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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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Updated Feb. 13 at 1:14 p.m.

If you're a Ducks fan, you've got to be looking ahead to Sunday's game here against the lowly Atlanta Thrashers and be a little unsteady. If there is anything that this year's Ducks have taught us, it's that we really don't know what to expect from these guys. On one hand, they're the guys who just beat a very strong Calgary team in back-to-back games. On the other, they're the guys who have lost to the likes of Tampa Bay and the Islanders in the last month.

We've already established that the Ducks can't afford to do much messing around the rest of this season. A loss Sunday to Atlanta, one of two remaining home games before the Ducks embark on what we will now call The Trip From Hell, would be costly. The Thrashers sit next-to-last in the Eastern Conference and like the Ducks, will be playing Sunday for the first time in four days. The Ducks haven't had much luck this year with Southeast Division teams, having split two games with Carolina and taking losses to Washington, Florida and Tampa.

Bret Hedican told the O.C. Register, “Obviously, as a player who’s been around as long as I have, you think about things like that. You hope that every guy is thinking about, from here on in, being professional. It doesn’t matter who we play against, from what conference, what division, we have to start playing with consistency in order to make a real good push in the last 25 games.

“I’m not going to sit here and try to speculate what the intensity is going to be like Sunday afternoon. We have no time to waste. Look at the standings. We’re four games, five games, up on some teams. That’s a lot of points out there. I understand our situation. The games we have to play from here on, we have to win. We can’t afford not to try to get those points.”

Let's just hope that when they drop the puck on Sunday, we see the same Ducks team we've seen in the past week. Todd Marchant seems pretty upbeat about that, according to what he told the O.C. Register yesterday. “Our schedule has afforded us the ability to get some time off,” Marchant said. “I think it’s done wonders for our team. Guys look forward to coming to the rink, and it shows in our play.”
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We waited all day yesterday for something to come down from the league regarding Dion Phaneuf's elbow to Andrew Ebbett's head Wednesday night, but nothing ever did. Somehow Phaneuf escaped a suspension, despite the fact the league is supposedly coming down hard on hits to the head. Ebbett suffered a broken nose from the hit, and said yesterday, "Watching the replay, it looks more like an elbow than a shoulder to me." About the possible suspension, he said, "It’s out of my hands. The American League and the NHL, both leagues have talked about limiting hits to the head. That’s all they seem to be talking about the last two years, trying to get that out of the game. Obviously, that’s a hit to the head.”

Just so I have this straight, NHL: A Corey Perry elbow to the head gets four games, biting another player gets two, uttering the phrase "sloppy seconds" to reporters gets six and an elbow to the face that breaks another player's nose gets ignored. Okay, got it.

I can't help but think if the same hit had been delivered by a guy wearing a Ducks uniform (more to the point, wearing a Ducks uniform with the number 25 on the back), that he would have gotten docked at least four games. But maybe that's just me.

Then again, it's probably not just me.
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Do you ever sit around and think to yourself, I wonder what George Parros thinks about the ongoing economic crisis in this country? Well, wonder no more
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I have found myself a new hero, and it's Florida Panthers radio play-by-play guy Randy Moller. This season on Dan LeBatard's sports talk show on 790 The Ticket in Miami, listeners have been allowed to call in and suggest pop culture references for Moller to work into his goal calls during Panthers games. Moller, a former NHL defenseman, has apparently received hundreds of suggestions and has used them at the moments he deems appropriate.

Here's a compilation that was put together by the producers of the radio show, and it's absolutely priceless. My personal favorites: "Ma! The meatloaf!" and "Pay dat man his money." And I'd never thought I'd see the day where a hockey announcer could find the context during a game to utter the phrase, "You did the motorboat, didn't you?"

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to place a telephone call to Mr. Steve Carroll.

Updated Feb. 12 at 11:38 a.m.

When coincidental roughing minors at the end of regulation last night set up a rare 3-on-3 in overtime, there was one name that popped into the heads of a lot of Ducks fans:

Scott Niedermayer.

Niedermayer's wizardry in the open ice is one of the many reasons he is the NHL's all-time leader among defensemen in overtime goals. And it's safe to say that all of the 10 he had coming into last night were in normal 4-on-4 situations. When it's 3-on-3, the ice is pretty much his playground.

Niedermayer wasn't among the first threesome of Ducks on the ice when the puck dropped for the overtime, but he slammed the door on the extra session not long after his skate blades hit the sheet for the second shift. Niedermayer glided his way into the Calgary zone and dumped the puck off to Todd Marchant on the right wing. Marchant wisely shuttled it right back to Niedermayer, who sent the puck to his backhand before taking a shot that clicked off defenseman Dion Phaneuf's stick before diving inside the near post. That gave the Ducks an impressive 3-2 victory over the visiting Flames (the second straight over the Northwest Division leaders) and prompted the entire Ducks team to spill onto the ice to celebrate against the glass behind the goal.

The funniest part was the mild-mannered Niedermayer's reaction to the goal, as he did little more than give that familiar head nod to Marchant (the one we saw when he handed the Cup to his brother in June '07) with a slight smile on his face as they embraced. That led to this suspicious-looking photo. Not their finest moment, we must admit. Lotta men in this photo too, don't you think?

Then when all 20 Ducks clustered in the corner to celebrate, Niedermayer was the first guy to skate out of the huddle, and he was standing in the bench area while the celebration was still going on. I couldn't help but wonder if there were some, "Where's Scotty?" remarks in that gathering.

Nevertheless, it was a gargantuan win for the Ducks, especially because they clawed back from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to beat a very good Calgary team. And part of the reason for that comeback was Brendan Morrison, who scored a goal 2:05 into the third period that was not only huge for the Ducks, but it was huge for him. Remember when Morrison had consecutive two-goal games at the end of December and it seemed to be indicating he was breaking out of a season-long slump? Well he went another 18 games after that without scoring a goal, and was a healthy scratch twice (against Buffalo and Minnesota at the beginning of this month). But he came through with a pretty wrist shot from the slot that loomed large, considering that Miikka Kiprusoff was stopping pretty much everything he looked at last night.

“That’s probably the best shot he’s had,” Carlyle said of Morrison's goal.

Much of the credit for that goal has to go to Ryan Getzlaf, who fought hard against the wall with Matthew Lombardi to gain control of that puck and get it to a wide-open Morrison. As much as Getzlaf puts up monster numbers, he does so many little things that never show up in the scoresheet. Just last night he repeatedly grinded for pucks, twice he was into the right spot to block Calgary attempts to clear the zone on a Ducks power play and even stepped in front of Rene Bourque to block his point-blank rebound attempt with about 25 seconds remaining in regulation. As much natural talent as Getzlaf has, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a harder-working guy on the team.

Now, let's talk elbows to the head. With about a half-minute left in the second period, Phaneuf pasted Andrew Ebbett with an elbow to the head that sent Ebbett sprawling to the ice. Phaneuf also looked to leave his feet on the hit, so the natural progression should have been a penalty for elbowing or charging. But remarkably, the only penalty handed out was a roughing minor given to Chris Pronger for coming to Ebbett's defense. That was pretty hard to stomach, but thankfully the Ducks killed the penalty that lasted through the end of the second and carried over into the third. And the fact that Niedermayer's winning goal came off Phaneuf's stick? Well, that just felt like karma. You can bet the league is looking at that hit today to determine whether it's worthy of some suspension time.

“Everybody was mad and everybody was upset, but Ebbett was okay," said Carlyle about the hit. "He got up. Our focus should be to use those emotions as something to springboard into having a good third period and rest of the game. It did. It had an effect."

Indeed it did, as Morrison scored not long after Pronger's penalty expired and the Ducks did everything they could to keep the momentum going for the rest of the game. And it's still hard to believe, but it was the ninth straight victory at home over the Flames for Anaheim. This isn't Phoenix or Columbus the Ducks have dominated at home. It's a Calgary team that year after year is among the conference's playoff contenders. It's certainly a head-scratcher.

I couldn't help but look up the details of the last time the Ducks lost at home to the Flames. It was a 5-1 trouncing by Calgary over the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, as Giguere gave up all five goals and a guy named Sergei Fedorov scored the only one for the purple and jade. As if he wasn't having a bad enough game, Giguere took a deliberate elbow to the head in the first period from Flames forward Krzysztof Oliwa, who was ejected from the game for it. And this was Giguere's reaction after the game: "It was a stupid play by an idiot. As long as you have guys like that in the NHL, it's going to happen."

Last night Giguere was very solid in net, despite only having to face 23 shots, as he continues to look good after the struggles he had over the past couple of months.

The win last night gave the Ducks a slight bump in the standings, as they sit in fifth place with still more games played than any other team in the conference. Those teams will have some chance to catch up to Anaheim in the next three days of no games for the Ducks, who don't play until Sunday against Atlanta at Honda Center.

Today, the Ducks are practicing in front of 15,000 screaming kids (just my cup of tea) for the First Flight Field Trip. Getzlaf is out there despite the injury he suffered last night when he took a Phaneuf slapshot off his leg midway through the first period and collapsed to the ice. He limped off toward the locker room, but thankfully returned a few minutes later. Still, during the time he was in the locker room, you could feel a collective "Uh ... oh" rolling through the home crowd.

“Those things usually go away,” Randy Carlyle said. “There was a stinger there, and he’s sore now, but with the adrenaline flowing, it goes away. It will come back. Unless it really is some sort of a deep bone bruise or some sort of fracture, and that is usually something you’ll notice right away, the other stuff kind of goes away.”

Somehow the guy who's averaging 19:54 of ice time this season managed to play 24:01 last night, despite the injury.

“It’s not a very good feeling, believe me,” Carlyle said. “Just think if somebody took a hammer and hit you in the shin.”

No, no. I'm good.

Updated Feb. 11 at 1:54 p.m.

It's been so long since the Ducks last played a hockey game, a lot has has changed in the world since then. Back then, we thought:

- Alex Rodriguez never did steroids
- Chris Brown was a nice guy
- The Grammys were an entertaining show
- Sean Avery didn't have a place to play
- The President's husband on "24" had all 10 of his fingers
- Brett Favre was an active NFL player

All that has changed between the time the Ducks took down the Flames 2-1 in a Saturday matinee in Calgary and now. And the Ducks face those same Flames in a rematch tonight at Honda Center. You can't really call it a home-and-home, since four days have passed since these two teams last faced off, and in the meantime, Calgary bounced back with an impressive 6-2 win over Montreal that snapped a four-game losing skid.

One thing you can be certain of tonight is that the Flames won't have the same guy in goal they had in their loss to the Ducks in Calgary. Miikka Kiprusoff took a rare game off (and was replaced by Curtis McElhinney) in that one, but he'll be back in there tonight in a building that hasn't been kind to him over the years. In seven regular season games at Honda Center, Kiprusoff is a shocking 1-6-0 (his lone win coming as a member of the Sharks in 2000-01) with a 3.34 goals-against average. The Ducks also beat him here two of three times in that epic first round playoff series in 2006.

Every time Kiprusoff comes here it reminds me of a story from that 2005-06 season. Our PR department used to have one of our staffers help out after every home game and get quotes from a couple of players from the visiting team to hand out to the media. Despite the fact that he's a guy with great hockey knowledge (and he's one of our department heads) he somehow got flustered when he approached Kipper after the game. He asked him something like, "How does it feel to get a big win at the end of this road trip?" The only problem was, not only had the Ducks just beaten the Flames, but it was the beginning of Calgary's road trip. Kipper just stared back with a confused look on his face and said with his heavy accent, "Vee lost!" (Why I never kept that tape, I have no idea.)

Kipper's struggles at Honda Center are reflective of the rest of the team, which (hard to believe) hasn't won in Anaheim in the last eight games. That includes a 3-2 victory back on Nov. 2. All three games between the two teams have been decided by a goal in regulation.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Ducks really need this one again tonight. After this it's another home date on Sunday, with crappy Atlanta, then next Wednesday against the unfortunately-not-so-crappy-lately Kings. The Ducks need all the home wins they can muster before that dreadful road trip Feb. 20 through March 3 against six teams that are either in position for the playoffs or right on the cusp. (I get shivers just thinking about that trip.)

If you're making your way out here tonight, make sure to get here on time, since the Ducks will be honoring Teemu Selanne for breaking the franchise record for games played last Jan. 31 in Colorado. Former Duck Steve Rucchin, whose record Selanne overtook, will be in attendance to present Teemu with a pictorial collage during the pregame ceremony. Later Rucchin, who played with the Ducks from 1995 through 2004, will sign autographs on the main concourse during the second intermission.

Dan Wood of the O.C. Register has a nice blog piece about Rucchin and his time playing on a line with Selanne and Paul Kariya.
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To promote the Harlem Globetrotters coming to Honda Center this Saturday, Globetrotter Eugene "Wildkat" Edgerson will be at tonight's game and will make appearances on the radio and TV broadcasts. 

In honor of that, here's a little bit of fun with some of the Ducks as Globetrotters.

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In case you needed a reminder that the Western Conference owns the East, the Sharks demolished the Boston Bruins (who own the best record in the league) 5-2 last night in Boston, thanks to a four-goal onslaught in the third period. Here was captain Joe Thornton's take on the game: "We just turned it on and usually when we turn it on, teams can't handle us ... Our speed, our size, everything. I don't think you can handle the Sharks for 60 minutes."

I'm officially frightened.
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In honor of Alex Ovechkin scoring his 200th career goal last week against the Kings, somebody has put together a pretty impressive video showing all 200 Ovechkin goals in 200 seconds. I was inspired, so I decided to do a compilation of all of Joe DiPenta's goals from last season. Here it is.

Updated Feb. 10 at 2:37 p.m.

As nice as it is for the Ducks to get some rest and let the rest of the conference catch up to them in games played, I'm kind of antsy to get to playing here again. Tomorrow's rematch with Calgary will be the first game in four days for the Ducks, and the first time at Honda Center since a week ago Monday.

The Ducks practiced at Honda Center this morning after a day off yesterday that was taken because the players attended the Lady Ducks Luncheon and fashion show to benefit CHOC. Unfortunately, that event was cancelled because of inclement weather, as high winds knocked down the tent that was put up for the event. According to a co-worker of mine who was there, the Ducks in attendance showed once again why hockey players are the easiest pro athletes to deal with, as they all chipped in to help move the stuff from the show inside when the weather got rough. He also noticed that pretty much half of the Ducks wives were pregnant. (I don't have a joke lined up for that.)

I talked to new Duck Mike Brown for a bit after practice for a feature I wrote earlier today, and he appears to be a very affable guy. That being said, he's seemingly itching to fight after keeping his gloves on through his first two games with the Ducks. Remember, this guy played just 20 games for the Canucks this year and had 11 fighting majors. I can't help but think that Brown is the 23-year-old version of Brad May, a former Vancouver guy who loves to play physical and doesn't mind mixing it up.

Randy Carlyle was asked if Brown was picked up by the Ducks to increase the level of aggressiveness in the team, and he had this to say: "I think we're looking for more physical play from everybody. What's happened is, a lot of teams are built closer to the model that we had years ago and now it's much more physical in the league, especially in the West. The aggressiveness and the way is being played is a lot more physical than it was three or four years ago."

Carlyle also explained the reassignment of defenseman Brendan Mikkelson to Iowa, saying it came because of salary cap reasons, as the Ducks go into tomorrow's game with just six defensemen.

“Once we got out of the Calgary game healthy, we made the decision because of cap reasons,” Carlyle said. “We didn’t want to be one injury away from not being able to call someone up,” Carlyle said. The Ducks were barely under the cap even when they sent Drew Miller down last week, and they needed the room in case a goalie got hurt.

Sammy Pahlsson worked out off the ice today, saying he feels a lot better but still has some time before he can play again. "They have to do a test this week to see how it’s going," Pahlsson said ... quietly. "That’s the only way to know if I can get going again.”

It seems like when the small crowd of reporters gather around a Ducks player, they get a little closer when it's Pahlsson, simply because you have to lean in just to hear what he's saying.

Pahlsson said he started feeling sick during the All-Star break, but played through it for a few games before it started getting worse and worse. “There’s nothing I can do," he said. "I just have to wait it out and hope it’s pretty quick. I haven’t really been doing anything, just watching TV.”

Well, he and I have something in common.
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Curtis Zupke of the O.C. Register has a nice story today on Ducks equipment guys Doug Shearer and John Allaway, the unsung heroes of the team.

Meanwhile, a much more sung hero, Ryan Getzlaf, was a guest on The Sports Lodge on AM 830 with hosts Roger Lodge and Dave Smith, which you can listen to here. The best part is when so-called "smokin'-hot Lisa" shyly asks Getzlaf if dating was difficult after he signed his new contract, "not knowing if girls were going after you or going after your wallet." 

Getzlaf, who has a girlfriend now, says, "It was tough for awhile when I was back in the dating scene. That's the kind of stuff you have to pay attention to."

Yes, life can be so hard sometimes. Just once in my life I want to be worried that a girl only likes me for my money.

Updated Feb. 9 at 11:46 a.m.

You may not have liked not being able to watch the Ducks Saturday in their matinee date with the Calgary Flames. But it turns out not having the game on local TV may have been a blessing for an Anaheim team that desperately needed a win. Reader William emailed me just after the Ducks polished off a 2-1 victory with this interesting stat: The Ducks are 8-0 this season when the game is not televised locally.

Why is that? I have absolutely no idea. But I do know the Ducks played some impressive hockey in Calgary on Saturday to grind their way to a road victory that absolutely had to have. The Calgary Flames aren't a team that makes a lot of mistakes, but the Ducks managed to take big-time advantage of two of them. The first came just 4:55 into the first period, when a Flames clearing attempt glanced off Andrew Ebbett's leg right to Bobby Ryan, who somehow fired it through from between the circles.

There's nothing more comforting in hockey than a two-goal lead, and Corey Perry gave that to the Ducks late in the second on another Calgary turnover. As Adam Pardy tried to send the puck up the ice out of his own zone, Perry stepped in front like an All-Pro cornerback to intercept it. That left him with open ice and only goalie Curtis McElhinney to beat, and Perry managed to slip a wrist shot just past him. (I love how you can hear the Calgary announcer at the beginning of that highlight say, that Dion Phaneuf's shot was "blocked by his nemesis, Ryan Getzlaf." It made it sound a little like pro wrestling.)

Speaking of the Calgary telecast that we were forced to watch (in my case, with dozens of other Ducks fans at the ESPN Zone watch party), it was pay-per-view so there were little if any commercials. That sounds like a great thing, until you have the hot-girl rinkside reporter left with nothing better to do than interview the guy in charge of the arena's food and beverage and he's discussing how many hot dogs he orders for each game.

(By the way, the Ducks have just one more non-televised game this season -- Feb. 26 at Boston -- when they will desperately need all the wins they can get in the middle of a six-game road trip.)

But I digress. Perry's huge goal was just the latest example of how he's come out of that four-game suspension in January with a vengeance, as he's scored 10 times in 13 games since coming back. He only had that many goals in his first 39 games this season, his first since signing a big contract back in the summer. Who knows if Perry would have gotten that puck past normal Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who was given a rare game off and replaced by McElhinney, a guy who has yet to win an NHL game in six tries. It was the first time since Feb. 26, 2007 that anyone other than Kiprusoff started a Flames home game.

And Perry's goal came in very handy for the Ducks, especially after Michael Cammalleri spoiled J.S. Giguere's shutout bid with a goal with 6:54 left. Giguere made a monster save on a one-time attempt by Daymond Langkow a little more than a minute later that would have tied the game.

That save was exemplary of the fine game Giguere had, a long time coming for a guy who has had a pretty tough last couple of months. “It’s a long time coming," Giguere said. "To get a win, on the road, in a tight game where the whole team played well and I was able to make a contribution to the win, I haven’t felt that way in a while. Hopefully, I will be able to bottle this feeling and be able to use it again.”

He added, “You’re paid to perform. People expect you to give your best. Hopefully, these last couple of months made me a better goalie. That’s all I can ask. I know the fans in Anaheim are really understanding of what went on."

The Ducks prepared for Saturday's game with a team outing that brought back some memories. The team skipped practice and headed to the same pool hall they went to the day before Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference Quarterfinals. They won that game 3-0, in what could be argued was a valuable first step for a team that would eventually become a Stanley Cup champion. This time it worked again for a Ducks team that obviously needed something different after slugging through two straight road losses at Minnesota and Nashville.

“It was a good team day, and that’s what you need sometimes,” Perry said. “All the guys were into it. Things have been a little bumpy. Just to get away from the rink, away from hockey, put everything else away and have a day with the guys, have some laughs, it was kind of nice.”

And it seemed to carry over to the next afternoon, as Carlyle said, “We had emotion. We were ready to play. You could sense it in the dressing room.”

The Ducks' victory marked the first time this season the Flames lost two in a row in regulation at home. And it gave the Ducks a slightly stronger hold on their tenuous position in the sixth spot in the Western Conference. And for what I have to believe is the first time this season, the Ducks were passed in the standings by the Dallas Stars, who were just godawful over the first two months and have now gone 7-1-0 in their last eight games. That included a 10-2 shellacking of the visiting New York Rangers last Friday night, that included six goals on just nine shots in the third.

Interestingly enough, it's the Rangers who are rumored to be interested in bringing exiled former Star Sean Avery back after Avery was finally put on waivers by Dallas and cleared this morning (shocking development). Now the Stars have to figure out where they want to send Avery now that he's officially back on their roster after finishing the NHL-mandated "anger management" program. The Stars are one of the few teams in the league not affiliated with an AHL team. Meanwhile, they now have the option to put him through re-entry waivers, which means if another team claims him, they will only have to pay half the cost of his four-year, $15.5 million contract and take half the salary cap hit. The Stars would pay the other half.

At least one Ranger is open to taking Avery back, captain Chris Drury. "Just like I would with a guy with a drinking or drug problem," Drury said. "Give him a clean slate."

Nice comparison. The only problem is, drinking or drugs are things you can quit through rehab. Being an ass for your entire life is a much harder thing to overcome.

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Another big name on the waiver wire over the weekend was St. Louis goaltender Manny Legace, who also cleared and was sent to the Blues' minor league affiliate in Peoria. Legace was a Western Conference All-Star a year ago, but had been struggling this season. And it's pretty much all Sarah Palin's fault. Remember that Legace missed five games with a hip injury after tripping over a carpet set out for Palin to drop the ceremonial first puck during a game on Oct. 24. He was never the same again.

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There has been some chatter lately about the Ducks making a play to bring back Andy McDonald. Well, that possibility became more remote as the Blues just signed Andy Mac to a four-year extension. But if you take a look at the third paragraph of this story on NHL.com, he's already been playing for the Ducks this year. 

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While watching the Ducks at ESPN Zone on Saturday, a couple of us had our eyes on the NHL scoreboard that was running next to the TV screens and noticed the 8-3 drubbing the Red Wings handed the Oilers. As painful as it is to root for the Wings, that score was actually a good thing for the Ducks, as the Oilers are one of the many teams battling for those last few playoff spots in the West. What you couldn't tell by the score was the blatant karma that pushed the Wings to score three times in the first six minutes. Watch this video to see Edmonton goalie Dwayne Rolson give a stick uppercut to Dan Cleary's (as the announcers call it) "family jewels." I also love how the play-by-play guy says to the color guy, "You know what that's like" (not sure what that means). Then the color guy makes a joke about Clearly "singing soprano" before suddenly getting serious and uttering, "That's not fun. He lost his breath." 

And of course, it was Cleary who came back on the ice a few minutes later to score the third goal for Detroit. What a nutty turn of events that was.

Updated Feb. 6 at 1:46 p.m.

Has this ever happened to you? You're sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway and you're late to an appointment, you're moving about 15 feet per minute, and the frustration grows to a point where you scream out an expletive at the top of your lungs. Well, that happened to me yesterday evening. I won't reveal what the expletive was, but let's just say it starts with the same letter as the phrase "first goal of the game."

It happened as I was listening to the radio broadcast of Ducks-Predators (sitting in rain-induced traffic, no less) when Steve Carroll yelled "Scores!" as Nashville put one through midway through the first period. Certainly not my proudest moment, but the disappointment of the Ducks giving up the game's first goal for an embarrassing eighth straight game was just too much to handle.

It might have been even more frustrating if I had seen the goal, a deflected slap shot from the point that went off the skate of Brendan Mikkelson into the open net. It was a tough break for J.S. Giguere, who for the most part looked pretty solid in his first game since Jan. 21. Giguere made several big stops among his 30 on the night, and the only goal he could really be blamed for was Jason Arnott's in the second, as Jiggy didn't do a great job coralling the rebound off the initial shot. Other than that, it was a nice game from a guy whose confidence hasn't exactly been sky high lately.

“Especially in the third, I felt really good,” Giguere said. “In the third, it wasn’t a battle in my head. I was just playing and reacting and having fun, really. It felt good to be able to be on the ice and not think, just to play and react. It had been a while.”

Said Randy Carlyle, “Hopefully, it’s a starting point for Jiggy. He made some big stops. He gave us a chance, gave us everything he had. That’s a huge positive. It’s good to see him back in the net.”

Of course, Giguere wasn't in there when the Preds effectively slammed the door on the game after Carlyle gambled by pulling his goalie for an extra attacker instead of relying on the Ducks finding the equalizer during a 4-on-4 situation. Carlyle could have waited until Ryan Getzlaf left the box following his high-sticking minor, which would have given the Ducks a 6-on-4 with about 45 seconds left. But he rolled the dice early and the Ducks paid for it when Vernon Fiddler filled the empty net from the middle of the ice.

“I blame myself probably,” Carlyle said. “I felt I should have called a timeout right when they got the penalty, just to reorganize, make sure everything was the way we wanted it. We had different personnel because Getzlaf was in the box.”

Positives from this one? Corey Perry had two nice goals, giving him nine points (eight goals, one assist) in his last nine games. And Mike Brown looked fantastic in his Ducks debut, flying around the ice like a guy trying to impress his new teammates. Brown had a couple of shots on goal and was hitting everything in sight, surprising for a guy who took a red-eye to meet the Ducks in Nashville, and didn't arrive until 9:30 yesterday morning.

“I’m here to prove that I can stay here,” he said. “That’s basically where I can start, just playing the way I can play and play more than a hundred percent every game, every shift.”

That wasn't enough to lift the Ducks last night, but it's definitely the kind of energy this team needs right now. Carlyle continued to mix things up, putting Brendan Morrison back in the lineup and scratching Rob Niedermayer, George Parros and Brett Festerling.

Can I throw in a quick sidebar for a moment? If I have to watch this Verizon commercial with the Italian family reunion BBQ one more time, I'm throwing my cell phone through the TV. Okay, now back to the Ducks.

“We’re close,” Giguere said. “It’s a matter of us battling a little bit harder in our zone not to give that extra goal, going to the net maybe a couple more times and creating a bounce for us. We’re really not that far. We just have to keep with the positives and try to push forward.”

It's a nice sentiment, but the question remains whether it's getting to be too late for the Ducks. A win tomorrow afternoon in Calgary (only available on TV via Center Ice) is vital for this team, which plays the very-strong Flames next Wednesday at the house of marble. That will mark the only game in a seven-day stretch for the Ducks, which will allow the rest of the conference to somewhat catch up to Anaheim in the games played department. But the Ducks will likely not like what they see when things even out a bit.

When the Ducks head out on a six-game road trip Feb. 20 after only playing three times in the previous 11 days, there's a pretty strong chance they'll be bounced out of the top eight in the Western Conference. The Ducks are "fifth" right now, but since the NHL computes the standings based on points and not winning percentage, it can be misleading because of the disparity in games played. So, let's look at the current standings (from fifth place down) based on each team's average standings points per game, assuming the rest of the league had played the 55 games the Ducks have played. For example, with 57 points in 55 games, the Ducks average 1.04 standings points per game, Minnesota averages 1.1 and so on. I've rounded to the nearest tenth (I think that's what it's called) for each of these figures. Here's how it looks:

Place Team Points
5 Minnesota 60.5
6 Dallas 60.5
7 Edmonton 59.3
8 Vancovuer 58.2
9 Columbus 57.2
10 Anaheim 57.0
11 Los Angeles 56.1
12 Phoenix 55.0
13 Nashville 55.0
14 Colororado 53.9
15 St. Louis 51.8

And keep in mind, this assumes mathematically that every one of these teams would continue on the per-game pace they've established so far this season. And also keep in mind that I put this together myself, and we already know I'm not very smart.

Either way, it's just one more reminder that the Ducks need to win. And they need to win now. Tomorrow at Calgary -- against a Flames team that has dropped three in a row -- would be a pretty good start.

Updated Feb. 5 at 12:11 p.m.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

That effort the Ducks showed last night in a 3-0 downer in Minnesota was not indicative of a team hanging on for its playoff life. And it's certainly not what the Ducks had shown in winning three of their last four games going into that one last night. The Ducks looked sluggish, they looked flat, they didn't hit much and weren't able to move the puck well. They just didn't look right. And if you don't believe me, just ask Randy Carlyle.

“Our execution was really off,” Carlyle said. “We just couldn’t seem to do anything with the puck. We didn’t seem to engage in the game emotionally, and then we got frustrated. We didn’t have really any finish around the net. We didn’t get second and third opportunities. We didn’t cycle the puck like we usually do.”

I got a text from a co-worker midway through the game that said, "Did the plane land in Minnesota an hour before puck drop?" Who could blame him for thinking that, as the Ducks seemed to lose any steam they may have had after that first goal by Andrew Brunette 4:21 into the game. And it was an ugly goal at that, as Brunette somehow managed to force the puck through three Ducks skaters and a goaltender.

You look at the numbers and see the Ducks threw a seemingly respectable 34 shots at Niklas Backstrom. But if you saw it last night, few of those required him to do a lot of work, and he cruised to the shutout.

Scott Niedermayer's hooking penalty at 3:23 of the first led to that Brunette score, the seventh straight time the Ducks have given up the first goal of the game. But those other six times, the Ducks had enough fight left in them to erase that early deficit. That wasn't the case last night until they flipped the switch in the third period. Of course, by then it was much too little, much too late. I don't know Minnesota's record over the past few seasons when they take a two-goal lead into the third period, but I imagine it's something like 134-1-1.

The Ducks had some opportunities, including five power plays overall and three straight in the second, but couldn't seem to get much going on any of them. They had entered the game on a streak of nine straight games with a power play goal, tied with Buffalo for the longest such mark in the league this season. That fizzled last night along with all the good vibes the Ducks had generated with their play coming out of the All-Star break.

“We can’t afford a performance like this, in this situation,” Carlyle said. “These points are too important for us to pass up. It’s disturbing from the standpoint of how little we were into the game.”

Added Niedermayer, “We’re obviously disappointed with the effort overall. It was not as good as it needs to be at this time of the year. Especially where we’re at, it needs to be corrected right now. We need to play better, period.”

That hopefully starts tonight in Nashville, where the Ducks actually are playing the second half of a back-to-back. Last night, it just looked like they were. If the Ducks come out strong tonight against the Preds, it will make last night's disappointment that much easier to forget. And although Nashville is languishing among the dregs of the Western Conference, it's not exactly going to be easy tonight.

The Preds came out of the break just as hot as the Ducks once were, taking two of three on the road before returning to the Music City to take down Phoenix two nights ago. They're getting a lot of help from a rookie goalie named Pekka Rinne (which incidentally is one of my favorite Italian dishes), who has been hot in the last two months. And if the Ducks are okay with giving up the first goal yet again, they're going to be in a lot of trouble. The Preds are the only team in the league with a perfect record (12-0) when leading after one period, which by the way, is pretty damn impressive. They've won 25 games this year, 19 of them when they score the first goal.

But who will be the guy in net tonight for the Ducks trying to deny that first goal? It's the second of a back-to-back (okay, you know that already), which normally would indicate that the Ducks would go with J.S. Giguere, since Jonas Hiller started last night. But as you also probably already know, the last time the Ducks faced two games in as many nights (last week against Phoenix and Chicago), Hiller got the nod in both.

If I had to guess (and that's all I'm doing), I say Giguere is finally back in there. If Hiller were standing on his head the last few games, I could see the Ducks continuing to ride him. But that hasn't been the case lately. He's certainly not been bad, but not as spectacular as he was in the first few months. Meanwhile, Giguere has a stellar career record against the Preds, posting a 13-6-2 record with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage.

Whether he's in there or not, Hiller had a take last night about the Ducks' slow starts.

"It's too bad we can't start like we play in the third," he said. "We're always down one goal after the second period and we try to make it up in the third, but in this league that's not easy. We should probably think about having a better start."

Yeah, probably.

Updated Feb. 4 at 3:11 p.m.

Well, it's certainly been an interesting last 20 hours here in Ducks land. And sorry for the late post, but I guess I've just been waiting around for something else to happen.

In chronological order since 5:00 yesterday, we've had the announcement that Sammy Pahlsson is out two weeks, the trade for Sheldon Brookbank, Nathan McIver getting sent down to Iowa, then McIver getting traded for Mike Brown. Granted, none of those are exactly earth-shattering, although the news of Pahlsson's absence because of a viral infection is certainly a concern.

Pahlsson, my personal favorite Duck (or at least my favorite non-Rookie-of-the-Year-candidate Duck) remains extremely valuable to Anaheim on the defensive end and in the faceoff circle. And not having him in there during a critical stretch in the beginning of February (including this road swing) is not a very good thing. But we'll see how much Ryan Carter, who took Pahlsson's spot on the checking line Monday night, can make up for Sammy's absence.

It will also have an effect on the Ducks power play, as Pahlsson has been on the first unit the last several games because of his valuable ability to win draws in the attacking zone. With him not in there, you might see Ryan Getzlaf taking those draws instead, which in turn gives more power play time for other wingers, including the aforementioned Rookie of the Year candidate.

Later yesterday evening, the Ducks added some veteran toughness on defense when they acquired Brookbank from the Devils for prospect David McIntyre (who came over in the Sutherby trade earlier this year). McIntyre, by the way, is a center at Colgate University. The last time the Ducks traded a Colgate center? That's right, Andy McDonald.

The impact Brookbank will have on the Ducks is uncertain, since the 28-year-old has only played 15 games this season and hadn't gotten into the Devils lineup since Dec. 21. He did arrive in Minnesota in time for the Ducks' skate after taking an early-morning flight out of Newark, arriving in St. Paul around 9 a.m. and quickly changing into his gear. Said Brookbank about the trade, "I kind of figured something might happen. I figured [the Devils] were going to do something. I didn’t know if it would be me or someone else. It ended up being me. I’m hoping to get a fresh start here.”

Said Randy Carlyle of Brookbank, “He’s a big, stay-at-home defenseman. “He’s a puck-mover, will defend his teammates, make a good first pass, more of a defensive defenseman, for sure."

And speaking of defenseman who haven't played much this season, here's Nathan McIver's life in the last 48 hours. He's placed on waivers by the Ducks and isn't claimed by any other team in the 24-hour window. Then he heads to Minnesota with the rest of the team. Then he learns he's being sent to Iowa, and a few hours later, he's traded back to the same Vancouver team that let him go on waivers at the beginning of the season. Vancouver immediately assigned McIver to the Manitoba Moose.

This is the expression we saw on McIver's face so often during his brief time with the Ducks. I'm sure that face has been pretty prevalent over the past couple of days.

And for Mciver the Ducks get rookie bruiser Mike Brown, a guy who in only 20 games with the Canucks this season, piled up a whopping 85 penalty minutes. (In case you missed it, he likes to fight).

Brown is supposed to join the Ducks later today in Minnesota, where -- oh yeah -- the Ducks have a game tonight with the Wild. And it's another big one if the Ducks hope to get off to a good start in this hectic three-games-in-four-days road trip. The Ducks enter tonight in "fifth place" in the Western Conference standings -- we're going to use quotation marks until the day when the rest of the conference finally freakin' catches up with the Ducks' number of games played.

The Wild hold the eighth spot with four fewer games than the Ducks, and haven't played since last Saturday (thank you, again, NHL schedule makers). Tonight will be the first game in the Wild uni for newly acquired forward Dan Fritsche, whom the Wild picked up form the New York Rangers.

The Ducks are looking to win their third straight game for the first time since the end of November (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit). And the Wild are hoping for their second straight win, something they haven't strung together since Jan. 15. That mini-streak came just before the Ducks came into Xcel Energy Center and wiped out the Wild, 3-0. Believe it or not, that game on Jan. 17 was the last time the Ducks scored first in a game, and they were helped on the other end by a Jonas Hiller shutout. (Expect to see him in there again tonight.)

Also, expect to see Bobby Ryan back in the lineup, despite concerns about his knee being sore after that scary moment last Monday night when he went sliding into the boards. Ryan skated this morning and while he says the knee has swelled a bit, he believes he's fine to play.

If you've ever wondered what it would sound like if two characters from the movie "Fargo" discussed an upcoming Ducks-Wild game, listen to the first couple minutes of this.

"Tell me a little bit aboot whatcha knoooow about this Anaheim Ducks team..."

"Uh yah, it's a good hockey team..."
- - -

A few people sent me emails with links and photos from the Blagojevich Prison Jersey Night between the Ducks ECHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, and the Las Vegas Wranglers last Friday night (which I mentioned a few days ago). Here's one of the photos from the game. 

For some highlights, click here.

                                                                                                                   - - -

Also over the weekend, in a junior game between Kitchener and London (Ontario), a parent of a Kitchener player attacked a linesman, though no punches were apparently thrown. Apparently a Kitchener player was injured after being checked from behind by a London player, and a fight broke out. When the referee went to announce the penalties, the linesman was attacked while leaving the ice.

The whole thing was caught on video and posted on YouTube, which I'm showing you here, not just to show you the attack but so you can see how funny the moms sound as they scream at the officials. (Beware, there is some minor language in this.) I'm sure when Sarah Palin was proudly calling herself a "hockey mom," this isn't what she had in mind.

Updated Feb. 3 at 1:16 p.m.

Ducks-Sabres is one of those classic sports rivalries where you can pretty much throw out the records when those two teams face each other. It's like Red Sox-Yankees. Michigan-Ohio State. Duke-Carolina. There is no love lost between these two teams. They simply don't like each other.

Wait, that's not true? Well, then how else do you explain the number of loud visiting fans in Honda Center last night? The frequency of scuffles that broke out between the two teams throughout the night? The fact that VERSUS is airing one Ducks game the entire year, and it's Feb. 24 at Buffalo.

If you didn't know any better, you'd think there was a serious history of hostility between these two teams. Last night's game had six fighting majors, a pair of 10-minute misconducts stemming from an end-of-period brawl and Buffalo players giving the business to Ducks players seemingly every time there was a black jersey anywhere near goalie Patrick Lalime. Even the spectactors took some beatings last night, as on two different occasions a fan was hit by a flying puck over the glass and needed medical attention.

Chris Pronger was asked after the game why there seemed to be so much ill will between the teams. “I don’t know,” he said. “They want to play tough. I think both teams play a similar style. They get in your face, and we want to get in their face. It’s an emotional game.”

It was a surprisingly emotional game the Ducks controlled pretty much the entire way after they gave up the first goal 13:17 into the first period. From that point on, the Ducks dominated, outshooting the Sabres 32-13 over the final two periods and getting huge power play goals from Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz in the third to all but put the game away. Only Craig Rivet's rebound tap-in with 6:33 remaining spoiled what up until then was an all-Ducks final two periods. But that goal did little to worry the Ducks, who looked very strong over the final 6 1/2 minutes. That was never more evident than in the closing moments, after a silly Pronger interference penalty and a pulled goalie gave the Sabres a 6-on-4 in the final minute.

It was a satisfying result for a Ducks team that too many times over the past month has played solid hockey, only to fall short on the scoreboard. (The Chicago, Islanders and Detroit games are recent examples.) Granted, the first period wasn't exactly stellar (when Jonas Hiller kept them in it), but something motivated the Ducks to turn it on over the final two and they earned that victory last night. The best part of that domination over the final 40 minutes? It kept the large group of visiting Sabres fans mostly quiet. And their attempts to start some pro-Sabres chants were quickly drowned out by shouts of "Let's go, Ducks!" every time.

By the way, there were a couple of scary moments last night involving new NHL Rookie of the Month Bobby Ryan. He and Patrick Kaleta went sliding wildly into the boards behind the Anaheim net in the first period, and Kaleta got up in time to score that first goal. Ryan, meanwhile, was very slow to rise and went limping off. He returned later in the period, but in the second he got hurt again. About midway through, after delivering a pass across the middle of the ice, he was drilled by Adam Mair and appeared to hurt his hand. He came back on the ice again a few minutes later, only to get involved in one of the many scuffles around the Buffalo net that resulted in a roughing minor for both Ryan and Chris Butler of Buffalo.

Ryan said this morning that he's a little banged up but feels okay, and added, "I think last night was more being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Three or four times in a row."

Speaking of Bobby, the eye-opening Sports Illustrated feature on him is in the issue that will be on newsstands tomorrow.

Todd Marchant was a shining example of Anaheim's effort last night, as he played his first game after missing the last 10 with a finger injury. Marchant looked like he couldn't wait to get back on the ice, as he was all over the place last night. And his effort led to a Ducks goal, as he provided a nice screen in front of Lalime to shield him from Pronger's first period slap shot goal.

Marchant's return was incredibly good timing, considering Sammy Pahlsson sat out last night with what is only being described as flu-like symptoms. Apparently it's pretty bad, because Pahlsson was not on today’s flight to Minnesota and is undergoing an examination. We hope to have more later today.

By the way, Nathan McIver was put on waivers yesterday and was not claimed by another team. He remains with the Ducks and was on the flight out to Minnesota.

Don't look now, but the maddeningly inconsistent Ducks just may be putting together some consistency right now. Last night was only the second time they've won back-to-back games since Dec. 10. They've won three of their last four coming out of the All-Star break. Their two power play goals give them at least one in nine straight games.

We'll know more about just how good they are right now in these three road tests in four days (thank you again, NHL schedule makers) at Minny, Nashville and Calgary.

- - -

Continuing the tradition of third jerseys gone wrong, here's what the Montreal Canadiens wore Sunday for their game with the Bruins.

And speaking of never mess with a good thing ...

                                                                   - - -

From the department of Classic Sports Movies That Should Never Have Been Remade (e.g. "Bad News Bears"), comes this disturbing bit of news that there is a remake of "Slap Shot" in the works. And it's written by the guy who ruined the fantastic book Bringing Down the House and turned it into the disappointing "21." Apparently the abject failure of the two straight-to-DVD "Slap Shot" sequels didn't discourage Universal Pictures from greenlighting this thing.

Who are they going to get to play Reggie Dunlop? Maybe Bruce Willis? Kevin Spacey? And who will play the Hanson brothers? Maybe the brothers from the music group Hansen? They'd be perfect.

That sound you hear is Paul Newman rolling over in his grave.

- - -

I want to wish the best of luck to the Jr. Ducks Pee Wee AA team, which leaves next week for the 50th annual Quebec Pee Wee International Hockey Tournament in Quebec City. It is the largest Pee Wee Tournament (11 and 12-year-olds) in the world with more than 2,300 players from 16 countries. It is considered the world championship of Pee Wee Hockey.


Updated Feb. 2 at 12:54 p.m.

Anaheim's victory in Colorado seems like almost a distant memory, considering it came two days ago and we were distracted yesterday by what turned out to be a phenomenal Super Bowl. But that doesn't minimize the importance of the Ducks picking up that vital road win to end a rough January.

If you're like me, the 4-3 victory the Ducks scrapped out on Saturday afternoon probably didn't leave you with a "Hey, great win" reaction, but more like a "Yeah, you better win that game" feeling. As I mentioned Friday, that was a game the Ducks absolutely had to have against a Colorado team that seemingly isn't in the same league as Anaheim. It took a little work, but the Ducks ultimately made it happen. That's the way you have to win games on the road sometimes, pulling it out even though you go stretches where you're not looking your best.

Yet again in his Ducks career, Teemu Selanne showed he has a firm grasp on the concept of seizing the moment. In his record 617th game as a Duck, Selanne scored the eventual game-winner in the third period, in just his second game back after missing nearly six weeks with that lacerated quad muscle. The goal was set up nicely by Andrew Ebbett, just one game after Ebbett was scratched against Chicago after Randy Carlyle publicly let it be known he didn't like the way the rookie played against Phoenix the night before.

What shouldn't be ignored on the play was the pinpoint outlet feed by Scott Niedermayer to get Selanne going on the right wing, one of 16 assists Niedermayer had in January (more on that later). Niedermayer also had a huge goal on the power play with 6:25 left in the second thanks to a pretty backhand feed by -- have we said his name enough lately? -- Bobby Ryan.

The Ducks desperately needed that one after what was once a 2-1 lead quickly turned into a 3-2 deficit when Colorado scored twice in a span of 1:14, both goals coming off ugly Ducks turnovers. But the Ducks regrouped in a big way in the all-important third, protecting the puck much better to limit Colorado's chances after Selanne scored the go-ahead marker.

“The third period is more indicative of how we have to play for the rest of the season,” Carlyle said. “We can’t be cute. We have to put pucks deep and go grind it out. We’ll take that personality on our team. You have to do that on the road. You have to be able to tighten it down and play your game. I thought we did that, specifically for stretches in the game, but the third period definitely was the best."

It clearly was, but we shouldn't forget about the goals the Ducks scored in the first that gave them the lead in the first place. That included George Parros' fourth of the season, a new career high for the guy who just signed a three-year extension, and Getzlaf's beautiful one-timer off a Chris Kunitz feed (thank you, Peter Budaj, for not covering that puck).

Give it to Jonas Hiller, who despite not looking his best in his last few starts, came up huge in the final minutes when the Avs were feverishly trying to tie the game. That was especially evident in the final minute, when Colorado sent Budaj to the bench and threw six shots on Hiller, all of them denied.

The victory was a wipe-your-brow way for the Ducks to finish a month of January that was bittersweet at best (mostly bitter). The Ducks went just 6-7-1 in the month, lost to the likes of Tampa Bay and the Islanders, and put themselves pretty much in do-or-die position for the stretch run. But ironically enough, the Ducks had several individuals do some good stuff in January, as Ryan Getzlaf led the NHL in scoring with 4-15=19 points, Scott Niedermayer led the league in assists and all defenseman in points (17) and Ryan tied for the league lead in goals (11).

Ryan is also a lock to be named Rookie of the Month when the league announces it tomorrow. With that assist last night, he has a seven-game point streak and a 12-game road point streak (nine goals and nine assists).

The Ducks woke up this morning in a little better position than they were going into the weekend, but not much better. The win pushed them to fifth in the Western Conference with 55 points, but five teams are breathing down their necks with 53 and another (Vancouver) is at 52. Of course, the Ducks have still played more games than all of them, and it doesn't look like it's going to even out anytime soon. Starting with tonight's bout with Buffalo, the Ducks play four games in six days, the last a cluster of road games at Minny, Nashville and Calgary. Starting next Sunday, the Ducks will finally go a stretch of seven days where they only play one game -- a home date with Calgary. That will hopefully allow most of the rest of the conference to play some catchup.

The Ducks face a test tonight against a Sabres team that, unlike the Ducks, was very solid in January. The Sabres went 9-4 in the month, and 10 of those games were played on the road. We're not likely to see a brother-brother matchup with Anaheim's Drew Miller and Buffalo super-goalie Ryan Miller. Word is that backup Patrick Lalime will get the nod tonight, as the Sabres finish off a six-game road trip.

If Lalime's name sounds familiar, here's why: He was playing for Chicago last year, and in a game at Honda Center, he took exception to Todd Bertuzzi running into him on a rush and socked him in the back of the head, sparking a brawl. Too bad you can't bet on things like: Lalime Throws Punch at Corey Perry. What would the odds be for tonight? Even money? Maybe two-to-one at most?

We'll see plenty of blue-and-gold jerseys in the building tonight, since the Sabres continue to have one of the biggest road followings in the league. It goes again with the theory that teams who play in lousy hometowns have the most fans in opposing buildings. People who grew up in Buffalo get the hell out of there as soon as they're old enough to leave home, and many of them relocate to SoCal. But they remain loyal to their teams. It's the same reason you see so many Red Wings jerseys at Honda Center when Detroit comes to visit.

Here's hoping those fans with the giant yellow slugs on the front of their jerseys will be kept mostly quiet tonight.

Updated Feb. 1 at 2:32 p.m.

Re: Beating Colorado yesterday


More tomorrow.

Updated Jan. 30 at 12:24 p.m.

Teemu Selanne was asked Wednesday morning about the rest of this season whether he thought were in "must-win" mode over these final 2 1/2 months. "I don't believe in the word 'must-win,'" Selanne said. "It's a negative word for me. Winning comes easily when you want and not when you must."

That's fine, but guess what? Tomorrow night at Colorado is a must-win for the Anaheim Ducks.

Here's why: First of all, it's been made pretty clear that the Ducks can't afford any messing around over these final 31 games. The occasional loss is not something they've budgeted for. Tomorrow afternoon they'll be facing a Colorado team riddled with injuries, as five guys are on the shelf, including Adam Foote, Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny. The Avs are 13th in the Western Conference and last night gave up seven goals to the equally lousy Toronto Maple Leafs in a 7-4 loss at home.

Meanwhile, the Ducks' grip on the sixth spot in the Western Conference is kind of like Sarah Jessica Parker's appearance. At first glance, it doesn't look too bad. But look a little closer and it gets kind of scary.

In 51 games, the Ducks have 53 standings points, and no less than five teams are just two points back at 51: Minnesota, Edmonton, Dallas, Columbus and Vancouver. The Ducks have of course played more games than all of those teams (and every other team in the NHL). Even worse, they've played as many as four more than Minnesota, Edmonton and Dallas. Should the Ducks not pick up at least a point tomorrow night, and with all five of those teams playing games over the next two nights (Minny playing twice), Anaheim's position on that list could drop dramatically. Actually, it's guaranteed to drop even before they drop the puck in Denver, since the Wild and Oil play tonight and one of those teams will come away with two points. That puts them tied with the Ducks, and Anaheim would drop below them because they've played more games.

So, must win tomorrow? I think so. And it's certainly not the last one of those the Ducks will see in the next 10 weeks.

- - -

Jonas Hiller's second straight start in net on Wednesday night (coming in the second game of a back-to-back) sent a pretty strong message about Randy Carlye's feelings about J.S. Giguere's recent play. The O.C. Register reported that even before the Phoenix game, Carlyle told Giguere he wouldn't be starting the next two. They got these comments from Giguere:  “It’s disappointing. But at the same time Randy is in a situation where we need to win. Right now I’m not getting the job done when I’m playing. He’s got to coach and that’s the decision he’s come to. I don’t like it, but I have to respect it.”

As much extra work as Giguere has put in over the recent weeks, he maintains that it's not his technique that's the problem. “At this point, I just think the whole thing is mental," he said. "Not getting down when you give up a goal, not being nervous when you give up a goal. It becomes a mental game after awhile. It just wears on you … it makes it hard to come to practice and hard to come to the game.

"It’s a challenge thrown at you, and you have to find an answer,” he said. “It might be tomorrow, it might the next day. It might be next week. I don’t know. But it’s got to be soon. Obviously the team needs me and obviously I want to be successful. I want to get some wins and play some games.”

- - -

George Parros was the subject of a mini-feature in The Sports News this week in which he commented on the unwritten rule of fighting that is broken the most: "The celebrations after. You have these guys who want to ham it up and they're trying to do stupid stuff -- jawing off and acting like idiots. I try not to. Sometimes I get the adrenaline going, but you see guys doing it time and time again. I've seen them do it for bad fights too."  

Well, then George probably doesn't like this Brad May classic when he fought Steve Montador a few years ago.

Speaking of things we don't like about fighting, NHL Players Association Director Paul Kelly, had this to say during a recent radio interview:

“Fights which arise out of the emotion, the spontaneity of the game, a guy responding to a questionable hit on himself or on a teammate is actually a part of our game that should remain. What I have a real problem with are these staged, pre-arranged fights that don’t arise out of the play. Two heavyweights squaring off before a face-off, or texting each other leading up to a game. These are the guys who are 6′6″ and 250 lbs. and can, frankly, deliver the most damage.  It’s awkward and uncomfortable to watch some of those fights when you’re in an arena.”

Judging by the way the crowd noise picks up and people rise out of their seats, I'm not sure how "awkward and uncomfortable" it is. Now, Kiss Cam. That can be awkward and uncomfortable. And by the way, texting each other? Is that really happening? Please tell me that's not true. Do NHL enforcers have a list of each other's cell numbers posted in their lockers? What if, God forbid, one of them gets a wrong number? Imagine getting this text while you're sitting in your office:

"I'm going to beat the living hell out of you tonight"

You respond with, "Who's this?"

And you get back, "George Parros"

That might be a tad unsettling, wouldn't it?

- - -

Our ECHL affiliate in Bakersfield is at it again. The Condors held their Anaheim Ducks-style Jersey Off Our Backs Raffle and Auction last Saturday night, raising a total of $19,900 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kern County. After their game with the Ontario Reign (Kings affiliate), fans bid on the jerseys the Condors wore in the game, which looked just like Ducks jerseys but had the Condors crest on the chest. The Reign wore Kings-style jerseys and the two teams did it again when they played the next night in Ontario.

Now the Condors are getting wackier this weekend in Vegas, where it will be Rod Blagojevich Prison Uniform Night when they play the Wranglers. To honor the disgraced Illinois governor the Condors will wear these orange jumpsuit-style jerseys (which they're also auctioning off on eBay starting this evening). The Wranglers will wear black-and-white striped prison jerseys, and even the officials will don blue prison guard-style jerseys.

Two teams of prisoners playing hockey with the prison guards refereeing? I smell screenplay!

- - -

I've been asked to give a little love to the Smucker's Stars on Ice event that will be held at Honda Center tomorrow, featuring yet another of my many celebrity crushes, Sasha Cohen. But unlike the others, I may have a chance with Sasha, since like me she's Jewish and lives in Orange County.

Then again, maybe not. 

Anyway, Sasha and about a dozen other Olympic, world and national champions will be on the Honda Center ice this weekend for the 23rd edition of the show. And Kent French, continuing to tell the world he's not afraid to make himself look silly, did a little skating with Sasha and Olympian Ilia Kulik the other day at Anaheim ICE. 

As if I wasn't already jealous of Frenchie enough.

Updated Jan. 29 at 12:54 p.m.

Our buzz from Tuesday night's trouncing of the Phoenix Coyotes was essentially killed last night in a 3-2 loss at home to the Chicago Blackhawks. While the Ducks clearly brought the effort for the second straight night, and outplayed Chicago in many facets of the game, they just couldn't quite get it done. Granted, that's a very good Chicago team the Ducks battled with, but it's a team they probably should have beaten.

And never was that inability to catch the Hawks more frustrating than in the third period, starting with the midway point when the Ducks spent seemingly a half hour straight in the Chicago zone, only to come away with nothing. Nikolai Khabibulin was outstanding in net with 36 saves, just another in the long line of goalies who have stifled the Ducks this season. The "Bulin Wall" did get a little help during a frantic final minute and a half, when the Ducks sent Jonas Hiller to the bench for an extra attacker and had several opportunities go for naught. That help came courtesy of teammate Duncan Keith, who appeared to intentionally knock the net off its moorings just as Teemu Selanne was attempting a one-timer from the top of the crease.

I've been asked to go easy on the officiating, so how can I say this? Um, a lot of people in the crowd seemed to think that a penalty should have been called on Keith, which in this instance would have resulted in a penalty shot for the Ducks. But despite the officials huddling to discuss the matter, no call was made.

And that wasn't the only call/no-call in the game that ... er ... seemed to displease the Honda Center crowd. There was some questioning about the Steve Montador roughing minor that ended up leading directly to a Blackhawks power play goal. Instead of commenting, I'll let this video from TSN's Sportscentre tell the story. Also, here's a clip of Chicago's first goal. Impressive move by Adam Burish to knock the puck loose behind the net, despite falling to the ice, and then be able to get up and get the rebound goal. Nice play.

Travis Moen's shorthanded goal with just 1:10 left in regulation was huge for the Ducks, as it pulled them to within a goal going into the third. But while that looked to give the Ducks the momentum going into the final 20, they somehow couldn't get the equalizer.

“Right now we’re at that stage where we’re working hard,” Pronger said. “We’re playing better, but we’re not getting enough breaks right now.”

It seems like those breaks have to come around sometime. But with 31 games left and the Ducks hanging on for their playoff lives, is it too much to ask for that to come sometime soon?

So, what are the positives from last night? Teemu Selanne returned for the first time in the last 17 games, and although he was shaking off some rust, he said, "I felt better as the game went on. It was a really good start. I’m happy there’s no pain. It will just be better every day now."

And Bobby Ryan scored yet another goal, though it took several minutes for the off-ice officials to determine that he just barely got a piece of Chris Pronger's slap shot in the first. While the spin-o-rama goal against the Kings was his prettiest of the year, that one last night might have been his ugliest. Regardless, it gave him 11 goals in January (tied for the league lead with Michael Cammalleri), which was the most for a rookie in a month since some Ovechkin character got that many in March 2006. Meanwhile, his five-game goal streak is a club rookie record.

Sports Illustrated writer Michael Farber is in town for a feature he's doing on Bobby, so look for that in the coming weeks.

It was a surprise to many that Randy Carlyle chose to start Hiller over J.S. Giguere after Jonasty (still trying) was in net the night before at Phoenix. L.A. Times reporter Billy Witz is somewhat new to the Ducks beat, so he hasn't yet learned of Carlyle's distaste for discussing his choice of starting goalies. This conversation during the postgame scrum made it into this morning's edition:

Asked who the No. 1 goalie was, Carlyle said, "We have 1-A and 1-B. They're both number ones."

So, which one is A and which one is B?

"That's for you to figure out," he said.

Asked if Giguere was healthy, Carlyle said, "I chose Jonas Hiller to play. Write it."

Okay. He chose Jonas Hiller to play. 

- - -

My father has a theory that if you asked Ducks fans which two players they would keep if they could only keep two, a majority would say Teemu Selanne and George Parros. I'm not sure that's true, but if it is, those Ducks fans have to be happy today that Parros just signed a three-year extension that ensures he'll be here through 2011-12. That's definitely a good thing.

More slightly good news came yesterday when Francois Beauchemin skated for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last Nov. 14. Beauchemin didn't do much more than take some laps around the rink and had this to report: "I was anxious to skate, to see how my knee would react, if it would be different to skate. A new knee and getting used to the brace, but I thought it would be worse. I actually felt pretty good out there.”

Beauchemin actually said he harbors thoughts of getting into the lineup at some point this season, and although that seems like a longshot, he feels like he's ahead of schedule (he was originally supposed to be out at least six months). “How far, I don’t know,” he said. “It depends how my knee is going to feel in the next weeks. I’m pretty much still going week by week. So far, I haven’t had any setbacks, so I’m just going to keep going like that, the same way.”

- - -

Goalie Ray Emery's Linsday Lohanesque freefall from grace continues. One minute you're the starting goalie in the Stanley Cup Final, the next minute you're playing for a Russian team called Atlant Mytishchi, you're pulled midway through a 5-1 loss and when the team trainer tries to get you to put on a ballcap to keep your head warm, you decide to take a couple swings at him.

Hey, Ray. See you back in the NHL ... never.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators team that deemed Emery not worthy of them is in horrible shape, mired in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, with talk of them completely re-tooling the organization. Team owner Eugene Melnyk uttered this regrettable quote yesterday in respect to that: "Anybody that says we should blow up this organization should get their own bomb and go blow themselves up," Melnyk said.


Worse yet, Melnyk uttered that in the presence of 30 fourth-graders, who were in attendance for a press conference that was supposed to focus on new fan initiatives.

Apparently Melnyk thought "I know you are but what am I?" or "You're not the boss of me" were a bit overplayed.

Updated Jan. 28 at 2:11 p.m.

On the one hand: That was a phenomenal effort last night for the Ducks and hopefully it's a good indication of the urgency this team will be playing with for the rest of the season.

On the other hand: Where the hell has that been all year?

From the drop of the puck last night in Glendale, the Ducks came out flying and they didn't stop until they had polished off an overwhelming 7-3 victory over a Phoenix Coyotes team that hardly knew what hit it. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better effort over 60 minutes than the Ducks showed last night, as they controlled the puck for most of the game and bullied their way to their highest goal output since February of 2007.

And it wasn’t just the number of goals the Ducks got, but how they got them. Every one of the seven were from right around the crease or inside it, either with fortunate redirects or by jamming the puck through goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. The Ducks were all over poor Bryz all night, and peppered him with 37 shots, 29 in the first two periods alone.

“You watch a lot of other teams that are having success, and they’re getting those goals and getting those bounces,” said Corey Perry, who had two not-so-pretty goals on the night. “We’ve talked about it right from Day One in training camp — our middle-lane drive and stop at the net and crash the net. That’s how we have to play. We have to get those ugly goals to be successful.”

Randy Carlyle added, "You look at the goals we scored. They were all from the crease in. They were goals off faceoffs, off deflections and from jamming the crease. Those are the ugly areas to score goals from."

Ah, but oh so pretty when they go up on the scoreboard seven times.

It was somewhat demoralizing halfway through the first period, when the Ducks were dominating but still went down 1-0 after Phoenix got an ugly goal of its own from Mikkel Boedker. But the Ducks hardly let that phase them, and that was yet another good sign from this game. A little less than eight minutes later, Ryan Getzlaf made yet another of his ridiculous plays to set up Anaheim's first strike. After stealing the puck in the Phoenix zone, he crashed in on Bryzgalov, but instead of taking the shot, he threw a blind pass to Chris Kunitz, who punched it through from the slot. I still don't know how Getzlaf could have possibly seen Kunitz, but somehow he made that feed for the goal. It was just one of many times the top line of Kunitz, Getzlaf and Perry dominated last night, led by Getzlaf, who might have been the hardest-working guy on the ice.

And he was in good company among a tenacious group of Ducks, who left nothing in the tank last night. To Phoenix's credit, they didn't make it easy for the Ducks for most of the night. But Anaheim devastated them (just ask the Phoenix color guy) with this Travis Moen goal off a Scott Niedermayer feed with just 2.8 seconds left in the second. That gave the Ducks a 5-3 lead that was all they'd need on this night.

Of course, they added two more goals in the third period, including the prettiest goal of the night from Bobby Ryan, who somehow found the space from a bad angle to send the rebound through.Then he gave his familiar double-first-pump-lift-one-knee celebration move that Ducks fans have seen plenty of times the last month. Ryan's 10 goals in the month of January? Yeah, leads the league.

Ryan's goal last night made it 7-3 Ducks, which caused a few fans to look my way during the Watch Party at Zito's Pizza (not to mention the emails from fans who said they were getting ready to rush down there). I had written yesterday that I would buy the whole place a beer if the Ducks won by six, and they looked like they could maybe find a way to pull that off in the closing minutes. It didn't help my confidence when I checked the night's NHL scores and saw that the Sabres beat the Oilers, 10-2. But if the Ducks had made it happen, I would have been more than happy to foot the bill for that one. Well, sort of happy.

Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky (who I think used to be a player), said it best: "The reality is we played against a team that knows the situation, knows where they're at and understands where they are in the standings. They basically wanted to win the game more than we did."

Do what they did last night the rest of the year, and the Ducks are in the playoffs. No question about it. Now the question is, can they? It's great they were able to put the pedal to the floor for the first game out of the All-Star break, but can they keep it going for the next 32? Can they do it during the eight road games they play next month? Can they do in the second half of a back-to-back, like the ones they face six more times this season?

That includes tonight against a very good Chicago team that rolls into Honda Center playing it's first game since the break. The Hawks (fourth in the West) scored just five goals in their previous four games, going 1-2-1. But as the Ducks proved last night, the way you stumble into the break may not be an indication of how you look after it. By the way, if J.S. Giguere starts in net, which he almost certainly will, you'll have all six Western Conference All-Star starters in the game. There should be a pregame salute to text messaging before the puck drops tonight.

And it's still up in the air whether a former All-Star starter, Teemu Selanne, will be in the lineup. Selanne did some pretty solid skating this morning and told reporters he feels "100 percent."  If I were a betting man -- and I am, but you can't bet on such things -- I say he's in there.

Then again, I've been wr...

Never mind.  

Updated Jan. 27 at 1:20 p.m.

They typically call the playoffs the "second season," but for the Anaheim Ducks, their second season starts tonight in Phoenix. And it will hopefully give a good indication of just how much the Ducks are getting it into gear over the final 33 games to make a push for a playoff spot. Is this going to be the team that won only 5 of 16 going into the All-Star break? Or will it more closely resemble the team that won 8 of 9 in October and November, five of those coming on the road?

Simply put, if the Ducks play the same way they played over the first 3 1/2 months, they won't make the playoffs. They have to be better.

Ducks GM Bob Murray had plenty to say about what he's looking at in the next couple of months in a very good story by Dan Wood in the O.C. Register that ran this morning. "You keep waiting to see if some chemistry or something develops," Murray said. "I keep waiting and waiting. I don't see any signs that there's that chemistry you need to be successful in the playoffs. There is time left, but it has to start happening here soon."

You can bet Murray has that March 4 trading deadline circled in red Sharpie on his calendar, and he'll be forced to decide up until that time if the Ducks are buyers or sellers prior to that target. Of the 16 games the Ducks have until that date, 11 of them are on the road. That stretch will be a strong indicator of the direction the Ducks go in the rest of the season.

"If you're me and you don't sense it's going to happen, then you have to start looking for ways to get it to happen with a different group of players," Murray said. "Obviously, as you get toward the trade deadline, that's your drop-dead. I truly believe that this group is good enough to do some damage, but sometimes teams just don't come together, and you can never explain why."

The story would make the typical Ducks fan tense up and feel slightly queasy over the thought of the Ducks doing anything resembling a "re-tooling" effort. But leave it to the chipper Bobby Ryan to bring the whole thing back around with this quote: "We have so many great veterans," Ryan said. "We're going to find a way to pull out of this. We're going to find a way to come down the stretch the right way."

Oh, thank goodness.

That hopefully starts tonight in the desert, where if I'm not mistaken, it's the first time since the lockout the Ducks face a Phoenix team that lies ahead of them in the standings. I started working for the Ducks before the 2005-06 season and I can't remember a time when they ever had a better record than Anaheim ... and frankly, I don't like it too much. Phoenix is like the little brother you beat up on for years, and now he's grown big enough to throw a few punches back and possibly take you down. The Coyotes are currently fifth in the Western Conference (second in the Pacific) with 53 points, just two more than the Ducks (though the 'Yotes have played one fewer game).

Oddly enough, it's the first time the Ducks have been in Phoenix this season, as the two teams have split two games at Honda Center. They finish the regular season in Phoenix, a game that hopefully will mean a lot to the Ducks. The last matchup was a very solid 2-0 win for Anaheim on Jan. 4, one of only a handful of times the Ducks have looked strong in the last month. Jonas Hiller grinded his way to his third shutout of the season in that game.

Although, we don't have official word on who will be in net tonight, I would put good money it's Hiller again. The Ducks would surely like to give J.S. Giguere one more day of rest after what he went through over All-Star weekend in Montreal. And with the Ducks playing tomorrow night at home, I would guess it's Hiller tonight and Giguere tomorrow.

Then again, I've been wrong before. No, seriously, I have.

Also, even though Teemu Selanne skated with the Ducks for the first time yesterday, he is reportedly ruled out for tonight. But tomorrow night at home against Chicago is a possibility.

Either way, it's a huge one tonight for the Ducks, and I hope to see a good group of fans at the Official Watch Party at Zito's Pizza in

Anaheim. If the Ducks win, a round of beers is on me.

If they win by six, that is.

Just came across this photo shot during the All-Star Game. Anyone else think it's Brian Burke inside this costume?

You may have heard it already but Ducks prospect Steve Kampfer continues to have the worst luck in the world. Kampfer, a 2007 fourth-round pick by the Ducks playing for the University of Michigan, was assaulted for the second time in a little more than three months -- this time on the ice. In the final minute of a game between the Wolverines and rival Michigan State, Kampfer made an open-ice hit on Spartans player Corey Tropp and was promptly hit from behind by Tropp's teammate, Andrew Conboy. Then as Kampfer laid motionless on the ice, Tropp slashed him in the neck with his stick. Here's more on the incident, in which Kampfer suffered a concussion and a strained neck. And here is the some video of the whole ugly thing.

And the story gets even more layered, as moments after Tropp was ejected from the game, Kampfer's father, Bruce, somehow got into the MSU locker room and went after the kid, grabbing his jersey as they shouted at each other (they were separated before throwing any punches).

Conboy and Tropp were each suspended yesterday for the remainder of their season by the team, meaning they'll miss their last 10 regular season games and the postseason. Definitely well-deserved.

You may remember that Kampfer suffered a fractured skull when he was attacked by Michigan walk-on football player Mike Milano in the early morning on Oct. 12. Milano, who picked up and body-slammed Kampfer, was suspended indefinitely and is still under criminal investigation.

If the 20-year-old Kampfer ever makes it with the Ducks, what do you say we give him a nice pat on the back?

Better do it softly, though.

January Archive