Ray Emery is back.
That was the takeaway from his 30-save performance Wednesday that preserved a 2-1 victory in an often ugly game for the Ducks.
Jason Blake scored both Anaheim goals, finishing a second-period breakaway with a backhand shot that went in off a Blues defenseman, and deflecting a Lubomir Visnovsky shot down and in in the third period. But even he was in a deferential mood after Emery’s big breakthrough.
Emery’s reflexes did not look like those of a man who had not started an NHL game since Feb. 1 of last year. Nor did the time off leave him any less feisty — Emery was shoving players out of his own crease before assuming the butterfly position in the blink of an eye. It takes a special athlete to do that under ordinary circumstances, but even more so when you have a piece of bone from your leg lodged in your right hip.
Between Emery and Dan Ellis, the Ducks can breathe a bit easier about Jonas Hiller’s slow recovery time. The goalie told reporters at this morning’s skate that he “is going in the right direction” but still can’t see the puck well enough to play.
With only 12 games left in the season, the Ducks occupy the eighth position in the West but still have Calgary and Nashville nipping at their heels. Both the Flames and Preds play tomorrow, and the Ducks could find themselves back in 10th place after their day off.
But should the Ducks make the playoffs (and should Hiller be healthy by then), they could have three goalies capable of starting Game 1 of a first-round series. It’s a good problem to have, one that seemed unlikely when Curtis McElhinney and Timo Pielmeier were manning the nets.
Get all the game details in tomorrow’s editions. Some notes and observations:
Tomorrow won’t actually be a day off. Carlyle said the Ducks’ practice will include plenty of conditioning and work on a power play that generated only four shots in six minutes.
With an assist on Blake’s second goal, Lubomir Visnovsky has moved to a share of the NHL lead in scoring among defensemen (14-43=57)
Emery equaled a franchise record for the fewest goals allowed in his first start with the Ducks. Two other goalies also allowed one goal — Dominic Roussel (Oct. 10, 1998 at Washington, 33-of-34 shots, 1-0 loss) and Hiller (Sept. 30, 2007 vs. Los Angeles in London, 22-of-23 shots, 4-1 win).
This marks the first time in nearly 11 years that both the Ducks and Kings have been in playoff position this late in the season (defined by games remaining), dating back to Mar. 21, 2000. The latest the two clubs have ever been in the top eight at the same time was on the aforementioned date, when the Ducks had eight games left (31-29-14, eighth place) and the Kings had nine contests remaining (34-26-13, fifth place) in the 1999-00 season.
The entire Masterton Line of Blake, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu finished plus-2.
Ryan Getzlaf went 7-1 in the faceoff circle.