Ducks 5, Rangers 2.

After Lubomir Visnovsky had completed his second career hat trick last Friday, a reporter asked Randy Carlyle about getting that kind of contribution from a player who wasn’t one of the team’s “big guys.”

Maybe a game like Wednesday’s will dispel any doubts about Visnovsky’s stature.

Visnovsky is now tied for the NHL lead in points by a defenseman (54) after his three-point game against the Rangers. Visnovsky and Corey Perry both had two goals and an assist, and Bobby Ryan scored a goal and collected three assists what became a one-sided contest.

“We all have become accustomed to his level of skill when he does shoot the puck,” Carlyle said of Visnovsky. “He shoots it extremely accurately and hard. He gets to play
with a pretty dependable partner in Toni Lydman, who doesn’t really join the rush. That gives him freedom.”

Dan Ellis allowed a 1-on-1 goal to Brandon Dubinsky on the Rangers’ first shot of the game, but regrouped in time to stop 30 of 32. Lydman, Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu – seeing his first action after missing the last six games with a groin injury – all had an assist.

As Bobby Ryan said, in what may only have been a slight overstatement – to take nothing away from Ray Emery’s door-opening skills – “Twenty guys contributed tonight.”

Notes and observations:
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Ducks extend Sbisa for four years, $8.7 million.

The Ducks secured a major piece of their defense Tuesday by signing Luca Sbisa to a four-year contract extension worth $8.7 million. The 21-year-old will make $1.2 million next season, $2 million in 2012-13, $2.6 million in 2013-14 and $2.9 million in 2014-15.

“We are pleased to be able to reach an agreement with Luca on a long-term contract,” general manager Bob Murray said in a statement. “He has a bright future ahead of him and we look forward to watching him continue to develop.”

Sbisa becomes only the second Ducks player signed through 2014-15 (Bobby Ryan is the other) and gives the team seven defensemen under contract for next season. Sbisa would have become a restricted free agent July 1, when the entry-level deal he signed with Philadelphia was set to expire.

Already a smooth skater when he broke in as a rookie with the Flyers in 2008-09, the former first-round draft pick has taken tremendous strides since the beginning of the season to become a more well-rounded defenseman. He’s eliminated the ill-advised forays with the puck through the neutral zone in favor of a more conservative game, in the process becoming a third-pair fixture (recently with Francois Beauchemin) on the back end.

Sbisa has two goals and eight points in 52 games this season. He’s second on the team in hits (131) and sixth in blocked shots (61) while averaging 16:23 time on ice per game.

Emery up; Levasseur to Syracuse.

J.P. Levasseur’s stint on the Ducks’ bench didn’t last long.

He is heading back to Syracuse, and Ray Emery is on his way back to Anaheim, following the Crunch’s 3-1 win against the Texas Stars earlier today. Emery was named the second star of the game after his 27-save performance. Emery improved to 4-1-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in five games.

The Ducks don’t play back-to-back games until March 19-20, so it’s unclear when Emery will see NHL game action. His AHL days could be over for now, as it doesn’t seem like he has anything left to prove at that level.

Levasseur did not appear in a game, only serving as the backup to Dan Ellis on Saturday.

Vancouver 3, Ducks 0.

The Canucks have that look about them.

Seeing as many (if not more) Canucks sweaters than Ducks sweaters in the stands at Honda Center is one thing — chalk that atmosphere up to a rare Saturday-Sunday Kings-Ducks doubleheader that allowed fans to come down from Vancouver for a weekend of hockey and (mostly) sunshine.

The best magic is taking place on the ice. The last two days have seen Vancouver beat the Kings and Ducks each at their own game. Sunday’s 3-0 win required only 16 shots on goal and a strong performance by backup goalie Cory Schneider. Following his first shutout of the season, Schneider has a better goals-against average (2.14 to 2.21) and save percentage (.928 to .925) than starter Roberto Luongo.

Two goals by third-line center Manny Malhotra off a pair of Ducks miscues, and a power-play goal by Daniel Sedin that went off Andreas Lilja’s stick, proved the Canucks are more than just a two-twin pony. They outmuscled the Kings in a 3-1 win Saturday. On Sunday they frustrated Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan into submission (Getzlaf put 11 shots on goal but converted none), and took their chances with everyone else while capitalizing on a couple mistakes by Lilja and Cam Fowler.

It’s a good strategy against a Ducks team that is still missing two-thirds of its second line. Jason Blake (hand) and Saku Koivu (groin) have now missed back-to-back games. The Ducks did well to gain two points against two teams ahead of them in the standings, Dallas and Detroit, in their last two games.

Stopping the Canucks right now seems to be getting harder with every game. Are they the best team the Ducks have seen this season?

“They’re definitely one of them,” Getzlaf said. “The standings will show you that before you get on the ice. It’s not a trick in this league to get to the top of the standings, it’s hard work and they’ve been doing it all year.”

A few more notes:
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Emery to Syracuse; Levasseur recalled.

The Ducks have sent goaltender Ray Emery back to AHL affiliate Syracuse and recalled Jean-Phillippe Levasseur. Emery didn’t appear in a game after he was recalled from Syracuse on Feb. 23, serving as the backup to Curtis McElhinney, then Dan Ellis.

Emery went 2-1-0 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in three games with the Crunch after the Ducks signed him off the free-agent scrap heap Feb. 7.

Levasseur has a 2.97 GAA, .912 save percentage, and an 8-20-3 record in Syracuse. While poor, his record is more telling of a Crunch team that now ranks dead last in the AHL. Levasseur, who has never appeared in an NHL game, also has four shutouts this season.

The move is probably designed to give Emery more work; the Ducks don’t play back-to-back games until March 19-20 and would not appear to need a backup goalie until then.

Ducks 4, Dallas 3, OT.

The two points were necessary, but not sufficient, to tide the Ducks over until the end of the regular season.

The confidence they gained by winning in overtime for the second straight game might be.

“We want to use this as a confidence boost for us – and the Detroit game,” Teemu Selanne said after the latest OT thriller. “It was a good sign. Hopefully we can keep rolling. This is what we need now because everyone’s playing well.”

None were better Friday than Lubomir Visnovsky, who recorded the first hat trick by a defenseman in franchise history. He capped the trick (pun intended) with the game-winning goal on a booming slapshot past Kari Lehtonen with 3.6 seconds left in overtime. Visnovsky also had an assist on Selanne’s game-tying goal with 1:03 left in regulation.

Visnovsky’s 51 points rank third among all NHL defensemen and his 12 goals now rank fifth among league blueliners, but he had been slumping — just one goal in his last 18 games prior to Friday. And he knew it.

“Last month was not very well for me,” he said. “After the All-Star break, it was a couple tough games. I needed to wake up. This is the best wake-up for me.”

Visnovsky’s second career hat trick came against the same Dallas Stars team he torched for his first, back on Nov. 2, 2005 as a member of the Kings.

The rest of the game had its share of ups and downs for the Ducks. In short, the second period was down, and the other 45 minutes were up. Dan Ellis hung tough to make 23 saves, including a biggie on the breakaway against Trevor Daley with 1:29 left in overtime.

More in tomorrow’s editions. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:
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Ducks 2, Detroit 1, OT.

Bobby Ryan’s overtime penalty-shot goal — the first OT goal and penalty-shot attempt of his NHL career — lifted the Ducks to a much-needed win. It also lifted the crowd of 15,098 at Honda Center, which might not see another game this good until the playoffs.

Other than Ryan’s goal, defense and goaltending were the story Wednesday. Dan Ellis (28 saves) and Jimmy Howard (26) put on quite a show.

So did the Anaheim penalty-killers, who allowed one goal (and just five shots on net) in nine power-play shifts for the Wings. That included a 1:33 stretch of 5-on-3 play in the first period, and a 1:47 stretch of 4-on-3 play to begin overtime.

Todd Marchant (17:48, 16-10 on faceoffs, three hits) did the yeoman’s work. His ice time probably was going to increase after Saku Koivu (groin) ruled himself out of a fourth straight game. Then the Ducks kept taking penalties, his teammates started struggling in the faceoff circle, and all of a sudden the savvy veteran had to pull more than his own weight in a playoff-type atmosphere.

Jason Blake also scored for the Ducks, on a rising 37-foot slapshot early in the third period that Howard probably didn’t see. Ryan’s goal was his 30th, giving him 30 goals in each of his first three NHL seasons. The Ducks couldn’t have picked anyone better to take the penalty shot, as Ryan went to his trusty forehand to beat Howard glove-side.

“Bobby Ryan is a great player and has a great set of hands on him,” Howard said. “It was a good deke. He capitalized on it.”

More notes in tomorrow’s editions. A few notes that won’t make the paper:
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First look at Brad Winchester.

Brad Winchester was on Bob Murray’s radar last summer, but it doesn’t take an electronic device to spot the 6-foot-5, 230-pound forward.

Winchester, who arrived Monday from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a third-round 2012 draft pick, projects primarily as a bottom-six winger. Not surprisingly, he was skating at left wing on a line with Kyle Chipchura and George Parros on the same morning he arrived in Anaheim.

But the Madison, Wisconsin, native is more than strictly an energy-line tough guy.

“He’s been used in front of the net on the power play in St. Louis a little bit,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “We think that he’s a guy who can move up and down on our left side, if we feel that there’s a necessity to have a bigger body with (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry.”

In addition to his 86 penalty minutes and eight major penalties this season, Winchester has nine goals in 57 games. He also has a 13-goal season under his belt in 2008-09.

“Part of the reasoning with the acquisition of the player, is he’s been able to provide a level of offense … he can play on the third line, fourth line, move up on your power play, play a front of the net position,” Carlyle said. “If you get players who can score 10-plus goals in that position, you’d like to utilize that.”
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No setback, Hiller says, just the same strange symptoms.

The nature of Jonas Hiller’s injury, and a timetable for his recovery, seem about as clear as they were a month ago.

Asked after Tuesday’s practice to describe exactly what he had, Hiller said the latest diagnosis of something called “positional vertigo” was ruled out.

“They can cure that pretty easily through different positionings and turning you around, and get rid of that pretty quick,” he said. “They tried that a couple times. it didn’t work on me so they ruled that out. So it’s a kind of vertigo. Nobody can really tell me where it’s coming from. Some people think it’s a virus in my inner ear. Other people say that my inner ear got concussed. Nobody can really tell me. Sure I want to know what caused it. I want to get better.”

In so many words, Hiller said he’s been advised to provoke the feelings of panic that are often triggered by turning his head or passing the puck, “to realize that it’s a normal situation.”

The scariest aspect of this is that, since he doesn’t know the source of the problem, Hiller has no assurances that it isn’t something he will have to deal with long-term.

That potentially bleak outlook contradicts what appeared to be a big sign of progress –Hiller’s first practice with teammates since he was placed on injured reserve Feb. 16.
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