Ducks 2, Senators 1, SO.

With the lousy season that the Senators are having – they’re equally close to the last Eastern Conference playoff spot and the worst record in the NHL – try saying with a straight face that a shootout was a desirable outcome Tuesday.

On the other hand, Ottawa was 0-6 in games that go beyond three periods. And with Jonas Hiller stopping nearly everything the Senators sent his way, the Ducks could say they planned it this way all along.

Bobby Ryan scored on the Ducks’ second shootout attempt, and Hiller stoned all three Ottawa shooters, to kick off the Ducks’ four-game road trip with a 2-1 win. Hiller also made 39 saves in a 65-minute game that saw Ottawa outshoot Anaheim 40-27.

Corey Perry scored the Ducks’ lone goal in regulation, his team-leading 24th of the season, at 14:30 of the first period. Perry was in the process of falling backwards when he somehow lifted a shot over the pads of goalie Brian Elliott (26 saves).

Milan Michalek created the Sens’ lone goal when he drew the attention of the Ducks’ defense into the middle of the slot, then somehow – from his rear end – put a backhand shot on Hiller. Mike Fisher snuck behind a distracted Ducks defense to poke the rebound past Hiller at 18:19 of the second period.

Elliott held up his end of the goalie duel in the third period, stoning Matt Beleskey on a breakaway for one of 12 saves to set the stage for overtime.

In the shootout, Elliott wilted at the forehand wrister of Ryan and Hiller stopped Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and Henrik Karlsson to preserve the win. The Ducks have won eight of their last 10 with games in Toronto, Montreal and Columbus looming before the All-Star break.

A few more notes:
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Ducks 3, Edmonton 2.

What appeared to be cakewalk for the Ducks over the floundering Edmonton Oilers turned into a mess in a hurry Sunday at Honda Center.

Somehow, a pair of goals by Teemu Selanne – the first going for his 1,300th career point – and another by Luca Sbisa held up, with Curtis McElhinney and the Ducks’ shot-blockers doing the dirty work late.

“We were forced to probably perform some extra work that really wouldn’t
have been necessary,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said, “but we found a way to win the hockey game.”

Goals by Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner 26 seconds apart late in the second period slashed the Ducks’ 3-0 lead to 3-2. Anaheim was outshot 12-7 in the final period, and survived the final 3:12 short-handed. The Ducks also blocked 22 shots, led by Andreas’ Lilja’s five.

McElhinney was briefly relieved by Jonas Hiller in the second period after suffering a cut to his neck that required stitches. More on that, and the rest of the game, in tomorrow’s editions. here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:

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Phoenix 6, Ducks 2, and a possible trip to Europe.

Whatever mojo the Ducks had working on their 5-1 homestand disappeared somewhere over the skies between Anaheim and Glendale.

Starting in the second period, Phoenix scored four straight goals to break open a 1-1 game and send the Ducks to their second loss in their last eight games.

Matt Beleskey and Corey Perry scored the goals. Jonas Hiller (22 saves on 26 shots) absorbed the loss and was pulled from the game after allowing the Coyotes’ fourth goal. Curtis McElhinney stopped six of eight in relief.

“It was just one of those nights,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told reporters following the game. “I don’t have an explanation for it but we have to find one in a hurry.”

The Ducks host the Edmonton Oilers – who will also be playing on back-to-back nights – at 5 p.m. Sunday.

More interesting than Saturday’s game was the prospect of where the Ducks will begin the 2011-12 seaon.
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Taking the show on the road.

The Ducks have made quite a charge up the standings and won’t be sneaking up on anyone thanks to their current 6-1-0 stretch. They’ll have Thursday and Friday to take a deep breath, let some teams make up a few games in hand, and reflect on their present perch: tied for fourth place in the Western Conference.

Eleven of their next 14 games will be on the road, where the Ducks’ record ain’t pretty – 8-11-3 compared to 16-7-1 at Honda Center. The question of whether they can keep up their torrid pace is a valid one.

“It’s a very crucial road trip coming up,” Teemu Selanne said. “It’s good motivation to try to use this time before the All-Star Break really strong.”

Selanne, as his is habit, sees the glass as half full. He points out that, through 46 games last season, the Ducks were 20-19-7 (47 points), five points behind this year’s pace (24-18-4). The Ducks have always been a second-half team and just because the second half is starting on the road, well, that shouldn’t be an obstacle. Right?
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Ducks 7, St. Louis 4.

As much two games can be mirror images of one another, the Ducks and the St. Louis Blues certainly flipped roles in their second meeting of the season Wednesday.

Anaheim exacted revenge for a 5-1 loss in St. Louis on Oct. 11 – what seems like a long three months ago after they completed a 5-1 homestand with Wednesday’s win. Bobby Ryan notched his third career hat trick, his second of the season, and Jason Blake, Lubomir Visnovsky, Corey Perry and Brandon McMillan also added goals for the Ducks.

“We’ve realized that on a homestand you really need to come out and put your best foot forward,” Ryan said. “The month of December was a little bit ugly. We’ve gone on streaks all year long. We need to come out at home, establish the forecheck and our identity.”

No one can speak to streaks better than Ryan, who has six goals in his last three games after scoring just one in the previous 10. All three of his goals came within spitting distance of the crease – and off fine primary assists from Joffrey Lupul, Perry and Andreas Lilja – which marked a significant evolution in Ryan’s transition from wing to center.

“It didn’t come as smoothly as we all liked, but we persevered and he has persevered,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “Hopefully that is just a springboard for him to continue on with the offensive threat that he is.”

In that Oct. 11 game, their third of the season, the Ducks were outshot 53-14 and Ryan collected 17 penalty minutes (and no goals). Call Wednesday’s outing a measuring-stick game – a measurement against the Ducks’ former selves.

Jonas Hiller got burned by lapses on defense and allowed four goals on 34 shots, seeing his shutout streak end at 178:34. The Ducks took advantage of an off-night for Ty Conklin, who stopped just 17 of 24.

A few more notes:

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Palmieri named to AHL All-Star team.

Forward prospect Kyle Palmieri was chosen Tuesday to represent the Syracuse Crunch at the American Hockey League All-Star Game on Jan. 31 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Palmieri has nine goals and 13 points in 22 games for the Ducks’ AHL affiliate. Since he was demoted after a 10-game NHL stint in November, the 19-year-old winger has only four points (two goals, two assists) in 13 games – a span that was interrupted by Palmieri’s participation in the World Junior Championships.

As it was in the NHL, online balloting was used to determine the first All-Stars. The fans’ choices will be in the starting lineup, while the 30 AHL coaches filled out the remainder of the roster. Every team must be represented and Palmieri was the only player chosen from a Crunch team that has seen plenty of upheaval, including the recent trade of leading scorer Trevor Smith.

Palmieri will also take part in the AHL Skills Competition on Jan. 30 in Hershey.

Perry, Hiller, Fowler get the call to Raleigh.

Once thought to be playing in the shadows of Ryan Getzlaf and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, respectively, Corey Perry and Jonas Hiller became All-Stars in their own right Tuesday.

Perry and Hiller were among the 36 players chosen by the NHL’s hockey operations department to compete in the Jan. 30 game in Raleigh, N.C. Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler was one of 12 rookies chosen to compete in the “SuperSkills” competition the day before.

It’s the first All-Star selection for Hiller and the second for Perry, who was an injury replacement at the 2008 game in Atlanta.

“The last couple days I’ve been talking about it and felt like it would be really cool and a great honor,” Hiller told reporters Tuesday at Honda Center. “There are lots of good goalies out there. I wouldn’t want to be the one who has to pick.”

Hiller is currently riding a two-game shutout streak that’s moved him into a tie for second in the league in wins (21) and shutouts (4), and third in save percentage (.929). His 2.39 goals-against average is 13th in the league, but Hiller has earned it the hard way – by facing more shots than any NHL goalie.

“When I finally got the word it was just great,” Hiller said. “It’s a great feeling to have the chance to go there. It’s a great honor and I’m really excited.”
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Hiller is NHL’s second star of the week.

As we noted after yesterday’s game, it helps to do well when the comissioner is watching.

From the official NHL release:

Hiller posted a 2-1-0 record, 0.67 goals-against average and .977 save percentage in three starts, concluding the week with consecutive shutouts and an active scoreless streak of 154:50. Hiller began the week by stopping 20 of 22 shots in a 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators Jan. 5. He made 27 saves for his third shutout of the season in a 6-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Jan. 7 and stopped 37 shots in blanking the San Jose Sharks 1-0 on Jan. 9. Hiller improved his season record to 21-14-3 with a 2.39 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and four shutouts in a League-leading 39 appearances. Hiller also tops all NHL goaltenders in saves (1,156), is tied for second in victories, ranks third in save percentage and is tied for fourth in shutouts (four). He is the first Ducks goaltender to post back-to-back shutouts since J.S. Giguere had three straight from Dec. 8-15, 2002.

 

Ducks 1, Sharks 0.

They were exhorting Bobby Ryan to shoot from every section of Honda Center except for two – sections 408 and 409, which were occupied by enough teal-clad Sharks fans to have filled six buses on a round-trip tour to and from San Jose.

Ryan dangled the puck on his stick from the left wall, through the left faceoff circle, through the slot, and through the right circle, before he finally released a shot at 14:29 of the second period. It was worth the wait for Ryan and for the fans (except those sitting in sections 408 and 409). The wrist shot sneaked through a scrum including Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, Ducks forwards Joffrey Lupul and Brandon McMillan, and of course goalie Antti Niemi, for the only goal on Sunday.

“Their defenseman (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) made a good play and followed me,” Ryan said. “I kept trying to wait for him to stop and he never did. So I finally hit the brakes. There was so much traffic in front, Lupul and McMillan were creating a stir, so I just tried to put it through the traffic. They haven’t found holes in the past month. I’m glad they are finding them right now and I’ll try to continue to do it.”

Ryan has scored four goals in the last five games, all in the absence of injured center Ryan Getzlaf. Before that he had gone seven games without a goal. Ryan’s 18th goal of the season puts him three behind Corey Perry for the team lead.

It also spoiled an otherwise perfect night for Niemi, who had the unfortunate task of being opposed by Jonas Hiller, who recorded his second shutout in as many games.

Plenty more on him in tomorrow’s editions. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:
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Scouting the Sharks.

The Sharks and Ducks meet Sunday for the third time this season, under circumstances very different from any this season or last.

Anaheim has gone 4-1 in its last five games to pull season-high four games over .500. San Jose (21-15-5) has lost two straight, four of six, and just got a tongue-lashing from GM Doug Wilson.

More interesting than how each team is playing is how each team got to this point. Since the teams last met on Nov. 9, rookie forward Logan Couture has 13 goals and eight assists in 29 games to become the Sharks’ leading goal-scorer. They have six forwards (and one defenseman, Dan Boyle) entering play Saturday with at least 27 points – something no other NHL team can claim.

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