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

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(All times Pacific unless otherwise noted.)


Updated March 31 at 1:53 p.m.

A quick comparison between the Ducks and tonight's opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, just further reinforces the frustration of Anaheim's position right now.

The Ducks have somewhat quietly won six of their last eight, while the Avs have dropped five of the last six, and still the Ducks remain nine points back of Colorado's tenuous hold on the eighth spot. Colorado not only finished last in the Western Conference a year ago, but they were 10 points back of second-to-last. On paper, you'd think the Ducks would have the better team, but the standings don't lie.

We'll sort of find out again how the two compare tonight, though the Ducks will be again without two of their big dogs. Ryan Getzlaf (ankle) and Jonas Hiller (back spasms) didn't even make the trip to Denver, so Nick Bonino will likely take Getzlaf's place again and J.P. Levasseur was called up yesterday to backup Curtis McElhinney.

(Now there's a line I couldn't have foreseen writing two months ago.)

- - -

I got the chance for another ego boost last week when I visited Mrs. Dougherty's fourth grade class at Jefferson Elementary School in Santa Ana. Mrs. Dougherty is a huge Ducks fan and season ticket holder, so she had the class well-prepared with a ton of questions about the Ducks and what I do for the team. Meanwhile, each of the kids had at least a half dozen Ducks Digests in front of them on their desks, and they're getting a lot more since Mrs. Dougherty asked me to bring extras. (I brought three boxes, having cleaned out an office bookshelf that was about to collapse.)

Anyway, the questions ranged from "What do you do during games?" to "Have you ever talked to Bobby Ryan?" to "Who's the smartest guy on the Ducks" to "How much money do you make?" I asked them to guess on that one, and the shouts of "A hundred dollars!" were a little humbling.

Yesterday, I got a batch of thank-you cards from the kids, which are always entertaining. A sampling (and my comments):

What do you like more, soccer or hockey?
(Tough one.)

I thought you were going to bring players.

I wish you could have come with Wild Wing and Scott Niedermayer.
(Again, sorry.)

My question is, has Corey Perry ever been in a fight?
(A couple.)

Has Scott Niedermayer ever gotten into a fight?
(Not a lot, and here's why.)

I have lots of questions. Are you best friends with one of the Ducks players? Do you like Mexican food?
(No and way too much.)

Do you think Scott is going to retire?
(I'm not sure even he knows.)

Do you like to come in other classes that you don't know and have them ask you questions? Won't you be shy? I know you spend your time with us, so we are so so sorry about taking your time.
(As my mother used to tell me, my time really isn't that valuable.)

Who is the first person that had been nice to you?

(In my life? Probably some doctor.)

You are the awesomest writer ever!
(Somebody get this kid some books.)

Dude, you are a really cool guy.
(Thanks, bro.)

Updated March 30 at 11:34 a.m.

There are a number of reasons to lament the fact that the Ducks are probably not going to nab a playoff spot, and here's another one:

It's pretty damn fun watching a game here. 

Last night was yet another reminder of that, as Ducks fans got to enjoy a tribute to Teemu Selanne and his 600th goal before the game, his dogged pursuit of 601 during the game, a Ducks victory over a longtime rival and ... oh yeah ... who doesn't love when a kid gets his first career goal?

We start with the pregame celebration in which Selanne was honored for scoring No. 600, a ceremony that included his family, Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli and of course, the guy who owns the Finnish record with 601 goals, Jari Kurri. You can watch the entire ceremony right here. One of my favorite parts is the highlight reel of big Selanne goals, complete with a window in the corner showing him watching himself. I also like the highlight of his first NHL goal, where the announcer says, "Well, he's an exciting hockey player. We told you about this fella."

There's also moment of levity during the photograph of the ceremonial puck drop (around the 5:50 mark) where Teemu's youngest son Leevi tries to sneak in the shot while pretending to hold an imaginary stick, and he's literally dragged backwards by older brother Eemil. (He was a little too late, according to this photo at right.)  

Overall, a very cool ceremony, including the loud ovations from the Honda Center crowd that included an impromptu chant of "One more year!" (let's hope he was listening).

By the way, while finding that ceremony video on YouTube, I came across this one of a fan's perspective of No. 600.

That crowd would have gone bonkers again if Selanne had potted 601 last night, but despite a few opportunities (eight shots on goal), he couldn't sneak anything past fellow Finn Kari Lehtonen. There was a poignant moment when Selanne hit the ice with 46 seconds remaining, the Ducks comfortably up two goals and the Dallas net empty. A quick scan around the arena revealed that seemingly not one person had left their seat to beat the traffic. And while we were tantalized with a couple of energetic charges for the puck in the Dallas zone, Selanne couldn't gain possession. There was a slight glimmer of hope when he picked up the puck along the wall with a couple of ticks left, but his desperation toss went several feet wide after the horn sounded. 

So, a tough break that Flash couldn't get that 601st with Kurri in attendance, but that didn't mean there wasn't plenty to celebrate last night, namely Nick Bonino's first career goal in the second period. Selanne assisted on the power play tally, letting the puck settle at his feet before tapping it into the slot, where Bonino whistled it under Lehtonen. And while everyone else on the ice converged on the 21-year-old kid, one guy darted into the net to fish the puck out -- Teemu Selanne. Later Selanne handed the puck to Bonino at the Ducks bench, a moment I'm guessing Bonino will remember for, oh, the rest of his life.

"He said he stills remembers his first goal," Bonino said of Selanne. "I told him I’d probably remember this one as long as I’m playing and as long as I live too."

Bonino did appear a little out of sorts when he was named No. 1 star last night, not realizing that you're supposed to take the souvenir stick, give it to someone in the crowd and then do the TV interview. Bonino kind of skated out, waved to the crowd and went to rinkside reporter Patrick O'Neal with the stick in his hand. "He's so new," John Ahlers said on the telecast, "he doesn't know what to do when he's a star of the game."

During the interview, Bonino said, "It's definitely good to score my first career goal at the Honda Center ... so ... thanks a lot" (to the delight of the fans who stuck around to hear it).

And here's why Nick Bonino is now my new favorite player. This morning he told staffer Matt Vevoda, "It’s pretty cool going back to the hotel and going on the Ducks website and seeing I had a goal."

Updated March 29 at 1:34 p.m.

It's a bit of a Bizarro Ducks Game tonight at Honda Center in which the Ducks and Stars are doing battle with neither team fighting for playoff position. The Ducks are 11 points back of the eighth spot with eight games to go, while Dallas is nine back with seven to go. Having also not qualified last year, they're on their way to missing the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time since they were the Minnesota North Stars (1986-87 and 1987-88).

And just as bizarro, we're seeing the Stars tonight without Mike Modano and probably without Marty Turco. Modano is out following an appendectomy he had two weeks ago, and Kari Lehtonen, picked up from Atlanta in early February, is reportedly getting the start in net. That snaps a string of 21 consecutive starts (including playoffs) against the Ducks for Turco.

Playoffs or no playoffs
, it's always a good one when Dallas comes to town. But more than the opponent, tonight is really about the pregame ceremony honoring Teemu Selanne and his 600th goal. It's a ceremony that will include Jari Kurri, Selanne's childhood idol and eventual teammate in Anaheim, who has a tenuous hold on the record for goals by a Finn with 601.

"It means a lot to me to have him here," Selanne said this morning. "Obviously, what Jari has done for Finnish hockey and for myself is a big thing. I had his poster on my wall and later we became very good friends. It’s a nice honor he’s here and I really appreciate it.

"I still think because this is a team sport, all the individual stuff is sometimes overwhelming. But 600 goals is a lot in this league. Not too many guys have done it and it’s a big honor."

Tonight's ceremony will start shortly after 7:00, pushing puck drop to around 7:12. And if you can't make it to Honda Center tonight, yes, it will be televised on Prime Ticket.

Meanwhile, Robyn Norwood has a nice feature on the relationship between Selanne and Kurri in the L.A. Times. And inevitably, as we get closer to the end of what has been a tough season for Selanne, the talk of possible retirement looms. So far, all he has indicated is that he will decide for sure this summer.

“Oh, for sure, it’s going to be a big question,” Selanne told the O.C. Register. “In many ways, I almost think the hockey god is giving me messages that it’s time to do something else ...  One day you say that’s for sure the last year. Some days, you say, ‘You know what? This is awesome. I don’t know why I should retire.’”

Back to the game, Ryan Getzlaf will be out for the second straight night with that ankle injury, which allowed the Ducks to insert newly signed 21-year-old Nick Bonino in a win Friday night in Edmonton. Bonino, the Boston University kid the Ducks got in the Moen-Huskins trade with San Jose last year, performed admirably centering the top line with Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. And he even got his first NHL bell-ringing in the first period, getting drilled by defenseman Dean Arsene after a drop pass in the offensive zone.

“It was a good hit,” said Bonino. ”I make a drop pass and he finished his hit. Good to get it out of the way early. Woke me up a little. I’d imagined I’d get hit pretty good in one of these games. I’m happy it happened in my first one. I’ll go from there and know what to expect.”

Corey Perry, who had two goals in that game, had a line afterward that would seem to reflect Anaheim's approach over these last remaining games. "Every game we want to go out and we want to work hard," Perry said. "We want to get two points and we want to have fun. This game is about having fun and that's how we approached it."

- - -

You may recall last month I posted a screen capture from a CNN story in Switzerland that had a quick shot of a random kid wearing a Mighty Ducks jersey. Well, reader Jason has discovered evidence of the Ducks being represented in someplace even more unlikely.

Apparently Jason sat forward on his couch watching a show on the Discovery Channel called River Monsters that focused on a small village in the Congo.

See if you notice anything that stands out in this photo (click it to make it larger).

Updated March 25 at 1:57 p.m.

There have been plenty of reasons for the Ducks' doomed hopes for a fifth straight postseason berth, and we were reminded of at least one of them the last two nights. Anaheim's struggles against Calgary (a team four points out of playoff position) and Vancouver (leading their division and owning the third-place slot) are just further proof that the Western Conference is awfully tough.

For the second straight night, the Ducks weren't able to get much going against a West foe, falling 4-1 to a Canucks team that has already shown how tough it is in the last month. Faced with the longest road trip in league history -- a 14-game trek caused by Vancouver's hosting of the Winter Olympics -- the Canucks responded by going 8-5-1.

Anaheim's 76 standings points has them 11 points out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference with nine games to go. In the East, those 76 points would put them two points back of eighth place. And you can be certain that those points would be significantly higher if the Ducks weren't playing almost 80 percent of their schedule against the West.

Just look at the parity in the conference this year, how even the traditionally bad teams are so much better. Phoenix, a team you could count on being in the cellar every season since the lockout before this one, won nine games in a row to briefly tie with Chicago for the top point total in the West. The Kings, not close to a playoff berth in each of the last four seasons, are in fifth. Colorado, last in the conference last year (and 10 points short of second-to-last) and Nashville, who also didn't quality for last year's postseason, are both very likely to get in this year.

Meanwhile, Detroit, who hasn't missed the playoffs since around the Roosevelt administration, is hanging for dear life in eighth. The Wings have won nine of their last 12 and still haven't been able to move up from the last playoff spot. Because of that and because of how well Calgary has played of late, even when the Ducks won four straight prior to this trip, they still didn't make up much ground. “A lot of guys have hearts and heads in the right place,” Bobby Ryan said. “When things that we need to help us don’t happen, it does compound. It’s a trickle effect when you see the teams around us getting things done and we’re not."

Not to make excuses for the Ducks though, who the last two nights have looked more like the team that came out of the break losing five in a row rather than the one that won those four straight (including two against West powers). And just to add injury to insult, last night Ryan Getzlaf re-tweaked his finicky left ankle and didn't play the entire third. Now there is talk about how important it is to run Getzlaf out there over these nine games and risk injuring it further. Said Getzlaf last night on the matter, "I always want to play. We’re going to look at it obviously tomorrow and how it reacts and all that kind of stuff before we make our decision for Edmonton.”

There is good news for the Ducks this morning, however, as they solidified an agreement with Syracuse of the AHL after going this season without an affiliate. Granted, the Ducks had for a long time talked about having an AHL affiliate closer to Anaheim, but a number of factors (among them not having enough partner teams out west) led the Ducks to go east again. Said David McNab this afternoon, "The majority of the American League is out east and the scheduling and the traveling and the practice times in the east are all way better than in the west. So, what you might lose in certain things, you gain in the fact that your players are not as tired and not traveling as much and don’t have as many long road trips."

And as far as getting a recalled player out here in a hurry, McNab said that's not a concern. "In all the years we’ve had an affiliation – whether it be Cincinnati, Portland, Des Moines – we’ve never had an issue with wanting to bring a player here on the morning of a game and they didn’t get here." (More comments from McNab right here.)

The Syracuse Crunch have for the last 10 years been affiliated with Columbus, and have to own one of the coolest nicknames in the AHL. Then again, they're competing in that department with the likes of the River Rats, Rivermen, Moose, Monsters, IceHogs and Rampage.  

- - -

More Ducks-related good news, though on a slightly different level. Those of you in attendance at Ducks-Colorado on Sunday night (or those reading my live game log) may have been wondering about the little girl who got hit in the head with a puck late in the first period. Right after it happened, Teemu Selanne skated over to the glass and threw a towel into the crowd to help with any bleeding. I also wrote that my dad, sitting in that section, reported during the intermission that the guy who ended up with the puck refused to give it up.

Well, I got an update this morning from the girl's mother, Holly:

Hi Adam,

My daughter was the one who was hit in the head with the puck. She is okay, four staples in her head later.

The medical staff and Honda Center staff were wonderful. She feels like a "rock star" because Teemu brought her a towel. What a thoughtful gentleman.

We did go back to the game for less than a minute (and behind the net) and were able to see Teemu score 600. Then we went to CHOC :).

Updated March 24 at 2:54 p.m.

It's not over yet -- not technically, anyway -- but any hopes for a miracle down the stretch were seriously damaged last night in Calgary.

The Ducks' 3-1 defeat to the Flames not only snapped a four-game winning streak that provided a little bit of hope, but provided a bump in the road at a time when bumps aren't a luxury they have -- especially against one of the teams that sit between the Ducks and a playoff spot. The Ducks need wins and some bad luck from those teams -- and they could have had a little bit of both last night. Granted, Calgary played a stingy defensive game last night, but there were two huge plays that defined that game and ultimately cost Anaheim. 

The first came late in the second period of a 1-1 game when Corey Perry, showing that signature patience around the net that has served him well so many times, got a little too patient with the puck. He held onto it long enough for it to be poked away by Jarome Iginla, sending Rene Bourque on a breakaway that he finished off with a wrister past a devastated Jonas Hiller.  

And the second came about eight minutes into the third, when Bobby Ryan had a gaping net in front of him on a 2-on-1 rush, but apparently didn't see it as he tried to pass the puck to Todd Marchant instead of taking the shot. (Ryan was later shown on the bench looking up to watch the replay on the overhanging scoreboard, and ... let's just say you could tell he was a little disappointed.)

A goal there would have made it 3-2 and possibly changed the complexion of that game. Instead, Calgary and its ever-impressive band of d-men never let the Ducks get any closer.

"We know the position we're in each night," said Scott Niedermayer. "Those two points are what we need each night. You've got to give the Flames credit, they played a pretty good defensive game and made it tough for us to get chances. I think we could have done more to create more chances and go to the net a bit more."

So many times after a tough loss, the captain is the go-to guy for the media in the postgame. Todd Marchant is the other one, a guy who never fails to add some perspective on things.

“It’s not a good feeling,” Marchant told the O.C. Register. ”I’ve been on teams that don’t make the playoffs. I’ve been on those teams and it’s a  long summer. And it’s not a lot of fun.

"We’ve got a lot of proud guys in this room. A lot of guys that have been through a lot of battles before. We have to certainly bring more of a battle than we did tonight. This was a big game for us and we didn’t have nearly the effort that we needed to win that game. And it’s not the type of game we wanted to play certainly with the situation we’re in.”

Marchant could only shake his head at the "lots of what-ifs" that have puzzled the Ducks.

"You can’t dwell on these things," he said. "Obviously we would have liked to play better in lots of parts of the season. The thing is that gets more of a focal point because it was right after the Olympics and we had lots of Olympians and all these other things that really. as far as we’re concerned as a team, weren’t factors why we didn’t win those games. The reason we didn’t win those games is because we didn’t play well. And as a result right now, we’re continually looking up in the standings. We’ve been in the other situations. We’ve been in the situation where you’ve looked down on teams. It’s not very fun looking up.”

No, not fun at all. Marchant did, however, manage to find some optimism in that locker room. "We’re still in this,” he said. “We’ve still got a chance to make the playoffs. They haven’t eliminated us yet.”

Well yeah, that's true.

By the way, word coming soon on the Ducks' AHL situation.

Updated March 23 at 4:12 p.m.

Calgary's Craig Conroy put it best when he was asked about how vital tonight's game is for both the Flames and Ducks. "It's Game 7," he said, "for both of us."

And it's pretty much 11 remaining Game 7s for the Ducks, who sit nine points back of eighth-place Detroit, with a game in hand on the Red Wings. The Flames, meanwhile, are four behind the Wings and need all the wins they can get in their final 2 1/2  weeks. 

The Ducks are looking for a fifth straight win after taking the last four on a homestand that started off miserably.  “I think this is going to make or break us,” said Bobby Ryan, who will be in there after missing Sunday night's game with what he thinks might have been food poisoning). “This trip is going to tell us a lot about ourselves, if we were winning because we were playing at home and we were comfortable.”

The problem, as far as nabbing playoff spots goes, is that the Ducks aren't getting a lot of help from Detroit, a team we could have predicted would come on strong with a postseason slot on the line. The Wings have won eight of their last 11 coming out of the Olympic break, ensuring that even with Anaheim's hot play in the last week, they haven't made up much ground.

"Every single guy can tell you that they’re checking the other scores,” Ryan said. “At one point we could control our own fate but … other teams have to fall in place for us and help us out.”

The truth is, the Ducks not only have to go on a helacious run over these last 11 games, but they have to hope for a bit of a collapse by Detroit, not to mention some not-so-good play from Calgary and St. Louis (currently 10th).

Of course, that's not something the Ducks can give too much thought to on the ice, starting tonight at Calgary. The Flames have won six of their past nine games, but lost a major cog when center Daymond Langkow got hit in the neck by a puck, had to be taken off on a stretcher and is out indefinitely.

Saku Koivu, who took a puck to the face Sunday night and was bleeding heavily from the upper lip, did skate this morning and is expected to be in there tonight. The same can't be said for Joffrey Lupul, who is on his first road trip with the team since shutting it down after back surgery in December. Lupul, in speaking with the O.C. Register this morning, revealed he won't be able to play this regular season.

“To be back out there is obviously a big step in the right direction,” said Lupul. ”I haven’t been clearned for any contact or anything like that and I won’t be during the regular season. The doctors made that clear to me. It’s frustrating in that sense.
“Even when I get myself feeling better here, I probably won’t be able to get back and help the guys.”

But if (and we've indicated above it's a big if) the Ducks can play past April 11, Lupul is holding out hope he can be out there. “I’m their biggest fan right now,” he said. "I’m hoping we can pull off a minor miracle here and get to the playoffs. And hopefully I’ll be able to come back and help us. A lot of things have to go right for me right now. I’m not going to quit working.

“It’s been really frustrating. But I’m not going to whine about it or pout about it. Obviously I wish the whole situation never happened. But it has happened. That’s why we’re professionals too. It’s easy to come here and be a good teammate and have a smile on your face when things are going great for you. When you’re having these up and down moments, that’s what I think shows  your true character.”

Lupul, it should be pointed out, was pretty darn productive in the relatively few games he played this year, scoring 10 goals in 23 games. That works out to just around 35 over an 82-game season. Just saying.

- - -
There is a nice feature on Teemu Selanne on ESPN.com asking if Selanne might be the greatest Finn to ever play the game (he's about to catch Jari Kurri's 601 goals, the current Finnish record-holder). Pierre Lebrun, who wrote the feature, offers this line: I can't remember ever seeing Selanne without a smile. There are few players more fun to be around than him.

I have to agree.

Brian Hayward wrote a little something about Teemu on the Fox Sports West website, including this bit that adds to what I wrote about Selanne's memory the other day:

He claims to remember all 600 that he has scored.  Although that cannot be true, Alex Gilchrist, the Ducks Director of PR tested that knowledge the other day by asking Teemu how many goals he had scored at Honda Center while playing for a team other than the Ducks (he played also for Winnipeg, San Jose and Colorado).  Without hesitating, he replied correctly “three”.  My curiosity piqued, I then asked him which NHL goalie he scored the most goals against (current or retired).  He responded correctly “Mike Vernon”. (He scored 17 times against both Vernon and Curtis Joseph.) 

- - -

I am extremely sad to report that Dan Mascaro, a member of the Honda Center parking staff for 17 years, much of that time serving as the greeter at the Gate 3 entrance, passed away over the weekend after a short battle with lung cancer. 

Many of you probably passed by the ever-affable Dan on your way into the Honda Center parking lot. He was a guy who loved to talk to anyone who passed by his booth, and he never seemed to be in a bad mood. He will be missed a lot around here.

Services for Dan will be held at National Cemetery in Riverside next Tuesday, March 30 at 12:45 p.m., and you can bet the place will be filled with Ducks and Honda Center people. 

Updated March 22 at 2:43 p.m.

The moments in life you always treasure are the ones where you'll always remember where you were when they happened. The ones where it feels like your goosebumps are growing goosebumps. The ones that make you stop what you're doing, just to stand up and watch for a few minutes.

Last night was one of those moments.

Just 34 seconds into the second period last night at Honda Center, those who got back to their seats on time got to witness a little history. Teemu Selanne, probably the most beloved figure ever to perform in this building, scored his 600th goal. 

And after countless opportunities to get it when he was stuck at 599, this one was one of the easiest of his life. On the power play, Corey Perry crashed the net enough to force goalie Craig Anderson to come out of his crease to knock the puck away. He was out of position when the puck bounced to Scott Niedermayer, who was able to tap it to Selanne for the deposit into the open net.

"If I would have missed that, I would have been really disappointed," Selanne said. "That goal was one of the easiest. My daughter would put that in."

Simple or not, the goal brought the Honda Center crowd to its feet, as Selanne was mobbed in the corner by first Niedermayer, then Getzlaf (bending over to pick up the puck), then Perry, Visnovsky and finally the entire Ducks bench.

(I got goosebumps just writing that last paragraph.)

You can watch the whole thing right here.

Selanne tried to skate to the bench next to a few teammates still wrapping an arm around him, the same guys who pushed him away from that bench so he could wave to the crowd one more time in the middle of a lengthy standing ovation.

Those teammates are the same guys who were clearly trying to create opportunities for Selanne to get the mark over the past few games, leading him to say, "I think they wanted this more than I did."

And it was fitting that the first assist came from Niedermayer, as the two veterans have been linked together ever since they came here in the summer of 2005 together, won a championship together, flirted with retirement together and always remained class acts together.

“I think there was a little underlying feeling for sure when you’re on the ice with him,” Niedermayer said. “You wanted to at least give him the opportunity. I think that just shows what kind of teammate he is and what kind of person he is. He’s a great guy. We were definitely pulling for him.”

Just to give you an idea of how great, last night one of our staffers asked Teemu to autograph a copy of the game sheet, which was given to the winner of our Facebook contest to see who could come closest to guessing when he would get the 600th. The staffer asked him to simply address it to the winner and sign his autograph. But somehow he wanted to add a little flair to it, so scribbled on that game sheet is this:

Dear Chris,
You R lucky
Teemu Selanne

Remember also, there was a game to be won last night, and No. 600 was part of a four-goal barrage over the first two periods that led Anaheim to a 5-2 victory over Colorado. That's the same Avs team the Ducks surrendered a two-goal lead in third period to on March 3, the beginning of a five-game skid that put Anaheim's playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. But in the last four, the Ducks have beaten No. 1 in the West, No. 2 in the West, No. 7 in the West and showed some serious resiliency in coming back to win the other game (Friday night against the Isles).

The Ducks may or may not be a playoff team, but they've sure looked the part in the past week. Last night's win pulled them to within seven points of the eighth slot with 11 games to go. And as important as that is, that won't be the thing we'll remember about that game years from now.

"I was a little nervous if it doesn't happen tonight it would happen on the road," Selanne said, noting the end of the seven-game homestand and the upcoming three away from Anaheim. "Having it happen at home is more special."

For all of us.

Updated March 19 at 1:58 p.m.

A day later and the buzzwords around here still remain "Wisniewski" and "eight games." The announcement from the league came down yesterday afternoon that the Ducks defenseman will be docked that many games for the hit Wednesday night on Brent Seabrook.

And looking at the incident from all sides, clearly a suspension was deserved. Eight games? That seems a little excessive, something Bob Murray expressed yesterday.

The Wisniewski hit has been compared to a couple of relatively recent incidents -- the blindside check by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke on Boston's Marc Savard that resulted in a concussion for Savard but not suspension for Cooke, and the hit by Alex Ovechkin on Chicago's Brian Campbell that turned into a two-game suspension for Ovechkin.

Granted, both of those are different situations than the Wisniewski hit, and the league tried to make that clear in its reasoning for the eight-game punishment. "Mr. Wisniewski delivered a retaliatory hit to the head of an opponent who never had possession of the puck," said Colin Campbell, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations. "The fact that Mr. Wisniewski is a repeat offender also entered into this decision." (Wisniewski received two games for a hit on Shane Doan in an October 31 game in Phoenix.)

This morning after the Ducks' skate, Wisniewski (who is allowed to take part in practices) expressed regret for the hit but again expressed that the punishment might have been a little harsh. A sampling:

"I bet you have to make 20 different decisions on a 40-second shift: Which way to pivot, if you should cross over or C-cut, if you should make a pass, chip it out, dump it in, saucer pass, hard pass, soft pass, shot on net, rim it around. These are all the decisions you have to make. It's going a million miles an hour and then people are slowing it down on instant replay going, You shouldn't have done that.

"I know that. I know I shouldn't have done it. But it was a decision I made and I regret it. But it's not like I was meaning to go in there with the intent to injure. That's not the point of what I'm doing.

"I was wrong in the aspect that he didn't have the puck. You can't hit a guy if he doesn't have the puck. It was a play where I made a mistake. I thought he did have the puck, and I'm paying for it. That's fair enough."

Seabrook was not in the lineup for Chicago's 3-0 blanking of the Kings last night.

"All I'm hoping for is that he returns quickly," Wisniewski continued. "He's a buddy of mine. That's the thing I feel bad about the most. The other thing is, we have a chance, if we can go on a great run, to make the playoffs. Now I'm sitting out for eight games."

And among those eight games, oh by the way, is one tonight against the Islanders, a team that doesn't make its way out to SoCal all that often. The Isles haven't seen Honda Center since October 11, 2006, just days after the building was renamed Honda Center. And these two teams haven't played each other at all since last January 21, when the Ducks outshot the Isles 40-14 and still lost 2-1 (a game I was lucky enough to attend).

Steve Eminger, a healthy scratch the last three games, will try and fill the void caused by Wisniewski's absence. "We felt that Steve Eminger wasn’t playing to the level we were happy with," Carlyle said. "We hadn’t played him the last two games. But here’s an opportunity."

As far as Ryan Getzlaf's status goes, Carlyle wasn't able to offer much more than "gametime decision" since he hadn't talked to the Ducks center yet. He watched video while his assistants ran the skate, which Getzlaf did take part in. But he did say,”I saw him on the training table and I was sick and tired of looking at him on that. If Getzlaf says he’s ready to play, he’s playing.”

Also on the ice with his teammates for the first time in a long time was Joffrey Lupul, though he was a little tentative out there.

With or without Getzlaf, the Ducks are battling an Islanders team that looks a little like the Eastern Conference version of Anaheim. Here's something that was written about them over the last 24 hours: Things are a lot brighter on the Island than they were a week ago, when New York reached the weekend mired in a losing streak that had dropped it to 14th in the East and 28th in the overall standings. Wins over New Jersey and Toronto at home and at Vancouver on Tuesday have the Isles in 13th -- but just seven points behind eighth-place Boston. With the Bruins and most of their pursuers struggling, the Isles aren't out of the race yet -- though time is running out.

Sound familiar? But here's hoping after tonight they inch a little further out of their playoff race, and the Ducks inch a little closer to theirs.

- - -

Yesterday afternoon I was one of the guest judges for the finals of the "Oh Say Can you Sing?" contest held by the Ducks and the O.C. Register. Ten finalists (out of the 70 contestants who applied online) sang the anthem on the Ducks ice under the watchful eye of eight of us judges. And somehow, out of the group, the two finalists we chose were the only dude and the only pregnant girl.

The guy, Jordan Kelley of Laguna Niguel, and the soon-to-be mom, Emily Van Gorder of Garden Grove, were asked to sing it one more time so we could choose a winner. And after careful consideration, we went with Van Gorder, who wins a chance to sing the anthem on Fan Appreciation Night on April 11 against Edmonton, when she will be eight months pregnant. (The Ducks jersey will hide the belly a bit, although I don't think Reebok advertises that as one of their selling points.) She also wins a trip to Edmonton and two tickets to the Ducks-Oilers game up there on March 26, though she obviously won't be able to fly.

For more on the contest, check out this video, where at the 48-second mark you can clearly see I have no idea what I'm talking about. (Meanwhile, my co-worker next to me seemingly couldn't care less.) They cut out the part where I revealed the girl I actually voted to be a finalist, followed by my cell phone coincidentally ringing and me saying, "That's her now." (I was kind of proud of that joke. Oh well.)

Updated March 18 at 12:48 p.m.

I can't tell you whether the 2009-10 Anaheim Ducks are a playoff team. But over the past four nights, they've sure looked like one.

Last night the Ducks took down a Western Conference power for the second straight game, a convincing 4-2 victory over the Blackhawks that came on the heels of a victory by the same score over the Sharks on Sunday night. And it wasn't just the score and the high level of Ducks play that those two games had in common. Each had people talking hours after the final horn, and not much about the game's outcome.

Sunday night, the chatter involved the status of Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf, who were both injured in that game. This time, it's the hit James Wisniewski laid on Brent Seabrook and whether Wisniewski will be punished by the league for it. In case you missed it, Wisniewski throttled former teammate Seabrook along the boards behind the Chicago net, seemingly in response to a nasty hit seconds prior in which Seabrook launched Corey Perry into the wall and didn't receive a penalty (a "Blackhawk tomahawk" is how one writer labeled the hit on Perry). You can watch the whole thing right here.

The hits were similar in that they were both a little high, but the difference was in how the player who got hit reacted. Perry, who went spilling to the ice, looked a little groggy but got up relatively quickly. Seabrook, on the other hand, was a different story. He hit the back of his head against the glass and immediately went lights out, dropping to the ice like a rag doll (think Apollo Creed in the Drago right in Rocky IV).

Wisniewski was immediately confronted by another former Chicago teammate, Duncan Keith, whom Wiz proceeded to pummel with a series of rights. Penalty-wise, Wisniewski got a charging minor and a fighting major while Keith got a mysterious holding minor and a fighting major. Seabrook, meanwhile, sat on the bench with a somewhat shellshocked look for a bit, and eventually was taken to the locker room and didn't return to the game.

Afterwards, the Blackhawks were noticeably upset in their comments to the media, while Wisniewski said he was "shocked" when he saw the replay of the hit on Seabrook. “I just thought I finished my checked because I didn’t throw my arms up. My shoulder wasn’t into his head or anything like that. I was just shocked to see the result of that. Like I said, he’s a big boy. He’s one of my really close friends. It’s something that I don’t want to see ever happen.”

We haven't yet heard from the league whether or not Wisniewski will receive punishment for the hit, but we'll keep you posted when we do (which will be anytime today). 

Meanwhile, there was a heck of a game being played the rest of the time, one in which the Ducks seemingly dominated against a formidable opponent for the second straight night. Bobby Ryan had the first and last goals of the night (the latter a huge empty-netter for insurance) on his 23rd birthday, giving him 31 on the year (equaling last year's rookie total). 

The last one, Ryan throwing it into the middle of the empty net from the AAA logo between the red line and the Chicago blue line, came off a pass from (of all people) Wisniewski, who Randy Carlyle said played, "probably his best game as a Duck." But any celebration after that goal was wiped out by a post-goal brawl between Wisniewski and another former teammate, former Duck Nick Boynton (traded March 2 and called up by Chicago a couple days ago). Boynton, looking to make an impression with his new mates, was looking for one last bit of retribution on Wisniewski for the Seabrook hit, and Wisniewski proceeded to obliterate Boynton in that fight too.

The goal by Ryan was the second big one in that period for Anaheim and the second one that led directly to a fracas. Saku Koivu's go-ahead goal with 5:36 left came on the tail end of a play that started with a puck dropping down from out of the air. As Corey Perry and Brent Sopel waited for it to come down, Perry put a little pressure into the back of Sopel, who proceeded to jump in the air ... well, I'll let Perry describe it. "You look at it. He does the old Superman forward," Perry said. "I barely even hit him. He was jumping and trying to draw something I guess."

With Sopel face down on the ice, Perry picked up the puck and fired it off goalie Corey Crawford. The puck came back to him, and he sent it to Koivu, who buried it from the slot. That apparently incensed the Blackhawks, who wanted a piece of Perry, and he was more than happy to greet them. "Corey Perry goes right to the top of the crease to stick his chin out," Brian Hayward said on the telecast, "and there are a few guys who are willing to oblige him."

So, it was a game that featured a number of hits and skirmishes, but it was also a game where goalies played a big role. Almost quietly among everything else that was going on, Jonas Hiller made a number of big stops among his 39 on the night, and a mistake in judgment by Crawford led to Anaheim's second goal. With his team on the power play, Crawford rolled the dice by running out of his crease to play a loose puck. But he couldn't get enough on it when he tipped it away and it ended up on Kyle Chipchura's blade with Crawford in no-man's land in the right wing circle. Chipchura quickly got it to Marchant in the slot and he scored it past the waving stick of defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. (Crawford, by the way, got called up Tuesday to fill in for flu-ridden Cristobal Huet.)

Oh, and don't forget about Teemu Selanne, who gutted through a bothersome shoulder to make his way into the lineup, sending five shots on net in search of No. 600 (only to be denied on each of them).

All in all, a great game for the Ducks, but one that makes us shake our heads even more at that five-game skid.

And clearly, we're not done thinking about what went on in that game quite yet, as we'll wait for word from the league later today. In the meantime, we just got done with the annual team photo day, in which members of the staff (by department) take turns posing with the team after they shoot their regular team photo. (A very cool tradition started during the Burke era.)

Time will tell whether the Ducks continue another cool tradition they've maintained each of the past four seasons. If they keep playing like they have the past two games, they'll sure look like they deserve it.

- - -
Going back to the subject of Selanne's 600th goal, we've been further reminded that he has somewhat of a photographic memory when it comes to his goals. Yesterday we were doing some research on the previous 599 and found that he scored just three goals at Honda Center (then the Pond) as an opponent. We weren't sure that sounded right, so one of our PR guys said he'd ask Teemu himself. "I'm sure he'll remember," he said, but we were pretty doubtful. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he asked Teemu if he knew the number and he said, "Three or four."

Then today, staffer Matt Vevoda told Teemu that if he scored 600 tomorrow night, it would come against the same Islanders team against which he scored his first goal as a Duck. Without hesitation, he said, "Second period, breakaway."

Vevoda went back and researched that game to see if he was right (of course he was) and learned that the No. 1 star of that game was none other than Brent Severyn of the Islanders.

- - -

I'm pretty much all Olympic'd out by now, but I'll mention one last thing before we officially move on. Game-worn Team USA jerseys are up for bid on the NHL Auctions website. Bidding ends March 31. Click here for more information.

Updated March 17 at 3:54 p.m.

It's all about who can't play and who can play (for both sides) tonight for Ducks-Blackhawks.

On the Ducks side, both Teemu Selanne (shoulder) and Ryan Getzlaf (ankle) remain gametime decisions, and based on their comments in the locker room this morning, it would appear 8 is more of a guarantee to go than 15. And if 8 can go, he's going for 600 (hopefully that made sense).

Selanne: “It’s all about handling the pain, I guess ... We’ll see after warmup. That’s going to be the final decision. But I’m very optimistic.

“In the situation we’re in, it’s like a playoff game. You’ve got to do whatever it takes to get in the lineup. If this happened in November, I might not be playing. We know the situation we’re in and we still have hope. We’ve got to keep battling.”

Getzlaf: “It’s better than yesterday. It was a little sore here and there, went out there to test it a little bit and warm it up. We’ll see how it goes tonight. We’ll make a decision come game time.

“We’re not going to put ourselves in any danger where we can’t finish a game. Last game was a tough one because not being able to finish puts our team in a tough situation. We have a lot of healthy bodies around here that, whether or not you can contribute the whole game, is a big decision when it comes down to it.”

Keep in mind, yesterday Getzlaf said, "It's definitely a strong possibility I'll be playing, especially the situation we're in, fighting for our lives."

For the Hawks, defenseman Brian Campbell is missing his first of many games after breaking his collarbone and rib taking a controversial hit from Alex Ovechkin on Sunday. Campbell is out 7-8 weeks. And to make up for his absence, the Hawks just called up -- of all people -- Nick Boynton, who was traded to Chicago for future considerations before the deadline.

Meanwhile, goalie Cristobal Huet can't go because of the flu, and recently recalled Corey Crawford will be between the pipes tonight.

Chicago, the No. 2 team in the West, has dropped two in a row and three of its last four. The Ducks have taken two of three from them this season.

And as a side note, it's not only St. Patrick's Day, but it's Bobby Ryan's 23rd birthday. And on the occasion of the holiday (St. Patty's, not the birthday), The Hockey News ranked Ryan fourth on the list of Top 10 NHLers with Irish surnames. As most Ducks fans already know, Ryan isn't his original last name (if you don't, Google it), but it still counts.

- - -
So, great news: I was able to find a whole new thing I suck at. 

Last night I got talked into trying curling for the first time, the Olympic sport that was on TV no less than 264 hours during the Vancouver Olympics. The sport has taken off, notably at The Rinks - Westminster ICE, where I joined a couple of other Ducks staffers to take a crack at it last night. By the way, it was my first time at the rink (which opened in December) and it's very nice.

In case you don't know, here is how curling works (courtesy of our good friend Wikipedia): Two teams, each of four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game, points being scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game may consist of ten or eight ends.

And I quickly learned, it's a heck of a lot harder than it looks. The sweeping part I can handle. But the throwing (I think it's actually called "curling") is incredibly difficult. You have to push off from a starting block, slide on a knee with your other leg dragging behind you and then eventually release the rock with a modicum of strength and finesse. 

Here's me almost looking like I know what I'm doing:

And here's me not:

(My sincerest thanks to good friend and teammate Jesse, who not only snapped these shots, but promptly mass emailed them around the office this morning.)

Yes, that's right. I took a major digger on one of my last throws of the night, landing squarely on my shoulder. (In the immortal words of the great Sasha Cohen: Ice is slippery.) Yeah, still hurts. You don't really realize how much you use your arms until you hurt one. Let's just say showering and shaving was an adventure this morning. Somehow typing is going okay though. If Teemu's shoulder feels anything like this, not sure how he's going to play tonight.

Nevertheless, kind of a fun sport, especially when you feel like you're getting the hang of it (which I actually sort of did right before the spill). If you're interested, there is a bit of a waiting list at Westminster ICE, but you can email signmeup@occurling.com or call (714) 248-9611.

Updated March 16 at 3:14 p.m.

A couple of notes from practice today following yesterday's day off:

- Teemu Selanne did skate full speed after suffering a slight shoulder sprain in the third period of Sunday night's win over San Jose. And while he avoided taking any overly strenuous shots, he told reporters he's likely to play tomorrow against the visiting Blackhawks. 

“The doctor said ‘Don’t shoot today,’” Selanne said (though let's hope that doesn't apply to tomorrow if he plays.) “Let it rest now. I skated to keep the legs moving. All in all I feel good. “There are a lot of things we can do tomorrow when it comes to medication (to keep the pain down).  I’ll feel pretty good.”

We've got video of Teemu at practice on our Facebook page.

- Ryan Getzlaf, meanwhile, stayed off the ice today and instead went through an off-ice workout. He told reporters his re-injured left ankle was "sore" but that he thought it wouldn't keep him out tomorrow night.

“It’s definitely a strong possibility that I will be playing, especially with the situation we’re in,” Getzlaf said. “We’re fighting for our lives right now, and I’m going to do everything I can to be in the lineup tomorrow night.”

Getzlaf appeared to tweak the ankle on a couple of occasions Sunday night, but didn't leave the game for good until the third period.

“It’s better than it was yesterday,” he said. “Things are moving the right way now. Obviously we know there’s going to be some pain. We’re back to whether I have that motion and ability to skate out there.”

- George Parros, who was a scratch for the Sunday game after taking a puck to the side of the head in the morning skate, was on the ice for practice. He's got a nice cut above his eye, but said he's ready to go. He had a CT scan that showed no head problems. “I feel fine,” he said. “We had everything checked out. No headaches. Just a cut.”

I couldn't help but be reminded of an old baseball story I heard in which the flaky St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean was hit in the head by a baseball and underwent tests. The next day, the headline in a St. Louis paper read: X-RAYS OF DEAN'S HEAD REVEAL NOTHING.

But since Parros is an Ivy Leaguer, I guess that wouldn't apply to him.

In the locker room, Parros noted the number of reporters crowding around him asking about the cut with this: "Wow, this is awesome, I feel like the President. I wish I had this attention after a game."

- - -
Speaking of smart guys, make sure to listen to Todd Marchant's interview on Ducks Weekly on XM. He gives some pretty good insight about how much the game has changed and his take on the couple of injury-causing hits that have made news in the league in the recent past. 

- - -

And finally, from the It's About Damn Time Department, there's this piece of news.

Updated March 15 at 1:39 p.m.

Whether or not a playoff spot is still within reach, the Ducks appeared to be playing for something additional last night -- pride. 

Trying to avoid a season sweep from the same San Jose Sharks that Anaheim dismissed from last year's playoffs, the Ducks played undoubtedly their best game since the now-resented Olympic break -- and arguably one of their best of the season -- in a convincing 4-2 victory. 

It was right from the start the Ducks established they had indeed come to play last night, scoring three first period goals to take a lead they never relinquished. And as bad as things have been for the Ducks in the last week and a half, it was nice to get a flashback of last spring -- heck, evenlast month -- in that victory.

As much as the Ducks have seem to be affected by the Olympic break (more on that later), it was the Olympians who played a huge role last night. Gold medal game participants Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry all played a role in Perry's chip-in  goal that opened the scoring. Teemu Selanne had his 599th in the first period and had at least two or three chances at 600. Lubomir Visnovsky (Team Slovakia), who appears to get more and more likeable the longer he's here, had his third goal in the last four games in the first. Ryan had an empty-netter to all but seal the game with 1:13 left. Scott Niedermayer was simply Scott Niedermayer. And Jonas Hiller made a number of big stops among his 31 in all, joining a defense that kept San Jose off the board until midway through the third.

Not to mention, Anaheim held the top line of Thornton, Marleau and Heatley to just a single point (Thornton's), after giving up a combined 11 goals and 19 assists to those guys in the previous five games.

It would appear the Ducks finally hit a post-Olympic turning point, but whether that's too little too late -- time will tell. Perry, commenting on the toll the Olympics took out of guys, told the O.C. Register, "How long did it take before I felt good again? A little while, I’ll say that.”

Said Randy Carlyle, "We were dumbfounded with what was happening with our group, how long it took, until tonight."

There are two ways to look at that win last night: One is to be gratified the Ducks broke out of that losing funk with a very strong game against the best team in their conference. The other is to wonder, Where has that been the last five games? Or the other five this season against San Jose?

But there are two other big questions coming out of that game: How's Teemu Selanne and how's Ryan Getzlaf? Selanne spilled awkwardly into the wall after trying to bang in a one-timer in the third period and appeared to hurt his shoulder. He was very slow to get up and didn't return. Getzlaf, who looked to tweak his left ankle (the same one that nearly kept him out of the Olympics) earlier in the game, kept playing. But he injured it again in the third and didn't return, leaving the arena in the same walking boot he sported in the days leading up to Vancouver.

Both of them are being re-evaulated today and there is no word yet on their condition. Funny story from last night: A couple of kids were brought into the Ducks locker room after the game by Jason Blake and Saku Koivu to meet some players. One of the kids looked at a bandage Teemu was wearing and said, "What happened?" Before he could answer, Blake said, "He has a really big zit."

Speaking of postgame, I saw George Parros walking out of the arena in seemingly good shape after taking a puck to the head in yesterday's morning skate and not playing last night. Parros had just a slight cut on his forehead.

In Randy Youngman's column in today's O.C. Register, Ducks boss Bob Murray laments the effect the Olympics took on his team, and notes they'll need a heck of a finish to get into the postseason for the fifth straight season. “The guys have done it before,” Murray said. “If they want it bad enough, they can still run it. It may sound like a broken record, but you’ve got to want it.”

The Ducks will be tested on that again in two nights, when they play the Western Conference's other top team -- Chicago.

"We’re not out of it yet," Perry said last night. "There are 28 or 30 points out there for us." (Actually, there's 28.)

And over the next three weeks, we'll see just how badly the Ducks want them.

Updated March 12 at 1:43 p.m.

The phrase we've used to describe a number of games in the past couple of weeks (hint: it rhymes with schmust shmin) is officially being laid to rest. Because at this point, they're all that way.

The Ducks have put themselves in a position where they can no longer afford too many missteps in this upcoming final month of the season, and that starts tonight with what is essentially a four-point game against the Nashville Predators.

The Preds in the seventh spot -- just like the Flames in the eighth spot -- sit nine points ahead of the Ducks in the standings, though both have played one more game than Anaheim. And although it didn't seem to mean much against Columbus on Tuesday, Nashville is playing the second of a back-to-back tonight, having dropped a wild one last night in San Jose. Nashville went into the third period with a slighty comfortable 4-2 lead, but gave up six goals over the final 20 minutes to lose 8-5. The Sharks only threw 11 shots at Dan Ellis over the first two periods, but then scored four times on 12 shots in the third before chasing him to the bench for Pekka Rinne (which incidentally is great with a fine marinara sauce).

And that led to this week's edition of Quote You Don't Hear Too Often from an NHL Coach: "The fifth and sixth goals, those were horrendous things that happened," Nashville boss Barry Trotz said.

The Ducks can only hope to provide more horrendousness (a word? I say it is) for the Predators tonight at Honda Center. But a key, like it often is, is going to be special teams, something the Ducks addressed before and during yesterday's practice that followed Wednesday's day away from the rink. Anaheim has let through seven power-play goals during this four-game losing skid (three the other night to the Jackets). And the power play hasn't been clicking at the rate it was earlier in the season, when the Ducks ranked among the top five in the league in that category.

But it should get a boost tonight when Teemu Selanne returns to the lineup after missing Tuesday's game with the flu. Selanne today said he feels "way better" than Tuesday morning. "Almost normal," he said.

Selanne remains two goals away from 600, and staffer Matt Vevoda is currently researching the other milestone goals of Selanne's career. This sheet (click on it for a bigger version) is a game log of his rookie year in 1992-93, when he scored a league-record 76 goals. Vevoda highlighted each game in which he scored. Pretty ridiculous. 

How about the four-game scoring drought he went through in late October and early November. Think Winnipeg was thinking of sending him down after that? Or how about in late February/early March when he went 4 goals, 3 goals, 2 goals in consecutive games?

A much newer Duck, Aaron Ward, has quickly joined Todd Marchant among the best talkers on the team (if you haven't heard his Duck Cast from the other day, listen to it here). Ward on the Ducks pulling off a turnaround:

“The sooner you learn the last four games mean nothing at this point, the better off you are. Because the moment that you find the positive flow to your game, then all the questions and all the concerns seem to dissipate quickly. I think the most important thing is don’t panic. Just remedy.”

- - -
Not to look past this one, but Sunday's game with the Sharks is going to be CHOC Night at Honda Center, dedicated to raising funds for the hospital. That includes the in-arena sales of the very popular CHOCO bears autographed by a Ducks player. (Click here for more info.)

In addition, every dasher board in the rink will be donated to CHOC for the evening, believed to be the first time an NHL team has done that.

I don't know, I happen to think that's pretty damn cool.
- - -

Ducks fans, you have yet another chance to put your world-renowned online voting reputation to the test. Scott Niedermayer is one of five candidates for the Sport BC Olympic Athlete of the Year, given to the native of British Columbia who was the top athlete at the Vancouver Olympics.

Vote for Scotty (unless you're a big fan of snowboarder Maëlle Ricker) on the website right here. Let's blow it out for the guy.

Updated March 10 at 1:48 p.m.

There's no way to spin it. Not enough sugar in the world to coat it. And the nicest way to put it is this: That wasn't a lot of fun last night. 

It started with the news during warmups that Teemu Selanne would be scratched with flu-like symptoms and it ended with pretty much everyone else feeling a bit queasy as well. In a game the Ducks couldn't afford to lose, against an opponent they seemed poised to beat, the 5-2 defeat was pretty tough to stomach.

But the Ducks dug themselves a huge hole with a listless first 40 minutes, and though they made a game of it with two goals in the third to pull to within one, that was as close as they would get. Instead of finding the equalizer, the Ducks instead took two penalties that set up Columbus insurance goals. And a home crowd that was lit up by the prospect of rallying to tie that game instead left shaking their heads.

Afterward, the Ducks locker room was mostly quiet following a lengthy postgame players meeting that delayed the invitation of media into the room. And even then, the Ducks had trouble coming up with the words.

Todd Marchant: “It’s something that is very difficult to comprehend at this point."

Dan Sexton: “We just didn’t do it tonight. It’s really frustrating right now. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Bobby Ryan: “A missed opportunity is the best way to put it. It’s embarrassing."

It's true, the Ducks didn't play well. But you can't help but wonder what would have happened if Mathieu Garon (the former King netminder who was unfortunately spectacular last night while giving Steve Mason the night off) didn't rob both Sexton and Ryan on what looked like sure goals in the opening period. "If we score on those," Ryan said, "maybe the ball is rolling the other way."

It's a big "what if," and it's pretty much forgotten in the wake of that loss. Randy Carlyle made the decision late last night to give his players the day off today, presumably to give them some time away from the rink and a chance to think about what's ahead for them. Although, he maintained it goes no further than Friday night at home against Nashville.

"Our focus," he said, "is winning the next one. You don’t look at anything more than that.”

A win last night would have put the Ducks within five points of the eighth spot in the West, taken over by Calgary in its victory earlier in the day over Detroit. Instead, the Ducks now sit seven back with 16 games to go. Impossible? Certainly not. Daunting? Without a doubt.

"Obviously, coming out of the break, we wanted to continue where we left off, but it hasn't happened for us," said Marchant. "It doesn't mean that we can't turn things around and go on a winning streak. I don't like to look at things as miracles. Who knows what's going to happen? It is possible."

Said Jonas Hiller, who was pulled in the second period after Columbus scored its third goal, "At the end, we have to believe, as long as it's possible. You know, the way we play, we've still got chances to win games. All we can do is pick up our game. We know we almost have to win all the games left, but as long as it's possible we believe that, and we've got to work for that. It's over when it's over."

And it's definitely not over. Not yet.
- - -

In case you need some cheering up, we got a Contact Us email the other day from a guy named Mike, who said he found these Scott Niedermayer hockey cards (from his junior days) in an unopened box he came across in his attic.

There are no words.

Updated March 9 at 2:12 p.m.

The term "must-win" has been thrown about in Ducks land far more often than we would have liked in the past six months. But never has it been more relevant than it is for tonight's bout with the Blue Jackets.

And here's why: The Ducks sit six points back of Detroit's eighth spot in the Western Conference, seven back of Nashville's seventh slot, with each team playing their 66th game of the season tonight. Meanwhile, the Ducks welcome a Columbus team that, let's face it, just isn't very good right now. The Jackets, with little shot at repeating the postseason berth they earned last year for the first time in franchise history, were major sellers at the trade deadline. They jettisoned four guys, including veterans Fredrik Modin, Raffi Torres, Alexandre Picard and Milan Jurcina, and they haven't won since the Olympic break. That includes  a 6-0 trouncing by the Kings last night at Staples Center, a game in which the Kings had more goals (6) through two periods than the Jackets had shots (5).

As if that wasn't enough, their go-to guy and recent gold medalist for Team Canada, Rick Nash, won't play tonight after aggravating a lower body injury in the first period last night and not returning. Oh, and the Jackets are 1-4-2 in the second of back-to-backs this season.

But for the Ducks to win, they have to play more of a 60-minute game than they were able to manage two nights ago against Montreal, a game the Ducks have long put behind them. "It’s a short season right now and we’re in a time where kicking ourselves when we’re down is not an option," Bobby Ryan said yesterday. "We’ve got to get right back after it."

Added the captain, "Where we were sitting before the break and how it’s gone the last three games is pretty disappointing. But we have no choice but to try and regroup. We’ve got a handful of games left at home where if we perform well, we can still try and chase it."

That handful  includes six straight games at home, none more important than the next one -- and that's this must-win tonight.

Updated March 8 at 1:58 p.m.

The thought process for most Ducks fans went a little something like this last night:

5:46 p.m. (Ducks take a 3-0 lead into the first intermission) -- Definitely a nice start. Things are looking good.

6:44 p.m. (Ducks give up a goal but lead 3-1 going into the third) -- Two-goal lead with a period left. We're looking good.

7:27 p.m. (Montreal scores to make it 3-2 Ducks) -- Only 1:50 left. We're fine ... We're fine, right?

7:32 p.m. (Bobby Ryan misses an empty net by inches from the Montreal blue line) -- Awww. That would have been nice.

7:33 p.m. (Montreal scores with 10.7 seconds left) -- %$&*(!#%&$+@$*%@!

7:45 p.m. (Jonas Hiller stops the final Montreal shootout attempt) -- Oh thank Go...

Two seconds later (Hiller stands up and the puck falls out behind him) -- Son of a...

7:48 p.m. (Tomas Plekanec converts the shootout winner) -- I feel nauseous.

And that's pretty much the way it went last night, in a game the Ducks absolutely had to have, then seemingly had, then somehow let get away from them. There are nights on the NHL calendar when you're happy to come out of a game with a point. This was not one of those nights. With the two points the Ducks seemed to have in their grasp, they would have pulled within five of the eighth spot currently held by Detroit. Instead they're six back after what can only be described as a disappointing weekend all around.

Last night's heartbreaker came on the heels of a 4-0 downer in Phoenix the night before, a game I was lucky enough to witness in person from the best seats I've ever had for a hockey game. Unfortunately, all I got was a closeup view of a game in which the Ducks couldn't get anything going on the offensive end.

It's hard to say which of the two games was tougher to take -- one in which the Ducks were never in it, or one in which they had it but let it slip through their fingers like last night. And you can hardly get closer to sealing a victory than they got on that shootout attempt in the third round. Hiller initially stopped Brian Gionta's shot, but as his momentum carried him back toward the net and as he rose to his feet, the puck slip out of his pads and over the stripe. The video review to determine whether Hiller held it long enough to rule the play dead could have gone either way. But since the call on the ice was a good goal, there had to be indisputable evidence on the video to overturn it, and officials determined there wasn't enough to change the call. Here's some video of it from the perspective of the Montreal announcers (somehow it's a little easier to take in French. Or maybe worse. I can't decide.)

"I thought the puck was slipping,” Hiller said. “He was shooting five-hole and I couldn’t find the puck. I thought it was still slipping through so I tried to put my skate back so it won’t go in. “As I saw on the video afterward, it was on my pad and I put it in myself I guess. I don’t even know exactly what the rule is on that. It’s a tough one.”

Said Randy Carlyle, “If Jonas stays down, he has the puck. When he stood up, the puck fell out of his equipment. In retrospect, I guess he would like to stay until the referee waved no goal and then get up. But that’s what happened.”

Regardless, the Ducks shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place, but found their way there thanks to a number of giveaways. “We had a 3-0 lead and it’s turnover after turnover after turnover that led to letting them back in the hockey game," Carlyle said. "We have to take responsibility for that.”
Despite what it said on the scoreboard as Ducks fans stumbled like zombies out of Honda Center last night, there were positives. New guys Lubomir Visnovsky and Aaron Ward both played solid hockey games, notably Visnovsky when he lit up the crowd with the power play goal that gave Anaheim a 2-0 lead in the first. Visnovsky knocked down the puck as Montreal tried to clear it, kicked it to himself, then slalomed between a couple of Habs before slinging a wrister past Carey Price stick side.

A Scott Niedermayer goal later in the period set up by a nice feed into the slot by Getzlaf put the Ducks in a position where it looked like they would cruise. But Getzlaf himself committed a couple of turnovers that set up Montreal goals, and the rest of the game went anywhere but Anaheim's way. And that led to a locker room that wasn't exactly a fun place to be.

"They're down right now. I can't say anything to pick them up," said Carlyle. "The sun will come up tomorrow, hopefully. That's the way you have to look at it," Carlyle said.

And with another six games coming up on what's developed into a do-or-die homestand for Anaheim, the only choice the Ducks have is to have short memories and move on. That's something that would have been easier to do had this one happened in November. But when the Ducks have little room for error with a month left, it's a little tougher.

"After a big win or loss, you just have to be able to regroup, forget the past and get ready for the next one," said Saku Koivu, not all that happy about what went down against his former team. "These next two weeks are going to be critical for us."

"Right now," Carlyle said, "It's better to just flush it."

Interesting choice of words. Consider it done.

Updated March 5 at 9:35 a.m.

I'm on my way to Arizona for Angels spring training and a Ducks game, two of my favorite things in the world. Throw in drinking beer and you've got three.

Wait, I'll be doing that too.

Updated March 4 at 2:58 p.m.

I don't think there is any question that with the bevy of deals they made before the deadline, the Ducks got better yesterday. That goes especially for the trades that brought Lubomir Visnovsky and Aaron Ward to the team to shore up a defense that can use some shoring up.

Unfortunately for the Ducks, the one thing that was not on their side yesterday ... was timing. With just a matter of hours before the closing of the trading window and last night's game with the Colorado Avalanche, there was no way the new Ducks d-men could get to Anaheim in time. And with the departure of Ryan Whitney combined with the fact the Ducks were only carrying six blueliners in the first place, they were left with just five last night.

"That is what happens on trade deadline day and you play that night," Randy Carlyle told reporters. "Sometimes those things happen. We only had five d available to us because we couldn’t get anybody here by the time everything was settled. The NHL won’t allow you to bring people until the trade call is complete. We knew when the deadline passed that we would have to play five d-men."

As a result, three Ducks defensemen -- Scott Niedermayer, James Wisniewski and Sheldon Brookbank -- played season-high minutes last night, with Niedermayer logging a mammoth 31:09 and Wisniewski checking in at 29:06. Niedermayer, who could probably play 40 or 50 minutes without his heart rate moving one digit, refused to use that as an excuse. "I didn’t really notice it," he told reporters after the game. "Maybe some guys played a little bit more. We just stopped playing our game and they started getting all the bounces."

Whether it was a factor or not, it sure seemed to be when the Ducks -- who got off to a great start in the first 24 1/2 minutes or so -- seemed to run low on steam in the second and third. Jason Blake's second-effort goal on the power play was the highlight off a first period in which the Ducks outshot Colorado by a whopping 14-2. Teemu Selanne's 598th of his career early in the second came on a rush where Blake made a nifty backhand feed for the punch-in. At that point, it seemed that a 12th straight home win was all but in the bag. 

But then Colorado struck for three power play goals and scored twice in a span of 1:10 to take a two-goal lead. One of those power play goals, late in the second was a backbreaker courtesy of Peter Mueller, who unlike Anaheim's newcomers, was able to join the Avs after being traded by Phoenix earlier in the day. Mueller, who was playing his third game in as many nights, just threw the puck on net from the blue line, where it deflected under Jonas Hiller.

Niedermayer's power play goal off the foot of Avs defenseman Scott Hannan got the Ducks close late in the third, but that was all they could manage.

It was an especially tough loss considering the Ducks had a chance to pull within a tantalizing point of the eighth spot in the Western Conference. And it was a disappointing ending to a night that started out pretty well, with a spine-tingling ceremony honoring the Ducks Olympians. As each of them were introduced, they skated out from the bench and took a spot behind a youth player holding their country's flag. As if that wasn't already memorable enough, Bobby Ryan made sure it was even better for this kid, wrapping his arms around him as the boy tried to steadily hold that big flag. 

As cool photos go, it doesn't get much cooler than this one.

Ryan and the other six remaining Ducks Olympians were part of a special taping of The Element today at the Hilton Anaheim that had a great turnout. We'll have photos from the event on the website later today and that episode of The Element should be available next week.

That event, meanwhile, excused the Olympians from practice today, the first in a Ducks practice jersey for both Visnovsky and Ward.

Both were listening intently during the practice as players and coaches alike tried to get them used to the new system. Both were a welcome addition to a Ducks team that definitely could have used them last night.

Updated March 3 at 4:00 p.m.

Just got word that Aaron Ward will wear number 4 (last worn by Nick Boynton), Lubomir Visnovsky will wear 17 (last worn by the recently traded Petteri Nokelainen) and Curtis McElhinney will wear number 31 (last worn by the recently traded Justin Pogge).

And more numbers: The Ducks' salary cap number right now is at right around $54 million, and as far as this season goes, all of the trading pretty much evened out financially in actual dollars.

Visnovksy is owed $1.5 this year (prorated), then $6.0 million, $5.0 million and 3.0 million over the next three seasons for a total of $15.5. Whitney is owed $725,000 (prorated), then $4.5, $5.0 and $5.5 over the next three seasons for a total of $15.725 million. In other words, after this year, Visnovsky is owed $14 million over three years, Whitney is owed $15 million over three years, in actual dollars. Visnovsky’s cap hit is $5.6 million, Whitney $4 million.

So in actual dollars, the Ducks actually save a little bit on that trade. 

Updated March 3 at 2:49 p.m.

Real quickly, I heard pretty much the same sentiment in two separate emails from fellow team website guys about Lubomir Visnovsky.

Edmonton website guy: You got a great guy in Lubo. One of the best.

L.A. website guy: Great player. Great guy.

Updated March 3 at 2:05 p.m.

In case you're wondering (and you just might be): After trading Whitney, the Ducks will only have five defensemen for tonight's game with Colorado, since neither of the guys they acquired will be here in time. (They will practice with the team tomorrow.) Meanwhile, Timo Pielmeier will be brought up to be the backup goalie tonight while the Ducks wait for McElhinney to get into town. And in case you care about such things, Pielmeier will be wearing number 30, the first time that number's been worn in Anaheim since a certain quirky Russian goalie sported it.

Updated March 3 at 1:51 p.m.

One more: Petteri Nokelainen goes to Phoenix for a sixth round pick, according to reports.

Updated March 3 at 1:04 p.m.

We had to wait for a bit, but now it's official on our end: The Ducks get defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky from the Oilers for Ryan Whitney and a sixth-round pick.

More later.

Updated March 3 at 12:28 p.m.

Big one coming, but if you're watching TSN, you already know.

Updated March 3 at 12:18 p.m.

Ducks get another goalie in Joey MacDonald from the Leafs, though he will likely stay with the Marlies of the AHL for the time being. 

Possibly more deal(s) to report. Possibly not. 

Updated March 3 at 12:01 p.m.

The horn has officially blown on the trade deadline, but as we've learned in the past, that doesn't mean there might not be more deals to report in the next half hour or so. Stay tuned.

Updated March 3 at 10:54 a.m.

Ducks goalie Vesa Tosklala is headed to Calgary and the Ducks receive their goalie, Curtis McElhinney.

Updated March 3 at 8:57 a.m.

Ducks get some veteran defensive help in getting Aaron Ward from Carolina for Justin Pogge and a fourth-round pick in either 2010 or 2011. Ward, by the way, has three Stanley Cup rings and scored the first ever goal in this building (then the Pond) while with Detroit back in 1993.

Meanwhile, the boys on TSN are saying what a "dangerous team" Anaheim will be down the stretch.

Updated March 3 at 7:54 a.m.

Well, it's trade deadline day, which is almost always an interesting one around these parts. In the last couple of days, the Ducks have already made some moves in advance of today's noon Pacific deadline. We'll try to keep you posted in this space and on Facebook and Twitter of any other moves involving the Ducks.

Ducks boss Bob Murray is looking for some veteran defensive help, so you can probably look for at least one deal later today addressing that. As far as anything earth-shaking, keep in mind Murray said this yesterday, "“I like the atmosphere in the room. I like the players in the room. I’m not going to be disappointed if I don’t do anything.”

Meanwhile, as long as your boss isn't around, you can follow live the deals and rumors around the league on TradeCentre (excuse my French).

Stay tuned.  

Updated March 2 at 4:37 p.m.

Is this not the coolest photo ever?

I say it is.

Check out a few more here.

P.S. The O.C. Register got a shot of Bobby Ryan's signed jersey that I mentioned earlier. The one thing I didn't ask him -- did he sign it himself as well?

Updated March 2 at 2:58 p.m.

Pretty hectic day here in Ducks land, as the seven Olympic medalists returned to practice at Honda Center, where they did more than practice. Following about an hour skate, all seven guys posed for a photo shoot on the ice (photos coming later) and met with a horde of media. Each answered questions about the experience, and about turning their focus from Vancouver to what's next -- Wednesday night at home against Colorado.

A sampling: "We’ve got some work to do and I don’t think that is lost on any of the guys that won a medal," said Bobby Ryan. "We had Anaheim in our thoughts throughout the entire time. We have 20 games to catch up some ground. I think we’ll be okay."

Ryan and the seven other Ducks Olympians in the house (as well as those on the Avs) will be honored tomorrow night during a brief pregame ceremony prior to puck drop. In addition all seven Olympic medals and all eight game jerseys will be on display for fans throughout the game.

Speaking of game jerseys, the 5 and 4 on the back of the one Bobby Ryan posed in for the photo shoot was covered in autographs from every member of Team USA. Ryan actually went around the locker room and got every teammate to sign it. "I'm putting that bad boy in a frame," he said.

Ryan skated today with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the top line, as the gold medal combatants quickly became teammates again.

Meanwhile, in the days leading up to their first game back (can't believe the Red Wings and Avs managed to play one last night), the Ducks have made a few moves. Yesterday they traded Evgeny Artyukhin to Atlanta for defense prospect Nathan Oystrick and a conditional draft pick in 2011. The move was made primarily to open a roster spot for Dan Sexton (cue the "Bringin' Sexy back..." music), who was back with the team at practice today.

Sexton skated on a third line in practice today with Todd Marchant at center and Matt Beleskey at another wing, as Randy Carlyle later confirmed that he's planning to go with more of a scoring line in that spot. 

Sexton actually had an interesting story about leaving his car abandoned in a Bakersfield parking lot for the last three of four months, which I'll link to here to keep it from taking away from the rest of this masterpiece.

Artyukhin was a wonder to watch at times, as he was often the speediest player on the ice despite his gargantuan 6-5, 254-pound frame. But he never quite made it happen in Anaheim and was scratched 22 times this year. He last appeared in a game January 29.

Oystrick played 48 games for the Thrashers last year and has been with Chicago of the AHL all this season. For the remainder of this season he will stay in Chicago, where he has been out since February 9 with a broken jaw after taking a puck to the face. Next season he's on a one-way contract through, meaning he'll battle for a roster spot then, and he'd have to clear waivers if the Ducks sent him to the minors. “Oystrick is a player we expect to battle for a position  on our defense next year,” said Bob Murray. “In addition, this opens up a roster spot to bring Sexton back, which is something we felt was important.”

The conditional pick, meanwhile, is a sixth-rounder in the 2011 draft that becomes property of the Ducks if Artyukhin resigns in Atlanta after this season.

The Ducks made another deal this morning when they sent prospect Steven Kampfer (currently at the University of Michigan) to Boston for a fourth-round draft selection. You might remember Kampfer's name because he was involved in two ugly incidents in the past couple of years. He was the victim of an alleged assault by a Michigan football player and suffered a fractured skull in the fall of '08, and a little more than a year ago was injured while getting hit from behind by two Michigan State players in a game.

The pick the Ducks get in return is currently tied into another trade the Bruins made earlier this year. If they hold onto that pick at the end of this season, the Ducks will get their fourth-round selection in this year's draft. If the Bs have to give up that pick, the Ducks get their selection in 2011.

Still awake?

Good. There is another minor trade coming down later today.

Updated March 1 at 11:14 a.m.

There were so many moments yesterday afternoon -- as there were these entire Olympic Games -- where it was so easy to forget we were watching NHL players out there. It was easy to forget they were guys with million-dollar contracts, beautiful houses and luxury cars, many of them with wives and kids.

For NHL players in the Olympics, it's two weeks of teammates becoming enemies -- and enemies becoming teammates. But somehow watching these Games,  and especially that epic gold medal match between Team USA and Team Canada, they just looked like guys who had skates on their feet from the time they were four years old. Guys who played thousands and thousands of games on frozen ponds and in rundown rinks. Guys who played their hearts out for a chance at one of the most treasured prizes in all of sport.

They were just hockey players.

And there were so many moments yesterday afternoon when that resonated:

- Zach Parise punching in that improbable goal to tie it with just 24.4 seconds left, sprinting away from the net to leap off (and seemingly almost over) the glass while his teammates jumped on him like little kids. (I was in a crowded bar in Newport Beach when this happened and the place exploded, everybody high-fiving, including people in USA t-shirts and a couple guys who had draped themselves with American flags. Indisputably the coolest moment of the Olympics for me.) Drew Doughty of the Kings said later, that it felt like "somebody ripped my heart right out of my body."

- Sidney Crosby oh-so-fittingly finding the net to win it in overtime for Team Canada and getting mobbed by the entire team against the glass in a 23-man group hug, a yard sale of hockey equipment decorating the ice.

- Ryan Miller, so good for the U.S. throughout the tournament, dropping his head to the ice after that goal went through, too devastated to even leave the net as the Canadians go wild in celebration. Later Bobby Ryan said, "You almost don't know what to do. Your instinct right away is that we'll get it right back and then you've got to realize you can't. It's tough. It's like everything comes crashing down around you. That's probably the best way to put it."

- Miller later on the Team USA bench, hanging his head and holding back tears, still not haven taken off his specially made mask adorned with images of Uncle Sam and the American eagle.

- Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan barely stopping as they do a quick handshake and bro hug in the congratulatory line, giving no indication that during the other 50 weeks of the year, they're teammates. 

- U.S. players with looks of devastation and disappointment as the silver medals are hung around their necks, not one of them even coming close to a smile.

- Team Canada players, golds around their necks, all loudly singing "O Canada" with their arms around each other, then later piling in for the obligatory group photo at center ice.

- Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry skating around the ice together to acknowledge the screaming fans, with Perry waving a giant Canadian flag over his head. (If you're a Ducks fan and you didn't love this -- well, I don't know what to tell you.)

- Doc Emrick on the NBC telecast, commenting on the aftermath and invoking a line that has become a favorite of his after championship games: Not a lot of time has passed on our wristwatches, but as these members of Team Canada and Team USA get a quiet moment, at some time, when they consider this tournament and what it meant to hockey, as well as their contributions to hockey, we trust they would feel well. It’s hard right now for the United States; it’s joyous for Canada. The episodes in life that last so many years in memory are often measure in fleeting minutes as they happen. A hockey writer named Steve Summers penned that 22 years ago. It fits for Canada right now.

And later that night, during the telecast of the Closing Ceremonies, the camera lingered on a mesmerized Miller walking around the arena with a hundred other Canadian athletes from a dozen different sports, taking pictures of the whole thing with his iPhone. Losses in a championship game are tough, but I'm sure Miller would say they're a little easier to forget when you're able to experience something like that.

(I will say there was one moment when I was reminded these were NHL guys out there. When Team USA's Jack Johnson of the Kings laid a late hit on Perry near the end of the first period, and Getzlaf stepped into the resulting scrum to push and shove and shout some words of warning at Johnson, I momentarily went from a USA fan to a guy who just wanted a King to get his comeuppance.)

It was in the moments after that chill-inducing gold medal game that you start to get that inevitable postgame buzzkill. It's the same thing that happens after the final game of a Stanley Cup Final or a World Series, or as you're cleaning up after your Super Bowl party. You start to think, Man, I'm going to miss this.

Lucky for us, there is still plenty of hockey left, and it starts back up again this week. The eight Ducks Olympians -- some of them teammates during these past two weeks, some of them temporary rivals -- are reuniting with the rest of the Ducks back here in Anaheim as we speak. No matter what country they represent, all of them return their focus on the ultimate goal of claiming that other cherished hockey prize.

This one just happens to be silver. 

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