• RSS

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

Archived Editions
Current Edition


Updated October 31 at 12:34 p.m.

"I love winning, man ... It's like, you know, better than losing."

That's the quote -- from Nuke Laloosh in "Bull Durham" that kept running through my head in the aftermath of the Ducks' 7-2 crushing of the Canucks to snap a four-game losing streak. As you might imagine, this job is a little tougher when the team is struggling? When they're winning? It's a lot more fun.

And you would hardly know it by the score, but last night's contest starting off in stomach-churning fashion for Ducks fans, who watched as the home team fell in a 2-0 hole less than five minutes in. I got an email late last night from my dad that said this:

I turned on the game and saw we were down 2-0.  So I understandably turned it off in disgust.
What happened?

He was kidding, of course. The Ducks hardly flinched when they fell behind early, cutting the lead in half near the end of the first and then turning on the heat in the second and third to reel off seven unanswered goals. Two from Corey Perry, two from Bobby Ryan and a rather unexpected two from the incredibly likeable fourth (energy) line of George Parros, Ryan Carter and Mike Brown. Parros and Brown each scored their first of the year and Carter had two assists, the prettier of the pair being this feed to Brown on a shorthanded rush that allowed Brown to get one on his former team. (The more I watch and love Mike Brown's game, the more I'm surprised -- and thankful -- the Canucks couldn't find room for him in their lineup.) 

That goal gave the Ducks their first lead and from there they kept the pedal to the floor, playing like a team that was eager to get all the goals it possibly could. Perry threw one in on a rebound to cap a three-goal second period. Ryan scored two in a span of 2:40, both times looking to the sky while pumping both gloved fists and revealing a beaming smile.

And with the game safely in hand, Joffrey Lupul scored a goal that can only be described with the line: On a night when everything was going right ...

Lupul, looking to dump the puck into the corner from the red line, sent it off the glass, where it took a goofy carom and headed straight for the net. Goalie Cory Schneider had abandoned his position between the pipes to chase what he thought would be a puck against the back wall. I remember thinking (and possibly yelling), That thing's going in, as it skidded netward. Vancouver's play-by-play guy called it well, saying, "Uh oh!" as it headed toward the empty net and finally lamenting, "It's one of those nights." 

Indeed, a tough night for the visiting Canucks, but a long-awaited thrill ride for the Ducks in their barn, closing out a six-game homestand that didn't go nearly like they had hoped. And hopefully last night's victory isn't just a win, but a springboard to greater things for this Ducks team. We'll find out right away, as the Ducks flew out late last night to Phoenix for tonight's game with the Coyotes.

Speaking of that flight, Joffrey Lupul used the downtime to tap out the outstanding second edition of his blog that includes these gems:

- Teemu just walked onto the plane wearing a George Bush mask. What a legend!

- On seeing the Black Eyed Peas open for U2 last weekend: Slash came out and played "Sweet Child O' Mine" with Fergie. She was awesome!! Is she single? Does she read "In the Loops" blog??? One can only hope. (No, Loops, she's married.)

- My favorite cheese is gouda. With crackers. (That will make more sense when you read the blog.)

Ah yes, winning. It brings with it so many good things, including making Joffrey Lupul more comfortable writing his blog. And that's a good thing for all of us.

Updated October 30 at 3:48 p.m.

For a Ducks team looking to break out of a funk, they might be catching the Vancouver Canucks at just the right time.

Not only did the Canucks slug through an overtime game in L.A. last night (outlasting the Kings in a shootout), but they came into town missing a couple of key pieces. The biggest for them, of course, it goalie Roberto Luongo, whose rib fracture suffered last Saturday against Toronto is supposed to keep him out at least until next week. He's supposed to be replaced between the pipes by Andrew Raycroft, who started and won last night against the Kings. In addition, the Canucks only have half of their set of twins, as Daniel Sedin is nursing a broken foot and figures to miss several more weeks. And Pavol Demitra (shoulder), Kyle Wellwood (broken toe) and Jannik Hansen (broken hand) are also still out.

The Ducks, meanwhile, are itching to play anybody right about now, as they've had a day off and two days of practice coming off that disappointment against Toronto on Monday night. Jonas Hiller said yesterday that after a loss like that, you feel like you want to play again immediately, “just to prove that it was a bad night or whatever. I think also as a goalie you kind of want that good feeling and that rhythm. It’s tough to get in that if you don’t play a lot of games. But I think in the end, that can’t be an excuse for the way we’ve played. We’ve got to play better. We know that.”

One player who's welcomed the time between games is Ryan Carter, who is supposed to return to the lineup tonight after missing the last three games with a bone bruise in his foot suffered after he was hit with a shot in practice. When asked yesterday who the player was, Carter joked, "I’m not naming names but I got his number.”

Carter couldn't even put a skate on for about five days because the foot had swelled so much (which kind of limits your ability to play hockey). But he said, "It's getting better. It’s different when the game comes around,” he said. “I don’t think you think about it as much.”

J.S. Giguere, on the other hand, isn't ready to return yet as he continues to treat a strained groin muscle.

It should be a good one tonight, as Ducks-Canucks games always seem to be. You might remember almost one year ago to the day (last Halloween), the teams battled through a 7-6 Vancouver win that came at the end of the 13-round shootout. Like that night, they'll be some Halloween costumes in the house. Let's hope the guys in the black jerseys and skates are dressed as winning hockey players when it's all over.

- - -

A couple of outside material of note: Marcia Smith of the O.C. Register has a nice feature on Saku Koivu and his battle with cancer eight years ago in Montreal. And George Parros has written his third blog post on the L.A. Times website. Among the great lines:

- Well, I’ve heard this blog has been received well, so it’s good to know I'm not putting everyone to sleep out there. You have to understand this is still a learning process for me because I have a natural aversion to blogging.

- On getting ready for Dux in Tux: We then all cram into a two-person bathroom to paint on our rental tuxes that don't breathe too well … just ask Jiggy!  It’s all rather comical … think, ‘Slap Shot’ during the fashion show, and it usually just gives us an excuse to make fun of each other.

- On serving at previous Dux in Tux events: In the past, our only duty for the evening was to serve wine to our assigned tables and make sure everyone had a healthy glow about them.

- - -

Reader Keriann from Utah, noting yesterday's blog item about the Bakersfield Condors Michael Jackson night, writes that the Utah Grizzlies had their annual "Pink in the Rink" game last Saturday where each player wears pink jerseys and the ice is colored pink. (Auction proceeds go to breast cancer research.)

She sent this picture of one Grizzly in his pink jersey, Corey Perry's brother Adam (who Keriann says is going by AJ these days).

Think there's a family resemblance?

- - -

One more reader-emailed item: Pierre, from somewhere in Canada, recalls that last year Chris Pronger started the season with a well-grown playoff beard and finally shaved it after the Ducks got off to a rough start.

Pierre writes: I notice watching the TV broadcasts that John Ahlers has the stuff on his face too. Coincidence?

I think he's on to something. Maybe it's time for Johnny to take the razor to that thing. But for more reasons than a Ducks losing streak.

Updated October 29 at 1:56 p.m.

It was business as usual for the Ducks today at Honda Center, but they were a little more out of their element last night at the annual Dux in Tux at the Anaheim Hilton. Players typically participate in the event as tuxedo-clad waiters, but this year's edition had a different twist. Each table in the huge event hall was assigned chefs from different local restaurants, so each of the Ducks served as sous chefs in "helping" prepare and serve. (My table was the RA Sushi table, and appropriately had James Wisniewski as sous chef since he is the man responsible for the "Big Wisniewski" roll that won the competition earlier this month).

The highlight of the night (aside from the sushi and the four different types of sake we were treated to) -- came from a surprising source -- Ducks rookie and recent call-up Matt Beleskey. As co-chair of the event, Todd Marchant spoke to the crowd briefly and announced that it was time for a ritual that is inevitable at events like these. Marchant shared a story of when he was a 20-year-old rookie in Edmonton at an event attended by President Bush (the first one) and The veterans forced Marchant to get up in front of the audience and speak about himself. Remembering how mortified he was about it at the time, "I decided to bring that to Anaheim when I came here."

So Marchant brought Beleskey up onto the stage, and the 21-year-old tentatively took the mic and began introducing himself, telling the crowd about his background. Heckled by Marchant, Beleskey took the inadvisable approach at shooting back at the veteran's advanced age. "Todd Marchant," Beleskey said with a hint of bravado. "He was my dad's favorite player."

Before that, Marchant was fully prepared to jump on stage and put Beleskey out of his misery after just a couple minutes up there. But when Beleskey let loose with that crack, Marchant instead folded his arms and sat down in a chair, letting the kid stew for awhile. And then things got worse.

Beleskey looked around the room for teammates to rip, found Ryan Getzlaf and made the mistake of taking a shot at Getzy's ... err ... hair challenges. "Ryan Getzlaf," Beleskey said, "is upset that he had to come to an event where he couldn't wear a hat."

That brought a rise out of the crowd and assured that the agonizing time Beleskey would be up there grasping for material would last even longer. He revealed that his nickname, undoubtedly from his time in Iowa, was "Pork Chop." He explained, "People think I'm one of the huskier ones." He got desperate and took a few questions, and when someone yelled "Boxers or briefs?" he braveley replied, "Neither." When someone asked his favorite restaurant, he smartly answered "Prime Cut" because that was the table he was working. When he was asked his favorite team growing up, he said, "Toronto. Sorry about that." He told the crowd that he shared an apartment with Bobby Ryan briefly when the two were with the Chops and said, "Bobby's a bit of a singer and likes to play the guitar. Unfortunately, the walls were pretty thin."

And he kept going. He shared his favorite Halloween costumes, turned down a request to sing, looked to Marchant several times, but overall held his own like a champ until the redhead finally let him off the hook. "He'll have a long day tomorrow," Marchant said.

Unfortunately, no word on the treatment Beleskey received this morning, but I imagine that as long as he's up with the big club, he doesn't mind.

- - -

Real good news for Ducks fans is the addition of three more TV games this season. That includes this Saturday's game at Phoenix, which previously was not televised.
- - -
The Ducks' own Bakersfield Condors, who once held a Rod Blagojevich Prison Night, have decided to honor Michael Jackson with the King of Pop Jersey Raffle and Auction for tomorrow night's game against Utah.

Each of the players will be wearing specialty jerseys (that's Ducks prospect Shawn Weller modeling one at right), and to top things off, each Condor will wear one white glove during the game. The jerseys will be auctioned off throughout a night that will include "music and King of Pop themed promotions." (I can only imagine what those will be.) Also, everyone in attendance can win one of five game-worn tribute jerseys in a mid-game raffle. Oh, and it gets better: Anybody with the name "Michael Jackson" or "Billie Jean" will receive free entry into the game by showing your ID.

So, they figure, you've suffered enough with that name, how about a free hockey game?

Updated October 27 at 1:43 p.m.

How about we try to keep it positive here and say that someday we'll all look back on this and laugh?

There's no way around it, things are going badly for the Anaheim Ducks, and last night's 6-3 loss to the previously winless Toronto Maple Leafs bordered on gut-wrenching. 

But let's keep things in perspective. It's a bad stretch. Teams go through them all the time. They get mired in losing streaks. They lose to teams they shouldn't lose to.

It wasn't that long ago the Ducks were beaten at home 7-3 by a Philadelphia Flyers team that came into that game 4-12-2. Later that season the Ducks lost 5 of 6, including a defeat to last-place Phoenix). That was 2006-07, and you know what happened at the end of that season. Or how about a stretch last season when the Ducks lost 6 of 8 in January, including defeats to the Kings, Lightning and Islanders, each of which finished last in their respective divisions? Remember what happened at the end of that season? Those same Ducks came within a whisper of the conference finals.

So yeah, bad runs are part of the game. (Just ask the Red Wings, who are puzzled by a 3-4-2 start that has them 12th in the West.) Of course, they're no fun when they come in the season's first month, because the second-guessing is ramped up even more. But that only means there are six months ahead to right the wrongs.

And the wrongs last night included a lack of discipline that had been one thing the Ducks seemingly didn't struggle with so far this campaign. But last night Anaheim took 17 penalties, many of which were roughing calls for retribution during post-whistle scrums. One of the more egregious was Corey Perry's double-minor for roughing, which came after he got involved in a melee sparked by a shoving match between former teammates Ryan Getzlaf and Francois Beauchemin. The Leafs would score twice while Perry was in the box, helped also by a James Wisniewski slashing call following the brawl.

The loss of cool the Ducks showed so often last night was actually uncharacteristic for the Ducks this season. “It hasn’t been an issue up until tonight,” Randy Carlyle said. "The frustration level goes with the lack of success we’ve been having. When you start to see players like (Saku) Koivu or Scott Niedermayer, those players in reaction mode, then you start to question if we’re putting ourselves in a can’t-win situation as our attitude that frustration is getting the better part of us. And I’d have to say yes, in some of those circumstances.”

And unfortunately for the Ducks, the Leafs didn't let too many of their man-advantage opportunities go by, notably in that third period when they scored two of their five power play goals, helping them turn a one-goal lead into a convincing win.

So the Ducks fall to a team that hadn't won a game in eight tries and drop their fourth in a row. Carlyle, who gave the team the day off from practice today, said of the team's play of late, "It’s hard to pinpoint. I don’t want to say anything that would perceive panic, because it’s not a panic mode. It’s an understanding. We can’t accept the way we played tonight.”

But let's remember this: We're looking at a team with a ton of talent, and a ton of pride. A team with two guys who just may be playing their last NHL seasons right now. A team loaded with proven winners -- guys with rings, guys with big playoff victories, guys who have gone through the hard times and dug themselves out.

Yes, they're in a bad place right now. But to think this is going to continue through April is just foolish.

"I've never been part of a team with a losing mentality," Getzlaf said, "and it's not going to start now."

Updated October 26 at 2:38 p.m.

The underlying storyline for tonight's Ducks-Maple Leafs game is the return of former Ducks GM (and current Leafs boss) Brian Burke -- not to mention Francois Beauchemin and Francois Allaire -- to Honda Center. But for the Anaheim Ducks, the focus of tonight's game is on something completely different:

Getting a freakin' win.

Anaheim's 6-4 loss last Saturday night to Columbus was the third in a row and puts them 1-3-0 on a six-game homestand that was supposed to be a grand opportunity to put the Ducks on the right track through the season's first month. A few of the things that was plagueing the Ducks coming into that Saturday night game were righted against Columbus -- poor starts, lack of power play proficiency, lack of scoring. The Ducks bounced out to a 1-0 lead after one period, connected twice on the man advantage and scored four times overall.But what they didn't get against Columbus was the defense and goaltending they needed. Anaheim gave up four goals in the final 12 minutes of the second period and J.S. Giguere gave up five goals while reinjuring his strained groin on Columbus' go-ahead goal in the third.

Giguere, it was revealed over the weekend, will sit for the time being and the Ducks recalled Justin Pogge from Bakersfield this morning. Pogge was here for today's morning skate, and since he was once thought to be Toronto's "goalie of the future" before being dealt to the Ducks in August, there were at least a half dozen TV, radio and newspaper reporters from Toronto crowding around him today in the locker room. During the session, Pogge was asked three different ways by the same reporter if he felt like he wanted to "stick it" to the Leafs for letting him go. Instead, Pogge just kept smiling and said things like, "It's just nice to be up here. I'm just happy to be here" or "I had a lot of fun in Toronto, but I'm happy where I am" or "I've got no hard feelings. It's a good club, good organization, great city."

Pogge, who probably will backup Jonas Hiller tonight, did say this, "We need a win really badly ... I hope we do take it to them tonight."

The Leafs come in here having had it much worse than the Ducks, an 0-7-1 record that marks the worst start in the 92-year existence of the franchise. So Burke is kind of on the same page of the Ducks team he ran from 2005 through November of last year.  "It’s nice to be back, but no sentiment when it comes to the game," he said. "We need a win, and we want to beat this team.”

Burke, Beauchemin and Allaire (the former goalie consultant) will all be recognized during the first timeout on the Honda Vision board, as was done with Sammy Pahlsson on Saturday.

While the Ducks will probably have their Jonas in net, the Leafs are expected to have theirs on the other side of the rink, as Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson is reported to be the starter tonight. Gustavsson was a major acquisition by Burke out of Sweden over the summer, but he's only played twice so far this season and not since Oct. 6.

About facing the Ducks for the first time as Toronto GM, Burke said, "There’s a lot of great memories from working here. The ownership here is special. They have great fans here. They have great fan support, and a lot of the same players and staff, so it’s nice to be back. I wish we were coming here with a little better record.”

I imagine the Ducks feel the same way about their record.

- - -
The biggest surprise out of Anaheim yesterday -- aside from the Angels' sudden inability to field a sacrifice bunt -- was the announcement that Luca Sbisa would be reassigned for the rest of the season. Sbisa's exact destination hasn't been announced yet, but the general thought is he will return to his junior team in Lethbridge, Alberta. Sbisa is not eligible to return to the Ducks this season because he is under 20 and cannot be sent to the minors and subsequently recalled.

Randy Carlyle insisted the move wasn't based on Sbisa's performance in his eight games (he was healthy scratched last Saturday), but rather the state of the team in the early going. "We think that he’s come in and played fairly well, but in the situation we’re in right now, we think it could be a detriment to have him in the pressure situation that we’re in. I know it’s a difficult decision for a player to take -- he’s going from the NHL to possibly having to play back in junior hockey -- but we want him to play in the league for 15 years, not for five years. If we can do anything to alleviate the pressure of this year, have him play in major junior hockey and continue his development, I think the next step will be a lot easier."

Updated October 23 at 10:48 a.m.

Yesterday was the third annual Reading is the Goal Day, or as I call it on a personal level "Ego Boost 2009." It's not every day (okay, once a year) where I have the rapt attention of 35 fourth-graders for an hour, then sign autographs for them afterwards.

As you can learn in this story and (accompanying photos), Ducks players J.S Giguere, Todd Marchant, their wives, Wild Wing, Power Players and Ducks staff all took part in the day, in which we read to kids and took part in an all-school assembly. The day started with the staffers and wives heading, books in hand, to different classrooms on the campus of Mattie Lou Maxwell Elementary in Anaheim. I was fortunate enough to get the fourth-grade students of Mrs. Jones, clearly a Ducks fan based on the orange t-shirt she was wearing, along with the rally towels and mini Stanley Cup banner adorning the walls of her room. She had even fashioned a couple of the towels into a pillow that sat on a table.

And the kids were just as enthusiastic, as I had to choose among the dozens of tiny hands that shot in the air during the question-and-answer sessions I held before and after I read from a hockey book. Among the questions:

- "Do you like working for the Ducks?" 
- "Are you friends with any of the players?" 
- "Do you like working for the Ducks?"
- "Where do you sit during the games?"
- "Where have you traveled?"
- "Do you like working for the Ducks?"

(Okay, maybe they weren't all exactly listening to everything. But that might have been because they were distracted by the mid-session visit from Wild Wing, during which I became invisible. Wild Wing did his normal routine, sitting on kids' laps, posing for pictures, messing up people's hair. That included mine for the second time that day, which made me look like I was wearing a toupee the rest of the afternoon. (Sometimes being friends with the guy in the costume isn't all it's cracked up to be.)

After Wild Wing left, the questions for me took on a different theme:

- "How much does Wild Wing weigh?" 
- "What does Wild Wing do during the games?"
- "How old is he?"

That last question threw me for a loop, because you're not quite sure if fourth-graders grasp that there is a dude inside that giant duck (Hey, I don't have kids. I don't know how much they know.) So, when I thought about his age and surmised that he was probably born when the team launched in 1993, I said, "He's 16." That brought a few puzzled looks. "The guy inside there is only 16?" one child asked.

"Oh ... Okay," I conceded. "I think he's in his 30s or something."

One girl, who yelled "You're handsome!" when Wild Wing left the classroom and another asked, "Does Wild Wing have a girlfriend?"

"Okay, let's move on," I said.

I got into the book, but thanks to modern technology, I didn't have to master that schoolteachers' skill of reading from it sideways so the kids can see the picture. Mrs. Jones had a projector that captures the image of the book and shoots it onto a giant screen. (Geez, when I was in fourth grade, I thought those loud reel-to-reel movie projectors were as cool as it gets.)

That was followed by another round of questions until finally Mrs. Jones said we had time for just one more before lunch. "So, make it a good one," she said. An enthusiastic girl raised her hand and I called on her. "Can you sign autographs for us?" she asked.

Excellent last question.

We handed out Ducks Digests to the kids and I began scribbling away. One girl asked me to sign the sleeve of her white Mighty Ducks jersey, which I gladly did (my first jersey autograph). Unfortunately, that set off a chain reaction. One kid had me sign the classroom tissue box, because earlier Wild Wing had used one of the tissues to fake-blow his nose. Another boy asked me to sign his orange Ducks t-shirt and I did. Another boy asked me to sign his completely non-Ducks t-shirt. Then another girl asked me to sign her nice purple top. That's when I started to hesitate, thinking of how her mom would react if she came home and had an illegible form of my signature inked on the sleeve of her daughter's Gap Kids shirt. "Um," I said, "better go ask your teacher."

An hour later we held the assembly for the entire school, in which Giguere and Marchant were introduced, clad in home Ducks jerseys and flip flops. Marchant read from the kids hockey book "Brady Brady and Great Rink" and afterward the two of them answered a series of questions from the kids. The best was when Marchant talked about taking up hockey as a 3-year-old and how he hated every moment of it -- how cold it was, how the ice soaked him when he fell. He refused to play, and when his dad asked him what he wanted to do with all that equipment, 3-year-old Todd said, "Sell it." Luckily, he eventually changed his mind.

Giguere, meanwhile, talked about being forced into the game by his four brothers and one sister, who played all the time on frozen ponds and makeshift backyard rinks. And since Jiggy was the youngest, he was automatically put in goal. "I guess that worked out for me," he said with a smile.

Marchant, who was made for this stuff, ended the assembly by urging the kids to follow their dreams and to never stop working on making them come true. "We're living proof," he said, "that they can."

- - -
George Parros submitted a second edition of his blog for the L.A. Times website, in which he writes: I'm sure some of you are tuning in to figure out what has gone wrong this week, in which case you might be out of luck, for I have no answers ... But all of us have agreed that it is not good enough. We are determined to right this ship and attitudes were better today in practice as we were a more determined bunch looking forward to Saturday’s game against Columbus.

Parros also writes that his cousin happens to now be stationed at the same military base just outside of Barstow that he and Bobby Ryan visited over the summer. So for [tonight's] game, my cousin and one of his buddies on base are coming down to our game to see what OUR life is like in the military zone we call Honda Center. Hopefully we can make it a more hostile environment for visitors, we certainly owe that much to our fans. See you all Saturday Night.

- - -
I almost forgot that a former Duck got some love on one of my favorite shows, "How I Met Your Mother," on Monday night, which I was reminded of when Todd Marchant mentioned it yesterday at the school. In the episode, the character Robin (who is Canadian) finds herself in Toronto when a the female cashier at Tim Horton's (which for the uninformed, is the Canadian version of Starbucks) asks her if she "saw the game last night." Robin doesn't know what she's talking about, so the girl incredulously says with a heavy accent, "The Leafs game ... Beauchemin went five-hole in OT!"

Unfortunately for the writers, the Leafs haven't won a game yet this year. That's okay, though. Two seasons ago they had Robin utter a line about meeting Mason Raymond at a Canucks game, at a time when Raymond hadn't yet played an NHL game.

Updated October 22 at 12:47 p.m.

In the end, the Anaheim Ducks just needed more time.

More time to find a way to punch in that tying goal, more time to reap the fruits of their labor in the third period, more time to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves in the first 40 minutes of that 4-2 loss to Dallas. So many times in those feverish closing moments, the Ducks tilting the ice dramatically in their favor, it looked like the boys in black would squeeze the puck through Marty Turco and tie the game. But when Steve Ott dumped the puck into the empty Anaheim net with 8.4 seconds remaining, it was that buzzkill you feel when your rollercoaster car putters back into the station.

And the way the Ducks looked over those final 20 minutes was a stark contrast to their mostly flat play in the opening two periods, when they gave up three Dallas goals. And there was plenty of rancor to go around in the Ducks locker room afterward. 

Ryan Getzlaf: "We didn't start playing until the third period. That's not acceptable in this league. We tried to put a game together in 20 minutes. It's 60."

Jonas Hiller: "You can't have two periods playing terrible and think you can come back in the third."

Scott Niedermayer: "Brutal."

The frustration was clearly brewing after the Ducks got off to another slow start last night, falling behind 1-0 when Loui Eriksson poked in a rebound 13:01 into the first. The Ducks escaped that period down just 1-0, but Dallas doubled the lead 4:17 into the second by taking advantage of a big mistake for the Ducks. Jonas Hiller went behind the net to play the puck and lost control of it, and before he could get back home, Brenden Morrow had hammered it into the twine. Hiller could have left the puck for Scott Niedermayer behind him, but the communication broke down. "I thought he was going to get the puck and he thought I was going to put it on his stick," Hiller said. "That kind of thing happens, but it shouldn't."

A few minutes later, Trevor Daley clanged a one-timer off the inside of the post and in with the Ducks on the penalty kill, and Dallas went up 3-0. But before that second straight lackluster period expired, Getzlaf took matters into his own hands, turning on the after-burners to lose Karlis Skrastins and charging in on Turco before flipping the puck over him. It was the first of the year for Getzlaf ("About time I did something anyway," he'd later say) and more importantly, ensured the Ducks wouldn't go into the second break down three goals. It also got the crowd back in the game, notably the dude with the white beard and no mustache at the 19-second mark of this clip that prompted Dallas TV analyst Daryl Reaugh to calmy say, "Santa's happy."

Santa was probably even happier when a rejuvenated Ducks team that was attacking throughout the third finally cashed in on a fortuitous goal by Joffrey Lupul 8:35 into the third. Lupul tried to one-time a Corey Perry feed but barely got the stick blade on it, and it kicked off his skate, then went off Skrastins before sneaking under Turco

Unfortunately, the Ducks couldn't find a way to get another, and fans undoubtedly left the building thrilled by the heated finish but at the same time wondering to themselves, Where was that all night?

"It’s a positive sign on one hand," Randy Carlyle said about that third period, "but on the other hand it’s not from the standpoint that it lets them off the hook for the rest of the game," he said. "And that’s not what we’re about.”

Asked whether some changes might be in store, Carlyle said, “I have some things in mind that I’m definitely going to implement.”

- - -

In case you've missed it, we're two episodes into our promotion in which fans guest host Ducks TV. (Watch the first episode with host Jaye from last Saturday night and last night's episode with Melissa.) You can still submit an entry to be considered as a host and later in the season we will be giving fans the opportunity to vote on their favorite hosts.

Updated October 21 at 2:58 p.m.

It's his groin.

It's not every day I can start out this blog by writing something like that, so I figured I'd jump on the opportunity this time. Randy Carlyle and J.S. Giguere revealed to reporters today that the injury that's been hampering the goalie the past few days, and caused him to leave the ice mid-practice yesterday, is a strained groin. Both also admitted that Giguere did aggravate it during the period and a half he played against St. Louis last Saturday night. But, Giguere said, he thinks he will be available to back up Jonas Hiller tonight against Dallas. Still, as a precaution, the Ducks did recall Justin Pogge from Bakersfield.

Giguere didn't take part in the skate this morning, but did undergo some stretching exercises, and maintained that the injury is nothing serious. “It’s really not that bad,” he said. “It happened last game. I didn’t miss any days.”

Said Randy Carlyle, “It’s settled down. He feels much better today than it did yesterday, so there’s still a question mark.”

James Wisniewski remains a game-time decision, but if he is activated, and the Ducks do not put Giguere on the IR, they puts them over the 23-man roster limit and they will have to make some kind of move. That would likely mean sending Pogge back down, but that's of course not an option if the Ducks have to put Giguere on injured reserve.

Meanwhile, there is a game to play tonight against a Dallas team that comes in a lot more banged up than the Ducks. They have been missing four key guys -- Mike Modano, Steve Ott, Brad Richards and Jere Lehtinen -- and suited up a lineup that included nine players 24 or younger in a 4-1 loss at L.A. on Monday. Ott, the enforcer who misses four games with a strained oblique, could return to the lineup tonight. Neither Modano (ribs) nor Lehtinen (intercostals muscle; whatever that is) are on the trip and both were placed on IR yesterday.

The 39-year-old Modano (Dallas' all-time leader in scoring against the Ducks) has missed all but the first game of the season. He was hoping to be back in the lineup already, but tweaked the rib injury during a morning skate last Friday. “I tried a one-timer from [Mike] Ribeiro, and it just fell apart,” Modano said. “It’s so frustrating. It’s this little rib thing, and you would think it would be no big deal, but you just can’t play when you tweak it. It literally is killing you when you try to play.”

Literally? Geez, I hope not.

For the Ducks, it's an important one tonight to prove that last Saturday's 5-0 loss to St. Louis was just an off night. And Carlyle worked the team hard enough the last few days in practice to hammer out the kinks. “In my mind," he said yesterday, "we just haven’t played hard enough consistently enough. And that’s the reason we’re a .500 hockey club."

On a personal note, the last two games I've attended in this town were a 5-0 loss to St. Louis and a demoralizing 10-1 Angels defeat to the Yankees last night. What do you say we turn this thing around tonight? On another personal note, Courtney Duckworth (the girl I recruited after meeting her at a wedding) is singing the anthem again tonight.

Updated October 20 at 4:12 p.m.

The big story out of Ducks practice today at Honda Center was J.S. Giguere, who left the ice in the middle of the session (to be replaced aptly by 52-year-old goaltending coach Pete Peeters). After it was over, Randy Carlyle was more than ready for what he could see coming from reporters.

"Who's first?" he yelled out to the gathering of notebook-grippers. "Come on, there's got to be one 'What's going on with Giguere? question."

So, what's going on with Giguere?

"He left the ice early, so there was something wrong," Carlyle said with a grin. "We'll make an assessment and see where he is tomorrow morning. He's had a nagging problem, but it's something that's reared its head on the weekend."

Carlyle would not disclose the nature of the ailment, only to say that it was a "body injury" and clarified that it was not aggravated in his appearance Saturday against St. Louis, when he played the last period and a half in place of Jonas Hiller. The coach said that if need be, the Ducks would call up either Justin Pogge or Timo Pielmeier, both of whom are traveling with the Ducks ECHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, for a three-game set in Victoria, British Columbia against the Salmon Kings.

Salmon Kings?

If Anaheim was to call on either of those two, it would have to be by tonight for them to make it in time for tomorrow's 7:05 puck drop against Dallas.

Reporters eventually descended on Giguere. "I heard Randy filled you guys in," he joked. And then he went on: "It's something that's been bugging me for a few days here and it's not bad. I've been practicing every day. But it's something that I've got to stay on top of right now and hope that it's going to get better over the next few days." 

Giguere also wouldn't disclose the location of the injury, even when one reporter pulled out a Raggedy Ann doll and asked him to point to where it hurts on the doll. (Okay, that didn't happen.) Like Carlyle, he called it "a body injury."

"I'm not too worried about it because I haven't missed any days because of it," Giguere said. "Hopefully I'll be okay tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Giguere said that aside from the ailment, he likes where his game is right now. "I'm feeling super good out there on the ice," he said. "I'm seeing the puck well, I have constant energy when I play. I would love to get on a roll and play a lot of games and get comfortable. Hopefully that will come shortly, but there are only certain things I can control to make that happen. I'm just going to take it one day at a time and hopefully when my chance is going to come, everything else will come at the same time and I'll be able to run with it.

"The key is not to worry too much about the next game and just worry about the one you're in. I can't afford to lose more hair, so I'm just going to take it easy here."

In other news, James Wisniewski took part in a full practice and could very well be available for tomorrow night after nursing a shoulder sprain.

"He looks fine," Carlyle said. "He has put himself in a situation where we will make a decision on how he feels. If he feels he is ready to play tomorrow night after warmup, then there is a good chance we'll play him. If he feels he needs more time, he'll have an assessment done."

Updated October 19 at 1:43 p.m.

Just in case you thought the Ducks were taking lightly that 5-0 defeat to the Blues last Saturday night, witness the two-hour practice Randy Carlyle put the team through Sunday afternoon when the rest of us were watching football. Clearly Carlyle was sending the message that performance was unacceptable, but rather than put the team through a bag skate, Carlyle instead chose to focus on getting the team better. That included work on the offensive end, notably a power play that's 0 for its last 17.

”I’m totally against [a bag skate] because I don’t think you get any benefit other than you’re exacting some revenge against them, and that’s not what it’s about," Carlyle said. "It’s about making them better, preparing them for the next one. Hopefully they get that message.”

Of course, coaches have been putting players through bag skates (a long, hard-skating workout) ever since the invention of the frozen pond. A high-profile example comes in this memorable scene from "Miracle" when Herb Brooks put the team through one after a lackluster game against Norway (remember, "Again ... again"?). Having the topic brought up yesterday got me thinking (TANGENT ALERT) about the origin of the term. Turns out, no one seems to know. Some people think it's because coaches used to have players skate around sand bags placed around the ice. Some think it's because trainers used to put bags rinkside in case players needed to vomit, which in that case could make it called a barf bag skate. (One buddy of mine says his college team used to put a large trash can at center ice for just that purpose.) Another guess is because the pucks are left in the bag for that part of practice. There is also a slightly more graphic theory that you can find in this recent story in The Globe and Mail, which points out that the Canucks and Leafs have already gone through versions of bag skates this year.

Back to the Ducks, who in practice the last two days had Joffrey Lupul back on the second line with the two Finns, while employing a third line of Marchant-Christensen-Nokelainen and a fourth of some combo of Brown-Carter-Parros-Artyukhin. Lupul had been playing with Artyukhin and Marchant the last couple of games and Carlyle said he's still trying to find the right fit for him.

“I think it’s been a little bit unfair to him at times,” Carlyle said “We’ll make a decision come Wednesday where he fits in.”

Said Lupul about it: “I think I have some offense to give. But again, it comes down to playing the best with whatever situation I’m in. I’m confident I can play on either line, any line. Sometimes you have to modify your game a little bit depending on which guys you’re with. Right now I feel good out there. I’ve had a lot of chances that I haven’t really converted on, so I’m not too concerned about that. I think the offense is going to come.”
- - -
I can't tell you how many times I've seen the puck dumped into the corner at Honda Center, where it takes a crazy bounce off the glass to the front of the net. And it always seems to be the Ducks net for some odd reason. Let's just be thankful this hasn't happened yet.
- - -

I'm watching the Angels-Yankees matinee on TV right now, kicking myself that I'm not across the street at the game. But at least by watching it on TV I'm able to notice (on EVERY pitch) that somehow Pat Sajak is sitting in the suite directly behind home plate.

Man, that guy is everywhere (click the photo on the right).

Updated October 16 at 3:34 p.m.

No team better represents the oddities of the Western Conference through just over a fortnight into this season than the St. Louis Blues group that comes in here tomorrow night. The only team hotter than the Ducks over the final stretch of the season last year were the Blues, who were in last place in the West in mid-February and went 19-6-3 from that point to nab the sixth playoff spot.

This year started off just as hot, as the Blues took down Detroit twice in season-opening games in Stockholm, both of which were like Red Wings home games because of the plethora of Swedes on their roster. But the Blues have yet to win a game in North America this season, having lost at home to Atlanta and L.A., then dropping one in overtime in Phoenix last night.

Of course, it's early, and that's the same thing you can say about the Western Conference standings at this point. Colorado sits on top with Chicago (the Avs holding first place through a tiebreaker) after finishing last in the conference a season ago. Phoenix (tops in the Pacific right now) is third after finishing 13th last year, while the Kings are sixth after finishing 14th last year. San Jose is 10th (just behind the Ducks), Detroit is 11th and Vancouver -- thought by many to be a Cup contender -- is 13th.

Again, it's early. And like the weather, chances are this will look a lot different in April. (Okay, maybe not the weather in Orange County; no joke, it's 91 degrees in Anaheim as I write this.)

The Ducks were back practicing at Honda Center this afternoon after taking yesterday off. Injury-wise, Randy Carlyle confirmed that James Wisniewski is still scheduled to be back for next Wednesdays game at home against Dallas after missing the last two games with a sprained right shoulder. Wisniewski skated but avoided any contact and Carlyle said, “He’s made great strides from three days ago to where he is today.”

Ryan Whitney left the ice early, though Carlyle wouldn't elaborate on what the injury was, only cracking that "It's in the body" and "It's not hangnail." Carlyle added that Whitney is "probable" for tomorrow. "Nobody’s told me anything different," he said.

The Ducks did have Andrew Ebbett in practice, despite the fact he was put on waivers this morning. If no teams claim Ebbett by 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, the Ducks have the option of reassigning him to the minors or keeping him up here. Ebbett has played in two of the Ducks' six games this season.

Tomorrow night's game will not be televised and will be carried via radio on AM 1090. The Ducks will also be giving away free t-shirts tomorrow night, a nice black one which will be a refreshing change from the 14 or so orange ones I have managed to sneak out of this place and jam in my dresser drawer.

- - -

If you haven't checked out Joffrey Lupul's first In the Loops blog, it's a good, often funny, read that reveals a different side of the Ducks winger. He's going to continue blogging all season, mostly answering questions from fans. So, if you've got anything in mind for him, ask your question on this page

And speaking of blogs, George Parros has started one on the L.A. Times website that so far is equally entertaining. Parros gives a pretty candid recap of his fight against big John Scott of the Wild from October 6, admitting that he was tentative in that fight after coming off a hand injury. He caught me with a pure right that sent me to the ice, probably one of the cleanest punches I have eaten in my career. Admittedly, I had no business fighting him with a three-goal lead in the third period on the road, but I did anyway and sparked a Wild comeback. So if there ever are any doubters out there who think that a fight can’t change momentum in a game and that it is just some excuse we use to justify our roles, simply watch this game.

Parros goes on to say that Scott tried to talk him into another fight two nights ago when the Ducks were up 2-0 at Honda Center. I burst out laughing and said, “Are you kidding me? Do you know how much heat I caught for fighting with the lead last game?” I told him if they came back and had momentum on their side, then we could have another chat.

Parros also begins to explain why Bobby Ryan had Ducks autographs on his arm (something I was wondering) during last night's Face-Off Fest for season ticket holders. Apparently, Bobby lost a bet with Parros and Mike Brown on the tee box during a round of golf yesterday. We have a team signing tonight and Browny and I get to autograph Bobby’s arm with a Sharpie the whole evening. The best part about the bet is that I am sure every one of the fans will be asking Bobby why the signatures are on his arm, and he’ll have to answer the same question for three hours straight. I think one of my favorite things to do is invent stupid stakes for proposition bets.

I emailed George earlier today complimenting him on the blog and adding, It's almost as good as mine. I got back: Thanks, Brady. You set the bar high.

Too bad there isn't a sarcasm font for emails.

Updated October 15 at 3:03 p.m.

There's a guy in our office who has a major -- almost unhealthy -- man crush on Corey Perry. (No, this isn't a room in his house, but it might as well be.) Every time Perry does anything remotely good on the ice, my phone vibrates with a text from this guy -- and they usually say something like "Best hands in the show" or "Hall of Famer." 

So you can imagine this guy was pretty busy early last night, when Perry had two goals in the first 8 1/2 minutes (and came within a whisper of a third on a couple occasions) in leading the Ducks to a 3-2 victory over the Wild. Remarkably, they were the first goals in the first period for the Ducks all season, and both of them were things of beauty.

The first came just 1:41 into the first period as Perry knocked the puck down with his chest after former Duck Shane Hnidy tried to sweep it out of the zone, then got ahead of Hnidy on his way to the net. As he swooped in front of goalie Niklas Backstrom, he skidded and swung to his backhand, leaving the puck behind himself like a commuter dropping a token into a subway turnstile. (The fist pump with a dejected Backstrom in the background is captured in this great photo.)

The second came less than seven minutes later, after Perry received a nice Bobby Ryan pass from out of the corner and found himself face to face with Backstrom again. And again moving from his left to his right, Perry waited, waited, waited ... and waited some more for Backstrom to go down before flipping it netward. It's that jaw-dropping patience that Perry has put in display on a number of goals the past couple of seasons, as he may be one of the best in the league in waiting out the goalie before firing. Here's another example from that 6-1 Boston win last week, in which Brian Hayward comments on "that hesitation move that he does as well as anyone."

Perry, by the way, has never had an NHL hat trick, and the way he was going after it following those two goals, it kind of felt like he might do it last night. He was also out there with the Minnesota net empty in the final minute, and Ryan Whitney nearly got him the puck around the red line, but it was just knocked away. "If it ever happens, it happens," Perry said of getting his first hattie. "I'm not pushing it."

The Ducks did get a third goal as a team in the second period when the nicest kid in Anaheim, Ryan Carter, scored his first of the season off a rebound. Seeing a couple of teammates hovering around the crease, Mike Brown wisely threw the puck on net from along the right wing wall. It kicked off Backstrom and Carter was there to punch it underneath him.

That gave the Ducks a 3-0 lead, and observant fans had to be noticing it was the same cushion the Ducks took into the third period in Minnesota last week and let the Wild come all the way back. Minnesota started to do just that in the second when Eric Belanger picked off the puck and slung it past the outstretched glove of Jonas Hiller. But Minnesota wouldn't strike again until the too-little-too-late zone, when Kyle Brodziak poked the puck under Hiller and Andrew Brunette chipped it into the wide open net. It was a bad break for Hiller, who really had a nice night otherwise (32 stops). Brunette, coincidentally, also had the last Minny goal in their overtime win over the Ducks, but this one would be far less impactful.

It was the first home win for the Ducks and Perry remarked how the team wants to get back to their dominating ways at Honda Center, and you can bet you'll soon be seeing this quote on a Honda Center video board very soon: "This is our home rink. It is where we want to get our wins. We want to own this building."

They certainly did that last night, and here's to them doing it again and again on this homestand.

Here's to lots more Perry text messages as well.
- - -
If you haven't had this emailed to you already, check out this ridiculous goal by a 9-year-old kid in a skills competition held at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. (The description on the YouTube page says it was held during the intermission of a Bruins game, which doesn't seem likely since the stands are almost empty.)

The kid's name is Oliver Wahlstrom, and his uniform may look slightly familiar since he plays for the Portland Junior Pirate Pee-Wee Major 97s. Apparently he's the only 9-year-old on a team of 12-year-olds, and you can plainly see why.

Entertainment-wise, running a close second to the actual goal is the completely dumbfounded goalie, who barely even turns as the puck sails by him. 

Updated October 14 at 3:12 p.m.

It's almost like the home opener all over again since it's been so long since the Ducks launched the season at Honda Center against San Jose. And having a do-over would be just find for the Ducks, who suffered a disappointing 4-1 loss in that game 11 nights ago. The Ducks also have to be looking forward to a chance to do things over again with a Wild team that handed the Ducks a tough loss in last week's second game of the year.

The Ducks carried a 3-0 lead into the third period of that game in St. Paul, only to let the Wild claw all the way back and win it in overtime. “We blew that game in Minnesota," said Ryan Whitney after practice yesterday, "so we have some payback for them."

Remarkably, that victory was the only one of the young season for Minnesota, which is 1-3-0 and sits last in the Western Conference. And things aren't getting any easier for them, as they continue to be banged up. Center Pierre-Marc Bouchard is out with a concussion, while wingers Cal Clutterbuck and Petr Sykora are listed as doubtful with ankle and groin injuries, respectively. Tough guy Derek Boogaard, who hasn't played since suffering a concussion in a Sept. 18 exhibition game, reportedly plans to be in the lineup tonight. That's a bit of a surprise since Boogaard, who has been trying to get back into playing shape by (of all things) sparring in the boxing ring, had indicated he wouldn't be ready to go this early after practicing with the team at Honda Center on Monday. "I'm trying to get back as soon as I can," he said that afternoon.

Whether Boogaard is going to be willing to drop the gloves, if the situation commands, will remain to be seen. But you can bet George Parros would like a little bit of payback after losing a fight in that game in Minnesota to 6-8, 258-pound rookie John Scott (a moment some Wild players called the turning point in that game).

The Ducks, of course, are still without one of their bruisers, defenseman James Wisniewski, who continues to nurse a sprained right shoulder suffered in the win over Philadelphia last Saturday. Wisniewski told reporters yesterday he believes he'll be back as early as next Wednesday (home game vs. Dallas) and plans to start skating by the end of this week.

“The schedule has actually worked out perfect if I was going to be hurt for 10 days,” Wisniewski said. “We play Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday and then Wednesday. It’s spaced out perfectly. We’re not playing every other day or something where I’d miss like six games in the span of 10 days or so.”

Wisniewski was a little ticked off at how he suffered the shoulder injury in the third period of that Flyers game. It came as a result of a Daniel Briere check while Wisniewski was down on the ice in the Anaheim zone. “He decided to finish his check while I’m lying on the ice,” Wisniewski said.  “Well, my arms were laying straight out. Actually, he even went a little bit lower to get a little more piece of me, which to me is kind of a dirty hit. I mean, there’s no need to do that when a guy is in a vulnerable spot to go ahead and finish your check. But that happened. Stuff happens. My shoulder just kind of got crunched against the boards and that was it.”

Wisniewski's absence for the time being puts the onus on other Ducks d-men to pick up some slack, since Wisniewski was eating up a lot of minutes while he was in there. “These guys have got to step up and do something that’s not normally asked of you when a guy who plays a lot of minutes is out,” Whitney said. “That’s what we’re going to need.”

Meanwhile, the Ducks are also looking at tonight to reverse a slow-starting trend that has seen them fail to score a first-period goal in all five games. “When that puck drops, we have to be ready to go,” said Todd Marchant, expected to be in the lineup today despite the injured side he suffered Sunday in NYC. “That is something that we need to figure out and figure out quickly. Let’s get a goal in the first period or the first goal in the game. Let’s get the first hit, draw the first penalty and win the first faceoff. If your first on the puck and you’re doing things first, chances are the other team is going to be trying to catch up to you. Little things like that can make a difference in the hockey game.”

Let's hope we see that this evening, in what we're calling Opening Night Part Deux. (Okay, nobody is calling it that.) Tickets are still available and we're handing out free magnet schedules to all fans in attendance. That should be enough to pull you into Honda Center tonight.

Yeah, that's right. I said it.

Updated October 13 at 2:58 p.m.

The Ducks got back to it this afternoon for their first practice in Anaheim in about 10 days, coming back from the four-city road trip. And actually it was their first practice at Honda Center so far this season, as the Ducks got bumped a couple of times by the arena's prep for shows. Ironically enough, the Minnesota Wild had their first practice at Honda Center in 2009-10 before the Ducks did, as they skated yesterday after getting in from San Jose, where they lost 4-2 on Saturday. (More on the Wild tomorrow.)

Later yesterday on the Honda Center ice, we spent hours (very cold hours) shooting Power Players photos and video bios, so look for those to make their way onto the website later this month.

But today was all about the Ducks getting ready for Wednesday night and a stretch that will see them play their next six games at home. We'll have video of players' comments about the road trip later in the day, including an interview with Luca Sbisa, which is a reminder of how well-spoken he is for a 19-year-old kid born in Italy and raised in Switzerland.

One of the big stories from today was the health of Todd Marchant, who hobbled off the ice Sunday at MSG after falling awkwardly into the boards from a shove by Rangers d-man Dan Girardi. Marchant skated today and said he has some soreness in his left side but is okay overall.

Marchant watched a replay of the fall this morning and remarked, "It looked like it hurt. I put myself in a bad position. I was trying to go to the net and I got turned. I got a little push and went into the boards. I felt like my entire body was somewhere else for awhile. But I feel pretty good today, better than yesterday. I should be okay for tomorrow.

"I was lucky I just got my head turned in time. I went in backwards, thankfully. Again, it’s one of those situations where you’re playing the game of hockey. I was trying to cut around him and get to the net. As I got to a point where I knew I wasn’t going to get around him, I was just trying to take a shot. As I took a shot, I opened up my shoulder a little bit and he gave me a little push. That play happens a lot. It happened at the right time. I was off-balance a little bit. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me. Nothing is broke. That is always a good thing."

We've got one other thing coming later today on the site -- the first Joffrey Lupul blog. So stay tuned for that.

Updated October 12 at 12:58 p.m.

The way our minds work, we tend to remember the more recent moments a lot more clearly than the ones that occurred previously. (You remember your last birthday a lot better than your fourth, for example.) And that's a shame when it comes to the Ducks this past weekend.

The memory of Anaheim's thrilling shootout victory in Philadelphia on Saturday was somewhat suppressed by the 3-0 loss at Madison Square Garden yesterday afternoon that ended a four-game road swing. But that defeat shouldn't take away from the tremendous win over the Flyers in which the Ducks snatched victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to the heroics of their 39-year-old winger.

Teemu Selanne brought the Ducks back from a 2-0 deficit late in the third period with two goals, plus the only conversion in the shootout. And while all the credit goes to Selanne for the shot that won it, he definitely had some help in getting the Ducks that far. Selanne's goal that cut the Flyers lead in half with 6:44 left was set up beautifully by a long pinpoint pass out of the Anaheim end by Ryan Whitney. That enabled Selanne to shoot a quick wrister past Ray Emery, playing his first game against the Ducks since Game 5 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final (you probably remember what happened in that game).

Selanne's game-tying strike with just 16 seconds left may never have happened if not for the work of Ryan Getzlaf at both ends. Getzlaf slid back in front of the empty Anaheim net to deny Mike Richards shot from center ice, then seconds later he reached up high to glove a Philadelphia clearing attempt as the clock wound down. Getzlaf then quickly got the puck to Niedermayer along the wall, who made a gorgeous backhand pass across the top of the crease (right in front of Chris Pronger) to give Selanne a yawning net to chip it into. (Pronger, it should be noted, made the game 2-0 in the second with a power play one-timer from the point that looked awfully familiar.)

Selanne was the only one to cash in during the shootout, thanks in great part to Jonas Hiller thwarting all three Flyers attempts, including a couple where he was slightly fooled but sprawled out to make the stop.

(By the way, if you want another way to rekindle your memory of that Philly contest, check out these great photos taken both before and after the game. I'm a big photo guy, so I really love these, especially this funky one of Selanne during warmups and this one of the winner in the shootout.)

It was a phenomenal win for the Ducks, but came with a price (in a couple of ways). James Wisniewski suffered a sprained right shoulder late in the third period and is now listed as "week to week" (with Brendan Mikkelson called up to fill in for him). Meanwhile, the energy exerted in that game -- and the fact the Ducks played in four cities in six nights -- may have taken its toll when the bout with the Rangers came less than 20 hours after the Ducks cleared out of the Wachovia Center locker room.

"When your hockey club is standing still making plays, it shows they are a little bit worn down," Randy Carlyle said in the Garden hallway. "We played last night in an emotional comeback. It's hard to recapture that."

J.S. Giguere did all he could to keep the Ducks in the game, holding the Rangers scoreless through two periods while his teammates were also unable to find the net. And Giguere suffered a bad break early in the third period, when an Ales Kotalik slap shot on the power play nicked off Niedermayer's stick and the resulting changeup fooled an in-position Giguere. That power play was set up when Ryan Whitney threw down Sean Avery in front of the net, earning a roughing minor.

“Jiggy was there,” Niedermayer said. “I don’t know. It’s a tough play. You try to obviously get in front of shots, but then at the same time, you deflect it by the goalie. That’s no good either.”

The Rangers made it 2-0 on a power play goal by rookie Artem Anisimov with 5:38 left, but when the Ducks were granted a four-minute power play with 2:24 remaining (off a Brandon Dubinsky high stick) somehow you felt like they might make something happen. (The Philly game the night before definitly instilled that instinct.)

Randy Carlyle gambled by running Hiller to the bench to give the Ducks a 6-on-4 advantage, but Dan Girardi made a ridiculous shot from deep in his own corner into the abandoned Ducks cage.

If the Ducks were feeling sluggish in that one, it showed in the first as they were outshot 13-1 in the first period, a slow start that has bitten the Ducks on a few occasions in the young season. Asked about it last night, Carlyle said, “Are they bothering me? For sure.” And Niedermayer added, “You’re always concerned with areas that you can be better at, and that’s an obvious one,” he said.

The Sunday defeat put a bad aftertaste on what wasn't such a bad road trip, in which the Ducks went 2-1-1 (including last Tuesday's tough-to-take overtime loss in Minnesota). Last night's loss was the first in 12 road games (dating back to last season) in which the Ducks failed to earn a point (9-0-3).

(There was, however, still a positive for the city of Anaheim on Sunday when the Angels pulled off that miraculous victory in Fenway Park to finish the sweep of the Red Sox. From a Ducks angle, that means Ryan Whitney has to wear a Speedo to lunch with Roger Lodge, as promised in a bet made during this interview on The Sports Lodge show. A bet's a bet, but I'm really hoping Whitney doesn't pay off on this one.)

The Ducks play their next six in a row at home, starting with this Wednesday night against the Wild again. Pick up a win in that one, and the memory of how the road trip ended will fade in a hurry.

Updated October 9 at 11:14 a.m.

When you've gotten off to a rocky start in the young season, you'd ideally like that first win to be pretty emphatic.

Last night in Boston, the Anaheim Ducks left no doubt.

The Ducks dropped a 6-1 beatdown on the Bruins, a team believed to be one of the Cup contenders out of the East, in their own barn to not only lock down that first victory but drown some of the disappointment of what happened Tuesday in Minnesota. 

There is so much to like about that game last night, I hardly know where to start, so how 'bout we begin with the first two Ducks goals, both courtesy of (broken record alert) Teemu Selanne on the power play. The first wiped out the 1-0 lead that the Bruins carried into the second period after Marco Sturm slapped the puck under Hiller late in the opening period (more on Hiller later). As much as Selanne got the spotlight for the one-timer from the high slot, Scott Niedermayer deserves as much credit for keeping the puck alive and getting it to Selanne, and Corey Perry gets some for rendering goalie Tim Thomas blind to the shot by expertly screening him. 

The second one (82 seconds later) was all-Teemu, as he practically took the loose puck off Perry's stick and had the patience to send it to his backhand from inside the crease and lift it home.

And you never saw such patience as displayed by Perry on his first of the season, 13:02 into the second. Racing down the left wing, Perry looked as if he might fire from the circle, but he instead hesitated and cut across the middle, where he got Thomas to go down before popping the water bottle.

But unlike Tuesday night in Minnesota, the Ducks kept pouring it on. They made it 4-1 at 6:26 into the third thanks to big, giant Evgeny Artyukhin's second in as many nights. Artyukhin was set up on a mini-breakaway by a phenomenal cross-ice pass by Joffrey Lupul and Artyukhin used two of his gifts -- size and speed -- to fend off defenseman Matt Hunwick and wrist it past Thomas.

Bobby Ryan's goal, a redirect off the shaft of his stick, with 7:14 left was more insurance than the Ducks actually needed, but it still carried a lot of weight. That's because Ryan (game-high-tying six shots on the night) had at least four opportunities in the early going go for naught, a couple of them thwarted by huge Thomas saves. The camera shot of the night was of the 22-year-old Ryan, his helmet off, noticeably hanging his head in frustration on the Anaheim bench. Then out of the side of the screen a gloved hand of one of his teammates appears, physically lifting Ryan's head up by the forehead. I had to replay it on my DVR to see who it was, and you could clearly see the name on the glove: PERRY.

Later Perry had more influence on the ice, while scoring Anaheim's very odd sixth goal on the penalty kill of all places. Lupul again set it up by going down to block a slap shot, a courageous move considering the Ducks already led by four goals with less than a minute left and the fact that Lupul took a hard shot to the visor and needed stitches above his eyebrow two nights prior. But this blocked shot kicked right to Perry, who streaked ahead of the defense and wristed a shot that bounced off Thomas, then ricocheted off Perry's visor and into the net. (That goal made No. 1 in Sportcenter's top 10 plays last night.) That's the kind of thing that happens to a team when everything is going right, and it certainly was for Anaheim.

Not only that, but it provided the second unique camera shot of the night, that of a laughing Randy Carlyle on the bench. And later we found out just what had cracked him up. Moments before the Perry goal, Teemu Selanne turned to Carlyle on the bench and asked, "Why is Corey Perry out there killing a penalty?" Before Teemu could even turn back around, Perry potted a shorty and all Carlyle needed to say was, "That's why."

Not to be forgotten in the scoring onslaught is the play of Hiller, who despite giving up a goal he'd like to have back in the first period, was very solid the rest of the way in stopping 33 of 34 Boston shots. “There were some shots that I don’t think he even saw,” Perry said. “They just hit him. That’s when you know your goalie is on and he’s playing well. “We need that from him He’s our backbone back there. If he’s going, we’re all going.”

Also lost in the production on the other side of the ice was the fact the Ducks killed all six Boston power plays, no small feat considering the Bs had four PP goals in their last game.

And it was a heck of a night for Anaheim over Boston all around, as later in the night the Angels took down the Red Sox, 5-0, in what was surprisingly my first baseball playoff game since Game 4 of the 1986 ALCS, also between the Angels and Red Sox. (And by the way, what an atmosphere. I highly recommend it. And I'll be there again tonight.) 

Speaking of the Angels, it was just announced that Game 3 of that series will be a 9:07 a.m. Pacific first pitch (I'm not kidding), meaning there will be no conflict with the Ducks-Rangers game at 2 p.m. and it will be aired on AM 830.

But before that, the Ducks take on the Flyers (another Cup contender from the East) and Chris Pronger tomorrow at 4 p.m. Pacific, in what will be the first game back in Philly for Lupul and Luca Sbisa.

So, Ducks on TV on Saturday and Sunday, Angels on Sunday morning followed by a full day of NFL. Look out, couch. It's going to be a rough weekend.
- - -

In case you missed it, Brad May signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings yesterday after joining them in camp on a pro tryout and he didn't take long to get acclimated. He suited up (not Barney Stinson suited up; hockey suited up) for last night's game against the Blackhawks and dropped the gloves with Radek Smolenak halfway through the first period. May clearly got the better of the fight, and if you watch the video (from where this picture comes), you can see that he and Smolenak talked each other into the throwdown before the faceoff.

And in typical May Day fashion, he couldn't stop chatting with the official before he skated off to the locker room to get treated.

“It sure was fun being out there,” May said after the game.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock noted that the Wings picked up May to boost a physical presence that often isn't there with their club. "We got the crap ran out of us," Babcock said of their opening games in Europe. "It's pretty interesting, we had May in a couple of exhibition games and no one got hacked or whacked or touched. We don't have him and we get run. You get tired of watching that."

I'm definitely happy that May has caught on somewhere this season, but seeing him in that red uniform just makes me a little uncomfortable.

Updated October 8 at 3:14 p.m.

We're less than an hour away from the liftoff of the Anaheim-Boston extravaganza, starting with Ducks-Bruins at 4 p.m. Pacific (from Boston) and Angels-Red Sox later in the evening. And coincidentally, both Anaheim teams are out to prove that a beating from last year has absolutely nothing to do with the battle going on right now.

The Ducks suffered a rough 6-0 loss the last time they were at TB Banknorth Garden, which just happened to come the same day they acquired Ryan Whitney in the trade that sent Chris Kunitz to Pittsburgh. Whitney, who happened to be in Boston at the time attending to his ill mother, debuted for the Ducks that very night. Oh, how far we've come since then. Whitney has since gone from a guy getting a feel for the Ducks system to one that Randy Carlyle is urging to get more involved in the Anaheim attack. Whitney talked to Eric Stephens of the O.C. Register about how much Carlyle presses him to fire the puck more.

“He talked to me before the season and said, ‘I just want you shooting the puck this year,’ ” said Whitney, who added that Carlyle reminds him to do that "a lot." And Whitney has done just that in the first two games this year, scoring the lone goal on opening night, and delivering a pinpoint slap shot that Joffrey Lupul tipped in during the second period in Tuesday night's loss to Minnesota.

“When I have a clear lane, I can shoot it,” said Whitney. “Even if it doesn’t go in, it creates rebounds if you’re hitting the net. You ask any coach, they want their defensemen shooting it and not passing up shots. You never know if it’s going to go in. You never know if it’s going to hit a foot or something.”

The Ducks will need some of that shooting and a tight penalty kill when they take on a Boston team that's 1-1 so far this season, coming off a 7-2 trouncing of Carolina at home in which they scored four power play goals. (The Ducks gave up three in that heartbreakier in Minnesota.) Anaheim will have to find a way to get the best of reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, who is 2-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average in three starts against the quack.

Carlyle hopes to get more production from the guys you expect it from -- the top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who haven't scored a goal (three assists though) in the first two games. Carlyle, commenting on the Tuesday night production of his second line, remarked, “On paper, they should be able to provide some offense,” the coach said. “Now we just have to wait for Getzlaf, Perry and Bobby Ryan to deliver some.

"If you ask each one of them, I’m sure they are quite capable of playing better than they have played.”

Those three, by the way, are among the top 15 of SI.com's Top 25 Players Under Age 25 list, which has to make Ducks fans pretty good about the team's future.

As far as the near future goes, they're in search of win No. 1 of the young season tonight in Boston.

- - -

More from SI, Corey Perry is among the four athletes in the weekly Pop Culture grid in the latest issue of the magazine. Here is how he answered the questions posed to each athlete:

My wedding gift to Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian
Lakers jersey Khloe can wear to Lamar's games   

____ should be the new Larry King
Chris Pronger
I need to get a new ____

First thing I drink in the morning

____ should tell his story on Oprah
Ryan Whitney
Favorite reality show
Big Brother
I'm most likely to stock my fridge with...
Ice cream

For the rest of the athlete's answers (including Landon Donovan's remark that his gift to Odom and Kardashian would be "a prenup"), click here.

Updated October 7 at 10:14 a.m.


So, that was interesting.

In case you looked away from the game last night with the Ducks leading 3-0 in the third period, satisfied that Anaheim had picked up its first victory of the young season -- well, you were a little surprised when you picked up the paper this morning or saw the score on the Sportscenter ticker late last night.

Wild 4, Ducks 3 (OT)

The Ducks looked very good for the first 2 1/2 periods or so, but three Minnesota goals in a span of just more than 11 minutes sent the game astonishly into overtime. And that's where Andrew Brunette won it 3:08 into the extra session on a power play goal following a James Wisniewski roughing call (more on that later).

That was the bad, but here was the good. The Ducks controlled play over the first two periods (with J.S. Giguere playing very well in his first start) and built their lead on second-period goals from three guys they picked up over the summer: Joffrey Lupul, Evgeny Artyukhin and Saku Koivu. And they scored them within a span of six minutes.

First was Lupul, who had a nice tip-in on what was a perfectly placed slap shot from the point by Ryan Whitney 4:57 into the second. Then it was Artyukhin a couple of minutes later, as the big fella was the beneficiary of a great cross-slot feed by Corey Perry that caught goalie Niklas Backstrom way out of position. (Check out the highlight, which is kind of eerie without any announcers on it.) And then just more than halfway through the session, it was Koivu on the power play, one-timing a bouncing puck off the inside of the post and in (another announcer-free highlight). 

Considering all three guys were with other teams when last season ended, there could have been a graphic on the screen that said, "These first three Ducks goals, brought to you by Bob Murray."

But the Ducks team that fought for that 3-0 cushion wasn't the same Ducks team that came out for the third, as build-the-lead mode turned to protect-the-lead mode (just two shots in the period) and it wasn't enough for a Wild team that has more firepower than it's had in the past.

"We didn't play well enough to win," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "Simple as that. It's a 60-minute game. We played 50 minutes."

Watching the game on TV, that third period sort of went like this:

- Saku's brother Mikko scores on the power play at 6:29. (No big deal, we're still up 3-1). 

- Former Duck Petr Sykora one-times one home from the slot to make it 3-2. (No ... big ... deal ... We're still up a goal with just 7:50 left.)

- Eric Belanger somehow slaps one under Giguere from the left wing (Son of a ... guess we'll have to win it in overtime.)

But as you probably know by now, that didn't happen. The Wild were set up with a power play 1:44 into the OT when Wisniewski and Kyle Brodziak got into a mini-tussle after a whistle and Wisniewski took a poke at a goading Brodziak. Wiz was the only of the two to get the gate, and the Ducks paid for it when Brunette poked through a rebound to win it.

"It was stupid," Wisniewski said in the locker room afterward. "Selfish penalty. It maybe cost us a chance for us to come back and win the game."

Carlyle indicated it should have been offsetting roughing minors, but still acknowledged it was an ill-timed penalty. "That's the difference," he said. "We reacted and it was the wrong reaction at the wrong time. Critical point in the game."

There are some games where you're content in getting a standings point. This was not one of them. I watched the game in my living room with my dad, and within two minutes of Brunette's goal, he was out the door.

And last night's win for the Wild capped off a pretty good 48 hours for the state of Minnesota that included the Vikings winning  on Monday night against Brett Favre's former team and the Twins taking the Central Division title in a thrilling tiebreaker game against Detroit that ended during the Ducks-Wild game.

Tomorrow night the Ducks battle the Bruins just before the Angels take on the Red Sox. Let's hope the city of Boston isn't feeling as elated when that night is through.

Updated October 6 at 2:36 p.m.

It's take two for the Ducks as they try to do to Minnesota tonight what the Sharks did to Anaheim three nights ago.

It's the Wild's home opener at Xcel Energy Center, a night when they haven't lost in the last seven years. Although all of those were under coach Jacques Lemaire, who had been the head coach since the franchise launched in 2000. The Wild parted ways with Lemaire in the offseason, and new coach Todd Richards (a former Sharks assistant) was brought in, seemingly incorporating a new style than the tight-defense-low-scoring one the Wild had been known for this decade. They didn't have a whole lot of defense in Game 1 of the season, giving up 39 shots in a 2-1 loss last Saturday night in Columbus. 

The hiring of Richards was part of a major summer makeover for the Wild, who also brought in a new general manager in Chuck Fletcher (a former Ducks executive) and signed last year's Blackhawks leading scorer Martin Havlat. "Before the game there was a little bit of butterflies - it wasn't anything major," said Richards, an assistant last year at San Jose. "When you got into it, you're watching it and you block out the environment and what's going on. It was a good crowd. But quite honestly, it felt like I was coaching in Albany and quite frankly, in Albany there's not a lot of people there. For me it was just another game."

In addition to each team looking for its first win of the season, tonight's game has a Koivu brothers subplot that takes on a little added significance after what transpired over the summer. Before signing with the Ducks as a free agent in July, many had assumed Saku Koivu would be poised to join brother Mikko in Minnesota. The Wild had reportedly offered Saku a multi-year contract to do just that, but he opted for one-year deal in Anaheim.

At the time, Saku said he just didn't feel comfortable with the idea of playing with Mikko in Minnesota, citing "too many risks." He reiterated that after talking with reporters yesterday. "I just didn’t feel like that was a spot to be in,” he said. “To compete for the same ice time and all that stuff … there was obviously a lot of potential in that thing and if everything worked out well, it could have been a good thing. But the risk I felt was too big to go. I was just afraid for the family chemistry and it was just a safer bet to play somewhere else.”

Saku had said back in July that Mikko definitely understood big brother's position, and his comments yesterday reflected that. "I left it totally up to Saku and his family. I didn’t want to say anything,” said the 26-year-old Mikko to the MinneapolisStar-Tribune. “Obviously when he asked me about the team, organization and city, I gave my opinion and you know how much I love to be here. And he knows that. But he was thinking about me. He wanted [me] to have my own thing here. He didn’t want to come here and make it ‘brothers’ again, because that’s what it’s always been in Finland.”

The two brothers have faced each other three times previously (when Saku was in Montreal), and you can imagine rinkside cameras start clicking like crazy when the two face eachother in the faceoff circle.

“I don’t really enjoy those [games],” says Saku. “It’s an exciting game but at the same time it’s kind of a weird feeling. You kind of don’t know how to approach those games. If you take your faceoff against him, I guess I’d rather not have him as an opponent. But at the same time, it’s obviously a fun experience. As long as we win, it’s no problem.”

To get that win, Dan Wood reports from Minnesota, the Ducks might be shaking up the lineup from opening night a tad. Wood indicated that center Andrew Ebbett and defenseman Nick Boynton would dress tonight after being healthy scratches three nights ago. That means you're probably looking at these skaters tonight: 


Scratches: Erik Christensen-Sheldon Brookbank

No definitive word on who will be in net, though Jonas Hiller had a 1.68 GAA against the Wild last year.

Randy Carlyle said this road trip might come at an opportune time for a Ducks team that has several new faces and might still be getting to know each other. “Sometimes it’s a positive to get your team together on the road,” Carlyle said. “With so many games, you’re not really together during the preseason. The road can be a bonding experience.”

With four road games in the next six days, they'll have plenty of opportunity for that.

- - -

It's been mentioned before in this space that without the trade of Wayne Gretzky to the Kings on Aug. 9, 1988 -- and the subsequent rise in popularity of hockey in SoCal -- there probably wouldn't be an Anaheim Ducks.Tonight, in the first installment of ESPN's "30 in 30" series (in which 30 filmmakers produced sports-themed mini-films), the network will air a documentary at 5 p.m. tonight called "Kings Ransom," which examines the trade that changed the sport. The film was made by director Peter Berg, who is responsible for the "Friday Night Lights" movie, in addition to other great work.

Take a look at a preview here, and if you don't catch it at 5, it will be on again at 8 p.m. on ESPN 2. But set your DVR if you want to catch that one, since Ducks-Wild (FSN Prime tonight) won't be over yet.

Updated October 5 at 1:31 p.m.

Saturday's opening night sure got off to the kind of start we had been anticipating for so long. Hours before game time, a sea of fans lined up to watch the Ducks arrive on the red carpet in front of Honda Center. Later inside the building, the concourse had that buzz of anxious jersey-clad fans, dying for this thing to start as if it was a playoff game.

And in the minutes before the eagerly-awaited opening faceoff, we had everything you could want in a Ducks opening night -- the chill-inducing opening video montage, the introduction of the players, ear-splitting roars from the standing-room-only crowd of 17,281 when names like Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer and Bobby Ryan were called out, a passionate national anthem from Dawn Wright.

Finally, we dropped the puck on the 2009-10 season and all was right in the world. But 7 1/2 minutes into that first period, the Sharks scored, and then did it twice more before the end of the period.

Before we knew it, the Ducks were down 3-0 after their first period of the year, and 20 minutes later it was 4-0 San Jose. When Ryan Whitney popped the water bottle on a one-timer from the point a little more than halfway through the third, the roar was surprisingly deafening considering the cirumstances. But it occurred to me that the home crowd had been dying for something to cheer about.

That goal was part of a third period that was leaps and bounds better than what Anaheim showed in the second, when they only had two shots on goal, the first one not coming until 18:35 into the period. But that third period wasn't nearly long enough for the Ducks to bounce back. They didn't have enough for a Sharks team looking for retribuition not only for last year's playoffs, but for a sub-par performance in their opening two nights prior.

"They were ready," said Saku Koivu. "The first night is never easy, but the way we played tonight was not acceptable."

The toughest goal to take was the one that made it 2-0, a shorthanded breakaway by Patrick Marleau with 3:14 left in the first after he blocked a Ryan Whitney shot and got a fortuitous bounce of the puck. That goal was still relatively early, but when the Sharks scored again at the tail end of that same power play, it proved too much to recover from.

"They played the game at a higher pace than we did, that's for sure," Carlyle said. "Their motivation was last year, what happened in the playoffs. They weren't very happy with what happened the other night, and their response was appropriate."

For the Ducks, it's just the first of 82, and they move on. You know what happened in their opener last year? They lost 4-1 to the Sharks (albeit in San Jose). And, if you recall, that season turned out pretty well. Now the Ducks have to go looking for their first win of the season in this four-game road trip over the next week and a half. We won't see them back at Honda Center until a week from Wednesday. Just before leaving on that trip, Carlyle said that objective No. 1 is correcting the shortcomings from Saturday night.

“I think it’s important that you recognize the mistakes we made from our standpoint were very easily correctable,” he said. “So that’s your starting point for today. You turn the page on your frustrations, your anger or whatever word you use. And you try to do what’s necessary to pick them back up.

"Because they don’t feel good about themselves either. They’re not happy with their performance.”

So many times last season, this group seemed to play its best hockey on the road, including an early-season stretch through Eastern Canada last year that righted a rough start. They'll look to do it again with dates with the Wild, Bruins, Flyers and Rangers.

“Now it’s about bouncing back,” Teemu Selanne said. "I think it was, to be honest, quite an easy game to just put aside and forget it. Learn about it and move on. The good thing is, there’s 81 left."

Indeed there is. And I think we're all ready for the next one.

Updated October 2 at 4:14 p.m.

It's that time of year when you say things to yourself like, "Twenty-seven hours really isn't that long of a time, is it?"

That's approximately how long we have to wait until the night we've been anxiously looking forward to for the past four months is finally here. Remember how you felt when you were a kid on Christmas Eve? Just wanting to shut your eyes in the hope the morning would get here that much sooner? Well, today is our Christmas Eve.

It's hard to put into words the electricity of opening night, a night when every team in the league gets a fresh slate, a first look at just how good they might really be. For the Ducks, it's the first night we hope to find the answer to so many questions:

- Who will get the start in net, Hiller or Giguere?
- Is that top line of Ryan, Getzlaf and Perry really as good as we think it is?
- Is that second line of Lupul, Koivu and Selanne as good as we hope it is?
- Who's playing on the third line? The fourth line?
- How good will the Ducks defense be with the departure of Pronger and Beauchemin and the addition of Boynton, Sbisa and Eminger?
- Can this team contend for a Stanley Cup?

If you are here at Honda Center  tomorrow night, you're in for the typical opening night treat. That starts at 4 p.m. with the red carpet arrival of the players and continues with plenty of festivities leading up to the puck drop. That includes the on-ice introduction of each player, led on the ice by the Junior Ducks (basically 20 Timmy Marchants) and a video board intro that promises to give your goosebumps some goosebumps. Not only that, but Sasha Cohen is in the building promoting the Improv-Ice show, something I'm personally excited about. (She's cute, she's Jewish and she's from Orange County. Could we have more in common?) And if the Ducks kill a penalty in the second period, everyone gets a free taco from Del Taco.

And oh yes, there is the other team that will be in the building. The San Jose Sharks come in here looking for a couple doses of redemption. One is for the Ducks dropping them in last year's opening round of the playoffs and the other is for the disappointing way they kicked off the season last night. Last year's Presidents' Trophy winners didn't get off to a good start in defending that crown last night, falling to the Colorado Avalance, 5-2.

Their top line of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi went scoreless and were a combined minus-6, while goalie Evgeni Nabokov gave up five goals on the first 14 shots he faced. But if you think you can expect that kind of performance again tomorrow night, well, that's just not the Sharks.

But tomorrow night is all about the home team. And take it in, Ducks fans, because after that game, the Ducks hit the road for four straight and we won't see them back here for a week and a half. By that time, we'll have a clearer answer to all of those questions. Right now, there's only one running through my head:

When will this game finally freaking get here?

Updated October 2 at 10:26 a.m.

We'll be officially naming the captain and alternates later today, although I'm sure you can guess who the "C" will be. Here's a hint: Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times has a very good feature on him in this morning's edition.

Updated October 1 at 3:43 p.m.

Let's just say your Anaheim Ducks have earned themselves an afternoon nap.

After spending last night at the very cool Meet the Team event in Laguna Beach (check out the photos), the Ducks endured a double session of practice starting at 10:30 a.m. at Anaheim Ice as they get closer and closer to opening night. In addition, each took part in one of two mega-team-signings held during the season -- some took part before practice and some went after -- in which they autograph everything from jerseys to sticks to photos to mini helmets given away as part of this ticket package.

Here are a few photos:

Teemu Selanne signs jerseys, with a helper swapping in a new one
every five seconds.

Just a few of the team-signed sticks.

Ryan Getzlaf throws his signature on a few sticks.

Just a sample of what Scott Niedermayer had to sign later . On his way up the
Anaheim Ice bleachers to head to the room, he was stopped by a Ducks
And what did the fan want? An autograph. He smiled and didn't hesitate to sign. 

(L-R) James Wisniewski, Andrew Ebbett and Luca Sbisa (not ready to shed his
practice underclothes) attack the piles of jerseys.

- - -
Joffrey Lupul spoke to reporters for the second day in a row today, ensuring them that the stiff back that has bothered him for the last week is not going to keep him from playing opening night. Lupul played in four of the first five preseason games -- partly to get him, Selanne and Saku Koivu plenty of ice time together -- and that may have taken its toll, even though he doesn't have a history of back problems. 

He admitted to feeling some pain Sunday night in the preseason finale against the Kings, in which he scored a goal off a beautiful tic-tac-toe play with those two guys that ended up being the game-winner. “I just wanted to get that so we didn’t have to play overtime,” he joked.

Lupul has gotten treatment on the back this week and went the whole way through the long practices yesterday and today. “It was bothering me a little bit,” said Lupul. ”A little sore. And then one day it just locked up completely and I couldn’t really really move for a while. I thought I was feeling a little bit better and then I went and played on Sunday, which might have been a bad idea by me but I really wanted to get in there, that last preseason game.

“Sure enough, I came back here Monday and I’m back to square one. I rested for a couple of days. Got a lot of treatment. It’s good now so I’m fine.”

Some more good news involving Lupul, which we just locked down after practice today. He's going to be doing a blog for AnaheimDucks.com on a regular basis during the season, something that actually started as his idea. So, look for the first installment very soon. 
- - -
A couple of Ducks radio/TV appearances to pass along:

- Saku Koivu will appear on Jim Rome is Burning, airing live on ESPN at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
- J.S. Giguere will be a guest on KROQ’s (106.7 FM) Kevin and Bean, tomorrow at 9:10 a.m.
- Scott Niedermayer will be a guest on MYfm (104.3 FM) tomorrow morning (time TBA).

- - -

TSN has come out with its predictions for the 2009-10 season, in which they have the Ducks finishing sixth in the West and, going along with a trendy pick this offseason, have the Kings sneaking into the playoffs into the eighth spot. With San Jose their pick to win the Pacific, that's three division teams they see making the playoffs, with the Stars just missing in ninth. Translation: There aren't going to be too many easy nights for the Ducks this season.

The 13-member panel gave their pick for the Cup champion and seven different teams were mentioned (no Ducks mentions though). Each leading with three votes were the defending champion Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Those two teams are both represented among the five different teams chosen to win the Cup by the six ESPN guys in their 2009-10 picks. E.J. Hradek, new candidate for Smartest ESPN Hockey Guy Alive, picks the Ducks to win it all.

Incidentally, REAL HOCKEY IS BACK! The regular season officially begins tonight (or actually, in about 15 minutes) with four games on the docket. I can't wait to rush home, flip on the DirecTV and ... never mind.

September Archive