Luca Sbisa will play in Lethbridge.

The Ducks have assigned defenseman Luca Sbisa to his junior team, the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League.

The 19-year-old was not eligible to be sent to the American Hockey League or ECHL. He appeared in eight games with Anaheim, going scoreless with six penalty minutes, before becoming a healthy scratch for the first time Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Sbisa played a season-high 15:08 on Oct. 17 vs. St. Louis. He made his Ducks debut on Oct. 3 vs. San Jose. At 19 years, eight months and three days, he became the third-youngest Duck (Oleg Tverdovsky and Stanislav Chistov) and second-youngest Ducks defenseman (Tverdovsky) to appear in an Anaheim uniform.

Attendance down, TV ratings up

The swaths of empty rows this season have been a strange sight inside Honda Center, where attendance through five Ducks home games is down significantly. At this point a year ago, the Ducks were averaging 16,995 at home; that figure is now down to 15,253. The building supports 17,174.

Two home games into the 2008-09 season, the club’s home sellout streak ended at 78 games, a span of three seasons. This season has only seen one sellout, on opening night against the San Jose Sharks.

So how are fans getting their Ducks fix? On TV, apparently. The NHL issued a press release today listing the Ducks among three teams (New Jersey and Florida are the others) with triple-digit percentage increases in local TV ratings through the first two weeks.

Perhaps in a down economy, even hockey becomes a TV-friendly sport.

Pogge recalled from Bakersfield.

The Ducks recalled goaltender Justin Pogge from ECHL Bakersfield this morning, with Jean-Sebastien Giguere apparently still bothered by the strained groin that forced him off the ice late Saturday.

Pogge appeared in four contests with the Condors this season, posting a 2-1-0 record with a 2.10 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. The 23-year-old could be especially motivated to face tonight’s opponent, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who gave up on Pogge by trading him to the Ducks for a conditional draft pick. Toronto drafted Pogge 90th overall, in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Giguere is listed as “day to day.”

Giguere tweaked groin, will be re-evaluated Monday.

After tweaking his groin late in a 6-4 loss to Columbus on Saturday, Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere did not practice with teammates Sunday, but will try to avoid going on injured reserve.

Giguere will be re-evaluated Monday morning and could back up Jonas Hiller against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. If he’s unable to go, expect Justin Pogge to make the trip down from Bakersfield prior to game time.

Continue reading “Giguere tweaked groin, will be re-evaluated Monday.” »

Ducks re-assign Sbisa.

The writing was on the wall Saturday night, when Luca Sbisa was a healthy scratch in a 6-4 loss to Columbus: The19-year-old defenseman won’t be back with the Ducks in the regular season.

Sbisa, a native of Switzerland, is expected to be assigned either to his junior team in Lethbridge, Alberta, or a European team. Sbisa appeared in eight games, going scoreless, and would have had to remain in Anaheim for the remainder of the season had he played in two more. Because he is under 20 years old, Sbisa can’t be assigned to an AHL or ECHL team.

“We’ve probably discussed it for the better part of two weeks here,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said Sunday. “We felt we couldn’t continually keep him (playing) 10-12 minutes a night. It wouldn’t be beneficial the way our team was playing. We felt he wouldn’t garner those minutes here in the next while, so we made a decision based on what’s best for the player in the long term.”

Continue reading “Ducks re-assign Sbisa.” »

Ducks lose, Giguere hurt.

Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere sustained a game-ending injury, and surrendered the game-winning goal, with 3:22 left in a 6-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Honda Center.

Giguere, who was hobbled by a groin injury earlier in the week, remained on his hands and knees for about a minute after allowing the goal to Columbus’ Fedor Tyutin, then skated off on his own power — hunched over, and his hand on his midsection.

Joffrey Lupul scored twice, and Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne added power-play goals for the Ducks (3-5-1), who had not scored with the man advantage since Oct. 8 in Boston.

More details in tomorrow’s editions.

Marchant on Artyukhin.

There was some buzz around Honda Center on Friday regarding what the Ducks would be missing without their 6-foot-5, 250-pound ball of thunder and lightning known as Evgeny Artyukhin.

Another logical question: When will the guy rein in his game?

Thursday’s three-game supension by the league was the second of Artyukhin’s 3-year NHL career. And neither of the suspension-inducing plays was an example of Artyukhin at his most fearsome. That would be this 14-second clip of Artyukhin, then a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, ripping off Antoine Vermette’s helmet and using it to hit Vermette over the head.

Todd Marchant addressed both topics Friday.

Continue reading “Marchant on Artyukhin.” »

Giguere on the mend, available Saturday.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere said Friday that he’s recovered from the groin strain that relegated him to a backup role on Wednesday. Because the injury was unlike any he’s had before, Giguere said he had to consider going on injured reserve.

“I didn’t think it was that bad for me to miss two games like that, so I had to make a decision whether I was going to back up or not,” the goaltender said. “It’s too bad for (Justin) Pogge because he had a lot of traveling in one day.”

Carlyle said he has the option of starting either Giguere or Jonas Hiller against the Columbus Blue Jackets tomorrow. Giguere said he wasn’t 100 percent on Wednesday, “but I would have been able to do pretty much everything out there,” and reported that his symptoms have mostly subsided.

“I know tomorrow it’s going to be 100 percent,” he said.


Artyukhin responds to suspension.

In his first public comments since being suspended by the NHL for slew-footing Matt Niskanen, Ducks forward Evgeny Artyukhin apologized Friday for causing injury to the Dallas defenseman.

“I didn’t trip him. I didn’t want to kill him. I want to apologize to this guy. I hope he’s going to come back soon,” Artyukhin said after practice Friday.

Because he’s been suspended by the league before, Artyukhin must miss three games beginning Saturday against Columbus. Though he and his agent chose not to appeal the suspension, Artyukhin questioned the ruling.

“My foot both were on the ice. I didn’t kick him. My foot stayed on the ice,” he said. “I just used my body, like, my upper body.”

Slew-footing is defined under Rule 52.1 of the official NHL rulebook as “the act of a player or goalkeeper using his leg or foot to knock or kick an opponent’s feet from under him, or pushes an opponent’s upper body backward with an arm or elbow, and at the same time with a forward motion of his leg, knocks or kicks the opponent’s feet from under him, causing him to fall violently to the ice.”

The video of the incident is somewhat obstructed by the side boards, but it was enough to garner a suspension upon review by the league. Niskanen suffered a head injury — unofficially reported to be a concussion — and is day-to-day.

“I didn’t think that this was going to be like a bad hit, or a dirty hit,” Artyukhin said. “I think I did everything right. It just happens sometimes, the guy falls right so he gets a concussion.

“It’s just a part of the game. I just finished my check.”

Beleskey up, Carter to IR.

The Ducks recalled Matt Beleskey from AHL San Antonio today after placing forward Ryan Carter (foot) on injured reserve. Beleskey practiced at Honda Center with teammates this morning, skating at left wing with Petteri Nokelainen at center and Todd Marchant at right wing.

Carter’s foot was struck by a puck Wednesday and he did not practice Friday. Head coach Randy Carlyle said that an MRI revealed a bone bruise, but no break.

Beleskey appeared in two games with the Ducks last season, going scoreless while averaging 11:09 time on ice. In eight games for San Antonio this season, he had one goal, three points and 15 penalty minutes.

“We don’t bring a player in without saying we’re going to play him. We’re going to pay him,” Carlyle said of Beleskey. “We expect the transition to be less than what he experienced last time around, for sure.”

A former fourth-round draft pick (2006), Beleskey made his NHL debut with the Ducks on Jan. 9 against Tampa Bay, recording a plus-1 rating in just under 14 minutes of ice time. He spent the rest of the season with AHL Iowa, earning 11 goals and 35 points, with 58 penalty minutes, in 58 games.

“I’ve had a lot of time to learn the system,” Beleskey said. “I’m starting to get used to it.”

The the 21-year-old he skated with both Marchant and Nokelainen in preseason games this year. Beleskey described his game as that of a “hard-nosed, hard-working forward who’s going to bang, and if I have to, go into the corners and muck it up.”