the Cam Fowler, who skated with the rest of the team during the morning session and stuck around to do some more on his own after the team headed in. "He’s made huge strides in the last couple of days and hopefully he’s an option for us here in the short term," Carlyle said. "We’ll make a decision based upon what he tells about how he feels."
And he closed with this: "I would say he is a quite possible option tonight.”
That's one wounded Duck who's possible to return, but Anaheim is still without dinged wingers Matt Beleskey (out for two games) and Dan Sexton (a few days into his two-week absence). To make up for that, the team recalled 32-year-old Josh Green from Syracuse this morning. Carlyle said that Green will be a "safety net" but isn't expected to be in the lineup tonight. From the looks of things at the morning skate, Aaron Voros will spend some time on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry, and Jason Blake is expected back in the lineup after getting scratched against Dallas.
- - -Here's this from NHL.com: The first three weeks of the new season have yielded just 10 shootouts in the first 136 games played -- a huge comedown from last season, when there were 23 in the same number of games. Project those early numbers over a full season and there would be about 90 shootouts in 2010-11, less than half of the record 184 that took place last season.
The Ducks, by the way, have been in just one shootout this year, a 5-4 loss to Atlanta on October 15. They were in a whopping 13 last year (including four in a row in April) and won five of them.
Updated October 28 at 2:49 p.m.
The Ducks hit the Honda Center ice today for the first time in a week and a half, but they did it without a couple of key guys.
Dan Sexton remains in the middle of a two-week absence after having surgery on his broken nose. Matt Beleskey, who has been diagnosed with a concussion, was placed on IR and will miss the next two games. Cam Fowler, still recovering from injuries suffered when he was slammed into the wall October 17 vs. Phoenix, did skate at full speed for about 20 minutes before coming off the ice. The good news with Fowler, however, is that he is hopeful to play this weekend -- either tomorrow vs. New Jersey or Saturday at San Jose.
The lack of Sexton and Beleskey means the Ducks have 12 healthy forwards, but Randy Carlyle did not indicate yet whether they were bringing someone up from Syracuse. “We don’t need a forward, but if we have somebody that gets sick with the flu or we get an injury tomorrow, it puts us in a bind to get somebody here for Saturday against San Jose,” Carlyle said.
Beleskey had performed admirably on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry, a line that also has had Bobby Ryan on it a lot. Despite that, Carlyle said it wasn't automatic that Ryan would rejoin those two in Beleskey's absence. “That would seem like an easy one,” he said. “But it’s not as easy as you think it is.”
At least for today, bruiser Aaron Voros skated on that top line with Blake on the fourth line. “He’s a big body," Carlyle said of Voros. "To go up with Getzlaf and Perry we would expect him to move the puck to one of them and go to the net – be as physical as possible and go to the net.”
The Ducks weren't done when practice finished just before noon. They each had to go through fittings for Monday's Dux in Tux event, and when they weren't doing that, they had to scribble Sharpies on hundreds of items during one of the handful of team signing sessions our Community Relations department organizes. We've put together a gallery of photos from that (thanks to Ducks staffer Sarah Bennett, who snapped the shots). That includes this one one of Ryan Getzlaf convincing Beleskey to push him back and forth in a makeshift wheelchair while he signed items sitting on a long table.
And there's this one of George Parros -- who is now driving a natural gas Honda Civic GX, by the way -- showing his love for the environment (and possibly "Jersey Shore"). Or it may be the fact that the state of New Jersey doesn't let you pump your own gas (I think NJ and Oregon are the only two states in the U.S. that have that law.) Check out the amused kiddo in the background, just your average 22-minute-a-night NHL defenseman.
Here's some video from today as well, as the players discuss how they will have to assist local chefs at the event. My favorite part is Perry describing Fowler by saying, "The first thing he said was, 'I don't know how to cook!" with that little face he has there..."
Updated October 27 at 11:47 a.m.
Something tells me the mood on the Air Canada flight from Dallas to Orange County last night was noticeably more jovial than the one from Detroit to Dallas a few nights prior.
That's because the flight home -- following an up-down-and-finally-up road trip -- came on the heels of a very satisfying 5-2 victory over the Stars at American Airlines Arena. The Ducks got goals from the usual suspects (Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry) and a not-so-usual one (George Parros) on their way to salvaging a 2-2 road trip.
On a personal note, for the first time in a long time, I wasn't able to watch the game live on TV because I had a speaking engagement for the Public Relations Student Society of America at Cal State Fullerton. So I didn't get to see things like Ryan's two big goals in the second period, George Parros' HUGE breakaway goal that gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead (how great are his teammates' reactions to that one?) or Selanne's monster power play strike that gave the Ducks a two-goal lead in the third.
Instead, I resorted to all the other methods of following the Ducks during the game. I listend to Steve Carroll and Dan Wood's call on AM 830 on the way to the event. I checked my phone for the Ducks mobile site before and after my presentation (resisting the temptation to do it during the speech.) And of course, I checked our Twitter to get a better description of each of the goals, not to mention some of the Ducks' fans reactions to them. (More on the greatness of Twitter later.)
I was able to get to my car quickly enough to listen to the last half of the second period on the radio, where I just missed Matt Beleskey getting sent into the wall by Stephane Robidas and leaving the ice wobbly (more on that later). I was able to groan along with the rest of the Ducks fans as Anaheim couldn't convert on the ensuing five-minute power play. But when Corey Perry snuck in a goal just six seconds after it ended to give the Ducks a commanding 5-2 lead, I took my hands off the wheel briefly to clap loudly. (I was alone, by the way.)
I didn't realize this until I watched the replay, but part of the reason the Ducks got that goal is that even after the penalty expired, Dallas wasn't allowed to put a player on the ice because they had shockingly forgotten to put one in the penalty box to serve for Robidas (who had been kicked out of the game.) "I don't know that I've ever seen that happen before," said Ducks TV analyst Brian Hayward.
Also while watching the replay of the telecast, I cringed as Beleskey looked out of sorts after that hit into the wall, when he was attended to by three different medical guys and ultimately helped off the ice. (Robidas was given a game misconduct and later a one-game suspension for the hit, because it was "his second game misconduct within 41 games in the boarding/checking from behind category.")
Despite not returning to the game, Beleskey was evaluated by doctors and determined to be okay (which we were able to quickly report on our Twitter feed.) And then, even better, Beleskey himself told Ducks fans he was doing okay on his Twitter feed with this message:
Thanks everyone for the support , I'm doing just fine ... Little bell ringing never hurt anyone haha ... See ya soon OC
Maybe it's just me, but I thought that was pretty damn cool.
Back to Selanne's third-period goal (which came off a beautiful blind feed from Corey Perry), which was the 611th of Selanne's career, breaking a tie with Bobby Hull (whose son happens to be a former Star) and moving Flash into 15th place all time. I liked Selanne's sound bite on that one: "I've met (Hull) many times, and I never imagined I'd score more goals than him. It's unbelievable, when you look back at your career, the numbers. Good things happen when you play long."
Jonas Hiller, whose solid game after a bit of rest was overshadowed by the Ducks' season high in goals, put it succinctly: "“We were fighting hard," he said. "That’s why we won.”
It all helped the Ducks get a trip-closing win that allowed them an important split and four standings points in those four road games. “We managed to get four out of eight in some pretty tough buildings,” Ryan said. “Obviously to end this one and make the flight home nice and get some divisional points is a huge bonus for us.”
And after going at it hard during their three practice days in Dallas, the Ducks were given the day off today. They look ahead to a refreshing home date with New Jersey on Friday, the first of a stretch in which they play six of the next eight in Anaheim.
Updated October 26 at 3:28 p.m.
The difference between 1-3 and 2-2 is massive right about now, and the Ducks are hoping they land on the latter after tonight in Dallas.
A heart-wrenching defeat last Saturday night in Detroit gave the Ducks their second defeat in the first three stops of this impactful four-game road trip, and the Ducks desperately want to take this one tonight to end the voyage on a good note.
But they'll have to do it against a good Stars team that, like Anaheim, missed the playoffs last year for the first time in awhile and didn't like how that tasted. They're off to a decent start this year, posting a 5-2-0 record despite a loss last Saturday against Nashville. The Preds' Cal O'Reilly scored just 42 seconds into the game, and that was the extent of the scoring in a 1-0 victory.
One of the major reasons for the Stars' strong start is goalie Kari Lehtonen, the guy they got from the Thrashers late last season to prepare for the post-Turco era. Said coach Marc Crawford of Lehtonen, who has played in all seven Stars games, “He’s been extremely good for us. I don’t think it would be a reach to say that he’s been our best player at this point in the season. When you get a good goaltender and he’ s playing the way that Kari has, he’s been able to allow us to build a little bit underneath him. Where we had maybe some struggles and gave up a few too many shots early, he bailed us out on a lot of nights.”
This season, Lehtonen is like Jonas Hiller in that both have faced a lot of shots. Hiller, according to the OC Register, is expected to be back in net tonight after Curtis McElhinney started the past two games.
The Ducks, however, will again be without Cam Fowler, who continues to nurse a broken nose and a sore neck. Dan Sexton, who suffered an even worse broken nose after getting hit with a shot Saturday at Detroit, is scheduled for surgery on it Thursday and is out two weeks. Said Randy Carlyle today of Sexton, "His nose is pretty mushed up. It’s not just a simple break. There are multiple fractures of the nose,”
Combine that injury with Fowler and the broken thumb d-man Andy Sutton suffered in Detroit earlier in the month, and the Ducks have already had some bad luck on the injury front. "It’s unfortunate that players do get hurt, but you have to move on without them," Carlyle said. "That’s as cruel as it can be, but you have to go to work. Because you have injuries, so does every other team.”
More from Carlyle, who commented on the fact the Ducks put in some pretty hard skates in the days following that Detroit defeat. “To me, it’s not a question of killing anybody,” he said. ”I don’t think we did that. I think we pushed harder in practice. Did a lttle bit more skating than we would normally do. In the situation that we’re in, I think we have to take responsibillity of the way we’re playing. I think some guys can be sharper.
Either they do it or I do it. As part of my responsibility, I deemed that was necessary in that situation. I told them so. I told them exactly the reason for it. We’re going to work on these areas and we’re going to do this. That’s what I believe what the doctor had ordered.”
Said Paul Mara to the OC Register, “No one takes harder losing than the players inside that locker room. We were all extremely angry about it. We know that points are extremely valuable. Especially this time of year."
But there is nothing the Ducks can do about it now. "We can’t look back," Mara said. "You just look forward and we have Dallas. Cap that off with a big win and it’s a .500 road trip.”
Updated October 25 at 11:42 a.m.
If you could derive energy from the simultaneous shouting of expletives, you could have powered all of Orange County at around 6:35 p.m. on Saturday evening.
That was the moment Pavel Datsyuk's shot touched twine with just 11.4 seconds left in regulation, delivering the Ducks another heartbreaking defeat in Detroit. (I know I let a word fly, as did my dad, who also tested the stability of my coffee table, confirming that it can indeed take the impact of the side of a fist.)
It was just the latest in a saga of disappointment in Joe Louis Arena -- with Game 5 in 2007 (Niedermayer and Selanne magic) and Game 2 two seasons ago (Marchant's OT winner) being among the few good memories there. But this one, unlike the 4-0 defeat two weeks prior when the Ducks were never in the game, stung a lot more. The elation we felt when 40-year-old Teemu Selanne sped by everyone on the right wing and snapped a shot under Jimmy Howard to give the Ducks the lead was drained less than three minutes later when Henrik Zetterberg tipped one in off a Brad Stuart point shot to tie it.
And the Ducks were on their heels too often in the final minutes of regulation, more like a team dying to get a point and get to OT more than a team dying to win it. “We had a 3-1 lead in the building and then we stopped doing the things we did,” Randy Carlyle said. “We started standing around trying to make plays ... “We stopped playing hockey.”
They were able to almost get away with it until that second line of Selanne, Koivu and Blake, along with d-men Andreas Lilja and Paul Mara, got caught on the ice for a way-too-long shift that ultimately ended with the Datsyuk goal.
“We were gassed," Selanne said afterward. "Give credit to them, they made a great play. But still, that shouldn’t happen in the last minute.” Lilja, the former Red Wing who was on the other side of things so many times in that building, added, “I tried to get off but I couldn’t get off. They turned it around so quick so I couldn’t get off the ice.”
Nevertheless, the Ducks did a lot of things right in this one, starting with the way they were able to bounce back from an early Detroit power play goal that came off a Corey Perry interference penalty. They got one back from Bobby Ryan off a nice Ryan Getzlaf feed that Getzlaf seemed to know was a goal even before it hit the net. Ryan Carter got his first of the season in the second, and Danny Syvret got his first as a Duck just 34 seconds later. (Love how the Detroit announcers are talking about his first career goal, at Fenway Park, and then he pots one off the post seconds later.)
But the Ducks let that lead disappear thanks to goals by names that have haunted Anaheim (and the rest of the league) for years: Franzen, Holmstrom, Zetterberg. And of course there was the game-winner from another one -- Datsyuk.
To add injury to insult, Dan Sexton became the second Duck in the last week to suffer a broken nose after getting hit with a Ruslan Salei shot in the first period. (By the way, former Duck Salei was also the guy who was punched by Andy Sutton on October 8 in Detroit, which resulted in a broken thumb for Sutton, and a 6-to-8-week absence.) Sexton was sent back to Orange County for evaluation and there is no timetable for him return. Cam Fowler, also with a broken nose, and a stiff neck, appears unlikely to play tomorrow night in Dallas, where the Ducks have practiced for the past two days.
Yesterday's practice -- from which veterans like Selanne, Marchant and Koivu were given a day off -- consisted of much more skating than puck work, as Carlyle emphasized that the skating portion of the game has been largely missing of late. Getzlaf, among the Ducks who remained on the sheet for extra work after the practice, called it a "wakeup call that we need to skate harder in games," according to the OC Register.
Said Carlyle, “We have to be sharper, and I think in situations when we’re not as sharp as we need to [be], sometimes you have to get snapped to attention a little bit. A little bit of extra work in that area, conditioning, never really hurts. It’s usually a tool that you use. Hopefully that has the desired effect.”
- - -
Ducks TV analyst (and Ivy Leaguer) Brian Hayward writes a blog on the Fox Sports West site, and his latest edition covers his feelings about Joe Louis Arena, and how he almost got mugged there one night.
Updated October 22 at 10:21 a.m.
I'll be honest, I didn't see this one coming.
There is no question the Ducks had the odds stacked against them last night in the City of Brotherly Love. They were playing the second of a back-to-back, on the heels of a tough loss in Columbus. They were facing a good Flyers team (defending Eastern Confernce champs, in case you forgot), which was more than well-rested after not having played since last Saturday. They were playing in an unfriendly building, something that hadn't been kind to them yet this year. They started a goalie (Curtis McElhinney) who hadn't started a game yet this year. And they were without Cam Fowler (who would have thought two months ago that would be a hindrance we'd talk about?).
They were outshot 42-22, but somehow (cliche alert) they found a way to win. And a major reason was the play of McElhinney, who did what goalies are supposed to do (cliche alert again) -- he gave his team a chance.
And the Ducks made the most of that chance, going grind-to-grind with the Flyers until finally breaking a 2-2 tie late in the game thanks for a workmanlike Ryan Getzlaf goal. It was one of those goals where you're team is on the road and you're watching on TV, and you don't realize it's a goal until the boys in the white jerseys throw their fists in the air. Getzlaf took a pass right in front of the net from Matt Beleskey and forced it under goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, and the best that Johnny Ahlers could give us right away was, "Getzlaf thinks he scored!" We had to wait even longer to confirm it, as replay review clearly showed that the puck leaked under Bobrovsky and nestled just inside the right post. (It's one of those where you stand up and put your face right next to the TV, as if that's gonna help.)
Either way, it was well worth the wait for referee Chris Rooney to announce that the goal was good and give that satisfying point to center ice, especially because it seems lately that every other replay review has gone against the Ducks this season. Getzlaf said of the goal, "The initial shot, he kind of stopped it with his stick, and then I was able to hit it again. I saw it go in as soon as I was standing in the crease. Judging by my reaction, you could tell."
Said the 22-year-old Bobrovsky, "When he shot the puck I tried to stop it, but it slid right by me. The team lost and I feel like it's my fault. I have to play better. We must win the game."
(Am I the only one who read that quote and immediately thought of this?)
Bobrovsky was on the bench for much of a (to borrow a Randy Carlyle word) hairy final minute and a half, as the Ducks had to hold on with the Flyers emptying the net and throwing an extra attacker at them. But McElhinney came up big, making a couple of huge stops, notably this glove grab off a rifled one-timer by Mike Richards with just 10.9 left in the game.
"He played great," Getzlaf said of McElhinney, who had a respectable 5-1-2 record with a .917 save percentage last season and came to the Ducks in a deadline deal with Calgary. "The biggest thing is, he did a great job controlling the game. He stopped everything he could see. And he was able to absorb a lot of it. That slows the game down for us. It was big."
Bobby Ryan, the New Jersey kid who told the O.C. Register there were 80 or 90 people who came across the state line to watch him (here's a photo from warmups we tweeted), said of McElhinney, "We had complete faith in him going in and he showed why we kept that faith."
The heroics near the end of the game overshadowed the fact that the Ducks got off to a great start, something that's vital on the road. The likeable Lubomir Visnosky picked up an abandoned puck just inside the blue line, skated into some wide open ice and fired a "cannon" that hit its target just 35 seconds into the game. And after Philly tied it later in the period, the Ducks got their lead back with a fine Selanne pass that set up a Jason Blake one-timer (another goal we couldn't quite see until Blake calmly threw his hands in the air.)
They don't come easy on the road (something that's been hammered home more than enough times already this season) and that's why this first win was absolutely huge for the Ducks. And it won't get any easier, as the Ducks face the Red Wings in Detroit for the second time this month, and the last time this season, tomorrow night (afternoon for us West Coasters).
- - -
In the interest of blatant self-promotion, if you didn't hear my appearance on the Duck Calls postgame show on AM 830 with host Josh Brewster after the Ducks-Columbus game on Wednesday night, here's an archive of my segment.
- - -
If you've watched any Ducks telecasts lately, chances are you've seen this entertaining commercial with George Parros in the laundry room, putting his uniform on while three women look on in bewilderment ("Papers down, ladies! It's game time!). Kudos to Georgie and Ducks staffers Mariana (who is our chief graphic designer) and Annabel (our receptionist) for their work in this one. But I think I speak for the rest of our staff when I say my favorite part is the performance of Cindy, the girl who looks baffled as she takes the skate out of the dryer at the end of the commercial. Cindy, who stands all of 4-foot-10 (if that) is one of the nicest and shyest girls you'll ever meet. That's why the look on her face here is so priceless.
This is the first of several commercials like these the Ducks will be trotting out in the coming weeks. Take a look:
This is the first of several commercials like these the Ducks will be trotting out in the coming weeks. Take a look:
Updated October 21 at 12:59 p.m.
We don't use the term "moral victory" around these parts, but despite the fact the Ducks ended up on the losing end of a 3-1 decision in Columbus last night, there certainly were some positives to take from that game.
The Ducks did a number of things right in that game, outshooting Columbus 32-22, with the difference being a flukey Rick Nash goal off Toni Lydman's skate in the second period and Nash's empty-netter to ice it. But for the Ducks to give up fewer than two dozen shots -- especially on the road, where they gave up an average of 48 in the opening three games -- was a great sign. And ironically enough, it was a normally reliable power play that didn't come through last night, as the Ducks came up empty on five different chances, four straight in the pivotal second.
“The power play could have won us the game tonight,” Teemu Selanne said. “I’m very disappointed in our power play today. That could have won the game for us, and we didn’t. We did a lot of good things, but we need points. That’s the bottom line.”
Down 2-0 through two periods, the Ducks showed some hope less than a minute into the third when Selanne scored his 609th (in his lifetime, not this year) to get the Ducks within a goal. And although they spent a ton of time in the Columbus end in trying to even the score, they couldn't get anything else past a solid Steve Mason. At the same time, the Ducks didn't make Mason's job hard enough last night, as they were getting off the first shots, but too often there weren't enough Ducks around to follow them.
“He worked hard, there was no doubt about it,” Ryan Getzlaf said of Mason. “He played well tonight. He made all those first saves. They did a good job clearing out the front of the net, and we didn’t do a good enough job getting inside and getting those second and third opportunities.”
"We did some things very well but we made some mistakes,” Randy Carlyle said. “We give up a goal to MacKenzie [in the second], a slap shot into the pads; that’s a mistake. Then the next thing you know, Nash gets a goal and it kind of goes off our defenseman.”
On the bright side, all the things that hurt the Ducks in the early going this year -- too many penalties, too many shots given up, too much time in their own end -- weren't much of a problem last night. And that was without the presence of Cam Fowler, who was held out of the lineup while he still recovers from that broken nose. (And as we've said for years in this league, it's tough to win hockey games without a Cam Fowler.) Recent call-up Danny Syvret took Fowler's spot in the lineup and looked solid. We'll see in a few hours, when the Ducks come right back and play the Flyers in Philly, whether Fowler will be back in there. (“He wasn’t too chipper earlier today but he seemed a lot better later tonight,” Carlyle said.) We'll also learn whether the Ducks are going right back to Jonas Hiller (who didn't face a ton of shots last night) or will give Curtis McElhinney his first start of the year.
The Ducks have their work cut out for them against a 2-2-0 Flyers team that didn't play in a different city last night, and in fact haven't suited up since last Saturday (an ugly 5-1 loss at home to Pittsburgh). Chris Pronger, who has played the last three games after missing the first two with a knee problem, is expected to be in there tonight.
- - -
Luca Sbisa, who has gone through his first practices with the Syracuse Crunch this week after being sent down by the Ducks last Saturday, talked a little about it with the Syracuse Post-Standard. “I didn’t play with much confidence up there,” he said. “I lost my confidence pretty quick. It’s the start of the year. I didn’t really find my stride. Things didn’t work out as expected. Sometimes you don’t know why.
“The season is still young. I’m sure if I get another chance to get up there this year, I’m going to take it.”
Updated October 20 at 1:13 p.m.
To say this road trip is a big one for the Anaheim Ducks is like saying ... actually I can't think of a good simile. It's a big road trip.
And for so many reasons. The Ducks are looking to show that their play during the recent three-game homestand (in which they nabbed five of six points and beat two 2009-10 playoff teams) is more of what you can expect from them this campaign. And they're looking to avoid what happened to them last time they hit the road, when they opened the season with rough losses in Detroit, Nashville and St. Louis.
Road to Redemption starts tonight (or this late afternoon for us West Coasters) in Columbus for the Ducks, who showed much more inspired play over the last week, but Randy Carlyle cautioned yesterday that it only means so much at this point. “I don’t know if you would say (we’re on) solid footing,” Carlyle told reporters yesterday. “Obviously we feel better about ourselves. We still have lots of work to do. To say that we’ve turned the corner … no, I would say we haven’t turned the corner.”
Granted, while their play in the last three games looked good in the standings, the Ducks weren't exactly flawless in those games. Thanks in part to some ill-timed trips to the bin, they gave up two-goal leads in the third period two nights in a row. Thankfully, they came back to win anyway last Sunday night thanks to the play of the RPG line.
Those three dudes -- Ryan, Perry and Getzlaf -- had two games over the past week in which they combined for seven points, a breath of fresh air after they had no points in those opening three road games. (They had 19 combined points, including six goals, in the homestand overall.)
Getting those guys on track was expected, and we can only hope it follows through to this trip. Also on this trip, which the Ducks didn't have on the last one, is the presence of veteran d-men Toni Lydman (who was very impressive in two games at home) and Andreas Lilja (who debuted Sunday vs. Phoenix).
Carlyle said their presence has already made a noticeable difference. “They’re two guys that can settle things down,” he said. “They can make the subtle play with the puck. Before we were pushing the puck around and slapping it around vs. controlling it. I think that’s more of the settling-down effect when things get hairy. And things do get hairy in some parts of the game. We just want to limit the number of times it happens to us.”
But the one defenseman who's on the minds of Ducks fans right now is the kid, Cam Fowler, who suffered a broken nose Sunday night when he went face-first into the wall. Fowler practiced in Columbus yesterday, though he left the ice early. He was part of the morning skate today and remains a game-time decision.
Said Carlyle after the skate this morning, “He’s running around with a stiff neck right now, and as you see, his face is a little black and blue at this point. That’s what happens when you get a broken nose. That’s what the kid is dealing with right now. He got a pretty good bang.”
Said Fowler, “It’s just the neck kind of protected itself when I got hit there and the muscles are just kind of contracted. Besides that, I’m hanging in there. I’m okay. I’m a possibility. I’m not sure exactly what the trainers and the coaches want to do. I’m going to take warm-up and just see how I feel. Hopefully I’ll be able to go tonight.”
Fowler was helped into the wall by a shove by Phoenix's Shane Doan. Doan was not punished for the play (and he shouldn't have been) but he was suspended three games Monday for his third-period hit on Dan Sexton. Fowler himself had a pretty good take on his incident.
"It's partly my fault," he said. "I was just trying to take it to the net and create something for my team. My eyes kind of started to get big and thought maybe I might have a good chance at scoring another one." (He scored his first career goal earlier in the period, and I guess we'll have to do the traditional holding-up-the-puck photo when the team gets back in town.)
The Ducks, by the way, lost Brendan Mikkelson on waivers, where he was claimed by Calgary. Carlyle said of the move, "I just think he’s a young player that’s still developing,” Carlyle said. “To play defense in the National Hockey League, it’s not an easy position to play. We felt that at this point people have played to a higher level than he has." Mikkelson, who was always a very nice, and funny, kid, had this to say to the Calgary Sun: “‘I’m thankful to Anaheim for drafting me and giving me my first start, but they’ve got some pretty solid veteran guys back there and that young guy Fowler has been playing well, too. It’s a decision they felt they had to make, and as a player you have to roll with the punches.”
Anaheim brought up Danny Syvret yesterday to fill that hole. If Fowler can't go tonight (and I'm betting he does), Syvret will likely be in the lineup.
Columbus, by the way, is 2-2-0, having played just four games after opening the season with two in Sweden (home of former Adam Brady favorite Duck and current Blue Jacket Sami Pahlsson) and then getting six days off.
By the way, pinned to my office bulletin board right now is a fake-autographed Pahlsson photo on which someone in the office -- noting my unabashed affection for Sami -- wrote "Goodbye Brady, My Love" and left it on my desk soon after he was traded. (Here's a scan of it.) I still have no idea who did it. All I know is that it wasn't Sami.
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If you're interested, I'll be a guest with host Josh Brewster on Duck Calls, following the game tonight (approximately 7:30). You can listen to the show on AM 830 or on their website. So, make sure you tune in and make their ratings go through the roof.
You can also call into the show at 877-8-830-830. (Wow, that's more 8s than my last golf scorecard ... ey-yooooooo!!!)
Updated October 18 at 10:26 a.m.
From "Oh no, not again" to "Yes! They did it again!" in a matter of minutes -- that was the third period last night for the Anaheim Ducks.
For the second time in as many games, the Ducks let a two-goal third period lead slip away from them, but unlike Friday night against Atlanta, they bounced back to win it anyway. And they did it by virtue of the work of their RPG line, which yet again came up big when the Ducks needed them most.
The disappointing memory of that 2-0 lead being erased became fuzzier when Ryan, Getzlaf and Perry combined for a pretty go-ahead goal on the rush with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the game. Ryan (who continues to show he's underrated defensively) battled to gain the puck behind his own net, headmanned to Getzlaf on the left wing, and the Ducks captain made a beauty of a cross-ice pass that Perry extended out with both hands to sneak under goalie Jason LaBarbera.
That led to this shot of Perry, who for being one of the quieter Ducks, sure knows how to show his jubilation after a big goal.
The play capped off another seven-point night for the top-liners (second time in three games they've done that) but it certainly didn't signal the end of the night for Anaheim. The Ducks had to white-knuckle it over the tense final minutes, with Jonas Hiller coming up with a handful of monster stops in the closing moments to add to his 36 on the night.
"We make it interesting," Bobby Ryan said. "Repetitive, I guess, as well."
Said Randy Carlyle, "I don't have any cuticles left. It got to a hairy point there."
If not for the Ducks needing to make up for the loss of that lead, the story last night might have been all about Cam Fowler. (Though, in a way, it still was -- as in, how many "How's Fowler doing?" emails and tweets that came in the rest of the night.)
Fowler endured a bittersweet second period in which he scored the first goal of his NHL career, but later had to leave the game with an injury following a scary crash into the boards.
First the sweet: Fowler got the Ducks on the scoreboard 3:41 into the second period, when he took the puck from Getzlaf along the wall and fired a lefty wrist shot shoulder-high and through a Perry screen. That elicited a unique roar from the crowd that was a combination of loving the Ducks getting on the board first and appreciating that the 18-year-old kid just had a moment he'll never forget.
Now the bitter (with a little sweet mixed in): Later in the period, Fowler made a sick toe drag move on right wing to dangle Keith Yandle, then flipped a shot on net that got under LaBarbera and sat tantalizingly on the stripe. But Fowler's momentum and a shove from Shane Doan took the kid face-first into the wall, where he stayed down for a couple of minutes with a noticeably cut nose. Fowler didn't return to the game, and we have nothing to report so far more than just the cut nose, especially since the Ducks don't practice today. Said Carlyle last night, "He cut himself over the bridge of the nose" and that taking him out of the game was "more precautionary than anything at this point.” Bobby Ryan, who admitted he missed the play, added, "Word is he’s okay. He’s tough kid."
And here was an interesting quote from Todd Marchant to the OC Register on Fowler, which hardly sounds like he's talking about an 18-year-old kid: “Cam has been a calming influence. He’s never too high or too low. Even when he scored that goal tonight, I didn’t see that much excitement from him. He has great patience with the puck. Either you have it or you don’t.”
Fowler wasn't the only D to get in the scoring column for the Ducks last night, as Toni Lydman scored his second goal in as many games as a Duck. Not long after Fowler went off for the night, Lydman pinched in and caught a gorgeous Ryan backhand feed through the crease before popping the water bottle. Lydman had four goals all of last year with Buffalo and seemed just as baffled as anyone else by his first career goal streak. "If you just check my stats from previous years, I haven’t been doing that too much," he said with a laugh. "It’s nice to put a couple in there. Especially when we win, it feels so much better."
Better indeed, as that feel-good victory gave the Ducks a respectable five out of six points in their mini homestand (including wins over two 2010 playoff teams), a nice launch to their four-game road trip that starts Wednesday night in Columbus. That trip will be seemingly without defenseman Brendan Mikkelson, who was placed on waivers this morning. We'll have to wait and see what the ripple effect of that move will be. It also would indicate that Fowler is healthy enough to join the Ducks on the plane tomorrow morning.
(UPDATE: Fowler has a broken nose and is listed as probable for Wednesday vs. Columbus)
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I can't say enough good things about the job our guys did on these Ducks Training Camp: All Access videos, and the third and final installment may be the best yet, especially considering the pregame locker room access our cameramen were allowed. Here's part 3 below (just try and not get goosebumps in that final shot following the players through the tunnel and onto the ice for their first preseason game.) To watch (or re-watch) parts 1 and 2, click here.
Updated October 15 at 4:34 p.m.
Toni Lydman was the man with the media swarm around him this morning in the Ducks locker room, as Randy Carlyle confirmed Lydman will be in the lineup tonight when the Ducks look for their second straight win against Atlanta. It remains to be seen whether Lydman is in game shape, but his return is a big boost to the Ducks defense, and it's his first step toward fulfilling the hopes Anaheim put in him when it signed him to a three-year deal in the summer.
Just as a refresher, the 33-year-old Lydman came down with a case of double vision about a week and a half before training camp and has yet to play in a game this season, though he has skated with the team for the past several days.
Lydman told reporters today, "I feel pretty good physically. I’m not as worried about the conditioning side of it. I’m more concerned about not having played in about six months since April. It’s been a long time.
“It’s tough because practice is always different. I’m not that concerned about it. Because it was not an injury that was caused by any kind of contact whatsoever. It would have been different if it was a concussion or something like that where I would be more concerned. We had some battle stuff over the last couple of practices. I felt good. We’ll just have to see what happens when I go to hit somebody or somebody hits me.”
Carlyle, who had previously said the decision on Lydman would be made after warmups, acknowledged that he will be among the six d-men suiting up tonight, though he wouldn't say who his partner would be. (Speculation is that it will be Lubomir Visnovsky.)
On how much ice time Lydman would get, Carlyle said, "I don’t think you want to see him play 25 minutes. But somewhere around 17, 18 mintues and maybe even touch the 20-minute barrier wouldn’t be unrealistic."
The Ducks face an Atlanta team that we don't see around these parts too often, and they haven't been to Honda Center since February of 2009. They do have a couple of new guys this year that came over from the Western Conference, including goalie Chris Mason (the former Blue) and Dustin Byfuglien, the former Blackhawk forward who had a huge postseason last year and has been converted to a defenseman in Atlanta. (He did play a little D in Chicago at times.)
The Thrashers are in the middle of a swing through Cali that started with a 3-1 loss in L.A. (that dropped them to 1-2-0) on Tuesday night. So, essentially, they've been cooling their heels in SoCal for the past couple of days, which could be a good thing for the Ducks. The Thrashers are also without defenseman Zach Bogosian, who has an upper body injury, and they thought they would be missing blueliner Ron Hainsey, who returned to Atlanta for the birth of his child. But Hainsey is headed back to Anaheim as we speak and is expected to play tonight, though Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay said he will limit his ice time after the long trip.
Anaheim, meanwhile, is out to show that their win in the home opener two nights ago was more of what you can expect of the 2010-11 Ducks. And as in that game, the Ducks will roll out a third line of Matt Beleskey, Kyle Chipchura and Dan Sexton, a grouping that was extremely active against Vancouver on Wednesday night and created more than a few chances. (Carlyle also said he liked what Chipchura did in that game on the defensive end.)
Sexton, as we've seen in the past year, is a guy who can throw shots on net in bunches, but he told the O.C. Register today that as a third-liner he's got to get it done on the defensive end as well. "It’s one of those things where if you’re not giving up much defensively and add in some more offense, why not do it,” he said. “It was good last game but we’ve got to keep producing and keep working hard to keep it that way.”
If the morning skate is any indication, here's what we're looking at tonight:
Bobby Ryan-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Jason Blake-Saku Koivu-Teemu Selanne
Matt Beleskey-Kyle Chipchura-Dan Sexton
Troy Bodie-Todd Marchant-George Parros
Lubomir Visnovsky-Toni Lydman
Paul Mara-Cam Fowler
Brendan Mikkelson-Sheldon Brookbank
Updated October 14 at 5:42 p.m.
If you haven't done so already, you've got to check out Ducks Training Camp: All Access, which was put together by our excellent Ducks video crew. It's an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at Ducks training camp and the storylines going into this season, with a little bit (okay, a lot) of HBO's "Hard Knocks" thrown in. (That's Ducks PA announcer Phil Hulett doing the rather Liev Schreiber-like narration.)
This is part 1 of 3, which covers the introduction of young defensemen Luca Sbisa and Cam Fowler. Part 2 is coming out after the game tomorrow night, and will first air on the Ducks Live postgame show on Prime Ticket before we post it to the website. It focuses on the veteran d-men the Ducks brought in, along with the return of Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan's re-signing.
Updated October 14 at 12:58 p.m.
There they were, prominently displayed on the cover of last night's game program, arms folded, looking instense, almost angry. The photo was shot more than a week ago, but the expressions on the faces of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan could have reflected their -- and their team's -- production over those frustrating first three games.
The three top-liners went without a point in those three Ducks losses in Detroit, Nashville and St. Louis, but things changed in a major way during last night's home opener (already said home opener, just “last night” instead?) at Honda Center. Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan combined for three goals and seven points (including three brilliant assists by Getzlaf) in leading the Ducks to a triumphant 4-3 victory in front of a rowdy sellout crowd.
“Your leaders have to be the guys with the letters, the big point guys and the big contracts,” Randy Carlyle said. “It’s as simple as that.”
We knew it was only a matter of time before those guys got on track, and last night -- when the Ducks desperately needed that first win -- was the right time. Getzlaf assisted on the goals by his two linemates -- and they weren't cheap assists, as he gave each of them feeds that showed why he's one of the league's best playmakers. The last one came on Ryan's game-winner midway through the third period, a play that lifted off when Ryan swiped the puck from Henrik Sedin at the Vancouver blueline. (“It felt good,” Ryan said. “I think I caught him by surprise.") The puck ended up on Getzlaf's blade, and he weaved toward the net before dropping to a charging Ryan, who whipped it through a crowd for the goal.
That goal electified the home crowd, who were already pumped up a little more than a minute prior when Perry tied the game -- also on a beautiful feed from Getzlaf. Ironically enough, that goal came mere seconds after the Ducks narrowly avoided giving one up, as the puck came off the back wall and came down behind Jonas Hiller in the crease before being swept away. An ensuing Vancouver shot with Hiller still scrambling thankfully missed the net, setting the Ducks on a rush in which Brendan Mikkelson fed Getzlaf and the captain passed up a shot before hitting a wide open Perry on the doorstep.
Getzlaf did it himself to give the Ducks the early lead, their first of the season, when he took a pinpoint Ryan pass in the slot and sent it under Roberto Luongo (second assist to Cam Fowler). Two quick ones (within a scary 17 seconds) from the Canucks in the first gave them the lead, but the Ducks tied it with a few minutes left in the second on the 5 on 3. Getzlaf sent the puck down to Teemu Selanne in the circle and Selanne did what he does best -- waiting for the defense (and Luongo) to commit before snapping a wrister where Mom keeps the peanut butter. (Like the RPG line, it was the first of the year for Selanne and only the 607th is his career.)
Even with those goals, the Ducks had to hang onto a one-goal lead over the final 10 minutes of the game. And a Ducks defense that had its problems over the first three games did a fantastic job, as did Hiller, who had 36 saves.
“Jonas had a lot to do with it,” Perry said. “He stopped some two-on-ones, made some big saves. It starts with him. But we were also disciplined tonight. We kept at it and didn’t get frustrated.” Indeed, the Ducks only committed four penalties on the night.
"It was nice to be able to calm things down and play hockey," Getzlaf said. "It didn’t matter what the score was. We’re coming home where we’re comfortable. We love this building. The fans and everybody showed us what it’s going to be like all year. We’re excited about it."
So yeah, that 0-3 start wasn't pretty, but it sure makes it easier to forget after what the Ducks did last night. But similar to what we preached over those first three games, it's still early. We'll see if the Ducks can keep it going, starting with tomorrow night at home against Atlanta (who's been biding its time in SoCal after losing to the Kings on Tuesday.)
Oh, and on the cover of the game program tomorrow night? Cam Fowler. We'll see if that means anything.
- - -Speaking of Fowler, he continued to show his can't-believe-he's-only-18-ness in an interview this morning on NHL Live! (do I really have to type the exclamation point?). You can listen to his interview here (fast-forward to the 1-hour mark).
Fowler commented on the fact that for the red carpet ceremony before last night's game, Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf made Fowler drive them to the arena in Selanne's car, while wearing a chaffeur's cap, which you can see below. "I heard some whispers that because we won, we might make it a usual thing," Fowler said. "I'm hoping not, because that was a little embarassing with the hat. It was all in good fun though, a little rookie hazing. It was a little diversion for those guys, but that's okay."
Updated October 12 at 4:14 p.m.
With the frustrations of a winless opening three-game road trip safely in their rear view mirror, the Ducks returned to the marbled walls of Honda Center to get back to work. But before they could hit the ice and focus on tomorrow night's home opener and beyond, they spent a good hour and 20 minutes in meetings and in front of a video screen, looking at what went wrong.
"In these situations where we’ve lost three in a row, it’s up to us to collectively look at what is happening the game and dissect it from shift to shift almost," said Randy Carlyle. "That is what we’ve tried to do between last night traveling back on the plane and this morning. You make a presentation to your players to display things that we think are in drastic need of improvement. We’ve done that.
"We like to give them the opportunity to say what they feel needs to be said. That is important that they have a voice. They voice some concerns and some things that they like to see us try. We said we’ll take it under consideration and maybe we’ll implement some of those things. We did do some things that we think that can help us. It’s not like we haven’t done them before. We just haven’t been doing them specifically in the last three games."
Carlyle emphasized the need to stay positive, remembering that as much as the team struggled in this first three games, it's just that -- the first three games.
"The bottom line is if we mope around here and feel sorry for ourselves, we’re going to stay in neutral," Carlyle said. "It’s about going forward, picking a starting point and utilizing that time that we had today in a positive manner. There is no use being negative when you go out on the ice. It’s hard today because we traveled back and nobody feels good about themselves. We’ve got work to do and we’re professionals. We accept the responsibility for the actions, the place we’re in and the situation that we’ve created. Now we have to make a statement about getting out of that."
They'll have to do it without defenseman Andy Sutton for quite a long time, as it was made official today that Sutton will miss 6 to 8 weeks after having surgery on a fractured thumb suffered in a fight during the Detroit game last Friday night.
Enter Andreas Lilja, who practiced with the team today but remains unavailable tomorrow night and doubtful this weekend as he goes through the immigration process after arriving in the States from his native Sweden. Lilja actually has to fly to Canada with his family to get that done, which he and the Ducks hope can happen in a relatively short amount of time. But as Carlyle put it today, "Sometimes immigration has a different timetable than we do as sports team trying to utilize an athlete."
Lilja talked at length to reporters today about a number of topics, including being on the other side of the Ducks-Wings rivalry. "It’s going to be awesome," he said. "I always used to hate/love to play against the Ducks. You know you’re really going to get banged up. It’s going to be a fast, fun-paced game. Now, I’m on the other side of the fence. It’s going to be really fun to go out there and battle with these guys."
Lilja's not a guy who will find the net a lot, but he's a puck mover, a big body, a shot-blocker and a penalty killer. Most importantly, he's a veteran guy (35 years old) who has been through a ton of battles in this league, notably deep into the postseason (winning a Cup with Detroit in 2008). On his own game, he said, "I’m a quick mover. I came to the point in my life that I realized that the puck moves a lot faster than I do. I play hard in my defensive end and try to contribute offense if I can."
You can watch a little video on Lilja and some comments about him right here.
The Ducks have to wait on Lilja though and they continue to wait on Toni Lydman, who did practice today and spoke afterward, saying, "I'm starting to feel a lot better" and "I don't think it's too long."
Lydman has to wait for symptoms to clear before he can see the doctors and ultimately get cleared to play. "It’s almost gone," he said. " I’m not sure if it’s totally gone. I don’t notice anything on the ice. These doctors have those tests and I’m waiting to see where we’re at. The last time I was there was about two weeks ago. Thursday would be two weeks since I was there last and I had very little symptoms left back then. I’m hoping it’s gone by now."
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If you're able to make it out here for tomorrow night's home opener (tickets still available, by the way), you might want to duck out of work for the players' red carpet ceremony that starts at 3:30 p.m. And if you can't make it to that, at least try to be in your seat by 6:45 for the pregame festivities, which include what I'm hearing is an awesome video intro (expect goosebumps) and the national anthem by Melora Hardin. That's "Jan" from "The Office" (Michael's old girlfriend, remember?)
Meanwhile, you can get your first look at the new food & beverage items launched at Honda Center this season, have a chance to win a Honda CR-Z, give to charity by buying a limited edition autographed puck and witness a Ducks victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
Updated October 11 at 3:12 p.m.
The early part of the 2010-11 Anaheim Ducks season feels a little like your typical New Year's Eve right about now: You look forward to it for so long, and it turns out to be not what you had hoped.
But just like a bad New Year's Eve, you can only hold out hope that the rest of the year will be much better.
The Ducks have had a rough time in their first three games of the season -- a 4-0 loss in Detroit, followed the next night by a 4-1 loss in Nashville and today, a 5-1 defeat in St. Louis. In fairness, a defense that already was going to be tested with a lot of new faces has had some bad luck piled on. Toni Lydman has still yet to put on a game uniform as he continues to recover from a bout with double vision. Another summer acquisition, Andy Sutton, missed the last two games after fracturing his thumb in a fight in Detroit. (The extent of that injury is being evaluated today.) And we held our collective breaths when Lubomir Visnovsky came off the ice on one leg during the second period this afternoon, only to thankfully return later in the game.
Meanwhile, the Ducks have already tried to add to that blue line, signing former Red Wing Andreas Lilja, who wasn't able to play today since he's still finalizing his immigration arrangements. The 35-year-old Lilja spent eight years with the Red Wings, and decided to test the free agent market last summer rather than re-signing with Detroit. He had what by all accounts was a solid training camp with San Jose, but the Sharks decided to go younger with their back end and was released from his tryout. He was back home in Sweden when the signing process began with the Ducks over the weekend.
The one aspect of the 2010-11 Ducks that seemingly didn't raise any question marks was the scoring, though the Ducks only have two Saku Koivu goals to show for themselves in the first three contests. The lack of production so far from the usual scoring suspects can be attributed to two things: Anaheim spending a ton of time in its own end, and the Ducks almost able to conduct a symphony from the number of posts they've rung to far. (Granted, bad bounces and shots off the pipes happen to everybody, but it sure would be nice if the Ducks could get a bounce in the early going.)
The Ducks certainly showed their frustration today in St. Louis, getting in a number of tussles after falling well behind the Blues, notably a brawl near the end of the second that involved Bobby Ryan, Paul Mara, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. It all resulted in seven minutes worth of power play time for St. Louis that carried over into the third. To Anaheim's credit, they survived the entire seven minutes without further damage, a credit to a penalty kill that has been one of the few bright spots for Anaheim so far.
Let's face it, the road isn't kind to anybody in the NHL. For the Ducks, who are looking to finally get off to a strong start, having to open their season with three games in four days away from home wasn't easy. As Randy Carlyle put it, "There’s really nothing you can do once it’s put in stone. Obviously we looked up on it as being a real challenging start for us. Going into a two buildings that we opened [for the opposition] and coming back on one day’s rest and playing at 1 o’clock in the afternoon in St. Louis ... Every team has challenges from scheduling throughout the course of the season. Ours just presented itself a little earlier than normal.”
Now the Ducks have to look for a new starting point to this season, and what better place than two days from now, when they they host the Canucks in the home opener on Wednesday.
Updated October 8 at 2:38 p.m.
We're two hours away.
Two hours away from a fresh start, from forgetting about missing the playoffs this year, from moving on after the Niedermayer retirement, the Bobby Ryan contract negotiation, the boredom of a hockeyless summer.
Ttwo hours away from Ducks hockey being officially back. At 4:37 Pacific time they will drop the puck at Joe Louis Arena and Anaheim's 2010-11 season will be officially underway. And with it, we will be that much closer to answering so many questions about this Ducks team: Can they make a triumphant return to the postseason? Can they get off to a good start? How many goals will guys like Ryan and Perry score? How about Selanne? How good can Ryan Getzlaf be when he's healthy? How is that defense going to be? Can the new guys jell quickly? How is the penalty kill going to be? Can Jonas Hiller be as good as he was in the second half of last season? And is Cam Fowler for real?
The 18-year-old Fowler, a kid who seems to be getting better with each passing day, will be in the lineup tonight for his NHL debut against the Red Wings, which means he'll also be in front of friends and family from his hometown of nearby Farmington Hills. That includes former teammates from his junior team, the Windsor Spitfires, as the Wings have arranged for the entire team to attend tonight. I can't even begin to imagine the butterflies Fowler's experiencing right now, but at least on the outside, he appears as poised as you can expect a teenager to be in this situation. "It’s obviously a really exciting time for me and for my family and friends," he said. "You dream of the day you can suit up for an NHL hockey club. Now I get a chance to do it in front of my hometown and in front of my friends and family. It’s just an unbelievable feeling. I have some nerves going right now, some jitters, but it’s a huge opportunity for me, so I’m really excited."
And there was this pretty cool quote: "Just to look over during warmups and see guys like Nick Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, guys that I grew up watching and really admiring. Now I get a chance to be on the same ice with them. It’s pretty mind-blowing."
And if you wonder at all how good this kid is, check out the praise from Randy Carlyle, who doesn't dish it out easily. "You don’t look at him as an 18-year-old kid. You look at him as a hockey player,” Carlyle said yesterday of Fowler, who will be the second-youngest player in Ducks history when he hits the ice tonight. "He’s done everything to earn the opportunity to play. It’s a feather in his cap that he’s made it this far. “We think this is just the tip of what we can see, because he’s that special.”
Fowler, if things go according to the skate this morning, will be paired with veteran Paul Mara on the second defensive unit. (Speaking of Mara, I tweeted yesterday, that a female staffer pointed out that he and former Anaheim d-man Aaron Ward may be the same person. Take a look at this. That's Mara on the right.) Here's the rest of lines at the skate, though you could see Ryan play some on that top line with Getzlaf and Perry.
Tonight marks the first time the Ducks have opened the regular season in Detroit, though they opened their first ever season in 1993 the Wings. This is also the 13th time in 17 seasons that the Ducks have opened the regular season on the road. (How the heck has that happened?)
Doesn't matter who they're playing or where. We're two hours away from Ducks hockey. Ladies and gentleman, start your passion.
Updated October 4 at 11:34 a.m.
I kind of equate the Ducks preseason to the movie "Silence of the Lambs." It had parts that were pretty thrilling, it was a little scary at times, the ending was pretty cool, but I'm sure glad it's over.
Last night's thrilling Teemu Selanne OT goal put the finishing touches on a 3-2 victory over the rival Kings in the preseason finale, more than making up for the Ducks losing a two-goal lead in the final 4:10 of regulation. That horror was all but forgotten when, on a 4 on 3 power play, Ryan Getzlaf sent the puck to Selanne in the left wing circle, and as we've seen countless times, Selanne whipped it top shelf for the winner.
The Ducks had built their two-goal lead thanks to goals by a couple of guys who create a lot of them. Corey Perry scored his fifth of the preseason early in the game, and Getzlaf scored a couple minutes into the third on a play set up by a ridiculous off-the-wall pass by Getzlaf to Matt Beleskey to set up a rush. (By the way, that's a team-leading five goals in five games for Perry, so I don't think it's unreasonable to assume he'll have around 82 this year.)
The win somewhat tempered the disillusionment of the Ducks' 8-3 loss to those same Kings in L.A. last Tuesday night and the 4-2 defeat last Friday night to Vancouver. Anaheim, which finished the preseason 3-4-0, played some decent hockey last night despite giving up 43 shots. Jonas Hiller was mostly outstanding before getting too cute with the puck and turning it over to Justin Williams for the Kings' first goal, then letting a deflected Jack Johnson shot get under him a few minutes later for the tying tally.
The win felt good, but those 43 shots indicate the Ducks still have some room for improvement, something the postgame comments seconded last night. "We have a little work to do," said Getzlaf. "We’ve done a good job progressing throughout the preseason. We’re going to go out and work. We’re going to have to win those one-goal games, those overtime games. That is the way it’s going to be all year. We have to accept that right off the hop and get ready to go." Getzlaf will continue to be the go-to postgame guy for the media in the Ducks locker room, as he was officially named the eighth Ducks captain in team history last night. Said Getzlaf, "It’s an honor and a responsibility that I accept with it. I’ve thought of myself as a leader and I will try to be the same way throughout this year. I’m up for the challenge and am looking forward to it."
But it was this quote about how things would change now that he's wearing the C that was amusing, since I never thought of Getzlaf as overly political. "You don’t become the captain and then change what you’re doing," he said. "It’s like becoming the president and changing everything that you campaigned about." Yes, he really said it.
Randy Carlyle indicated that the Ducks changed things up a bit by putting the captaincy up to a players vote. "The players made that decision," he said. "Normally, we’ve allowed the coach to make those decisions. This year we thought it would be a little different scenario. We’re a team that is transitioning some of our youth in major roles. We felt it was in the best interest if the players made that decision. We had a vote yesterday. We felt that with it being Getzlaf’s sixth season in the league that now is the time for the transition and the veteran players agreed with us."
Saku Koivu was named alternate captain, as was Selanne, which came as a bit of a surprise since he hasn't been a full-time captain in the last four seasons here, despite being one of the team's unquestionable leaders. Said Selanne to the L.A. Times, "It’s a good challenge for Getzy and obviously he has seen good leaders around him before. He’s going to do a great job, I know. Getzy has all the tools to fill the spot perfectly. I know that he’s going to take even more responsibility. We do our jobs around him and support Getzy. It’s his time.”
Now it's the Ducks' time to get ready for opening night, with a couple practice days before they head to Detroit for their first game Friday night. The Ducks made a couple of moves this morning to pare down their roster for that date, sending Josh Green and Maxime Macenauer (a youngster who turned some heads in this camp) to Syracuse. That leaves Anaheim with 23 healthy bodies and pretty much a guarantee that the increasingly impressive Cam Fowler will open the season in a Ducks sweater Friday night. A Friday night that can't get here soon enough.
Updated October 1 at 11:18 a.m.
Ah, the first day of October, a glorious month we associate with the start of the NHL regular season. Opening night for your Anaheim Ducks is but seven days away, and the Ducks gave further indication they're getting close to solidying their roster for that night this morning.
Defensemen Danny Syvret and Brett Festerling each cleared waivers and were reassigned to Syracuse, leaving the Ducks with 28 on their roster (including the injured Joffrey Lupul, Jason Jaffray and Toni Lydman). Lydman the offseason acquisition who had yet to participate in camp after battling with double vision for the last couple of weeks, actually skated with the Ducks this morning, which Randy Carlyle called, "the first step to the process of him getting back on the ice and with our group. It's still a long ways away. It goes by on a day-to-day basis with him. If he has no problems or recurring headaches or whatever you want to describe what he's had, it would be a positive step. Today's just the first one in a long road back. "We all want him to get back as quickly as possible, but he has to be the indicator and tell us when he feels back to normal and has had an extended period of practice with us. Those are all the factors that have to fall into place before we put a player in that position. Ultimately the player makes the last decision and when he tells us he's ready to play, he'll play."
With Syvret and Festerling back east and Lydman still a little ways away from coming back, that leaves the Ducks with seven healthy defensemen right now, which would seem to indicate that 18-year-old Cam Fowler is a strong candidate to be on the opening night roster. Carlyle gave pretty strong sentiment of that yesterday in saying, "We knew he has the skills and we know he has the skating ability, so we have to make a decision based upon whether he’s going to start with our hockey club and get his 10th game in,” Carlyle said.
By "10th game" Carlyle is referring to the amount of NHL games Fowler would have to play before it counts as the first year of his entry-level contract. If the Ducks were to send Fowler to his junior team before that 10th game, it wouldn't burn a year on that contract.
Fowler had a pretty insightful quote for a teenager when asked about his situation yesterday. “For me, personally, it’s good to get this out of the way,” he said. “It’s tough to see guys go sometimes, especially you make friendships with them and they’ve helped you out along the way. It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling to be closer to my dream.”
Gotta say, I like this kid.
First thing's first though, and that's the Ducks' two remaining preseason games -- tonight against Vancouver and Sunday against the Kings. This morning's skate was the second straight day in which Bobby Ryan skated on the left wing, as the Ducks are temporarily putting the center experiment on hold. Ryan (along with the rest of the Ducks) had a tough night in that position in L.A. on Tuesday, winning just 1 of 5 faceoffs, though he did have a pretty feed from the corner to set up a Teemu Selanne one-timer that was thwarted by a nice Jonathan Quick save. “It’s not that we’re throwing it out the window,” Carlyle said yesterday of trying Ryan at center. “We put him back at left wing for now and we’ll see how that develops.”
Not having Ryan at center causes a ripple effect with the rest of the forward shuffle, and see if you can keep up with this Carlyle quote from yesterday: “We can move Blake back with Koivu and Selanne or move Bobby Ryan with Macenauer and Bodie or Sexton or move Bobby back to Getzlaf and Perry and move Beleskey. So there’s lots of options. So we’re still not giving up on the fact that we want to create three lines of offense.”
Said Ryan to the O.C. Register of the change back to wing, "I never am surprised anymore. I’ve gotten used to it the past two years. I don’t really care. I’m pretty easy going. I’m a little better and more comfortable on the wing obviously. But whatever they want me to do, I’ll do.”
Ryan figures to be in the lineup tonight against the visiting Canucks, who like the Ducks, took one on the chin in their last game, a 6-2 defeat in San Jose. (Word from Vancouver media is that Roberto Luongo won't be in net tonight as he rests a groin injury.) If you can't make it to Honda Center tonight, the game will be televised on NHL Network, and the radio broadcast will again be carried here on AnaheimDucks.com.