Ducks 6, Columbus 0.

A lot of things culminated for the Ducks tonight – an awesome month for Jonas Hiller, a revamped power play, the maturation of the young defensemen, and whatever strain of influenza is running through the visitors’ dressing room.

Randy Carlyle wasn’t afraid to highlight the latter in explaining the Ducks’ most lopsided win of the season and their largest on home ice since Dec. 20, 1996, a 7-0 win over Calgary.

“We were able to establish that template,” Carlyle said. “When we do
get on the puck and establish that strong forechecking game, we are a
hockey club that can be effective. Tonight was one of those nights. We
caught Columbus when they were a flat hockey club. They had the flu go
through their team. We seemed to have a half step on them tonight.”
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Nashville 4, Ducks 1.

With 52 seconds left in the game and a puck having just crossed into an empty Ducks net, Corey Perry slammed his stick over his own goal frame, the logical reaction to a typical Nashville Predators victory.

Wednesday’s was one of those. The Ducks outshot their opponent 41-24 but had only a Saku Koivu goal – not a thing of beauty in its own right – to show for it.

The Preds never trailed in ending Anaheim’s three-game winning streak, taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Jerred Smithson and Patric Hornqvist. After Koivu’s goal halved the Ducks’ deficit at 11:46 of the third, empty-net goals by Sergei Kostitsyn and Shea Weber provided the final score.

“The puck was doing funny things for us,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told reporters after the game, “and in some of the situations they beat us for 1-on-1 battles with the puck. That was really the telltale story of the game, where they won more little puck battles 1-on-1 where we should have come up with the puck.”

Nashville won its third straight game by the same score, though Anaheim played better than a three-goal difference would indicate. A few of Pekka Rinne’s 40 saves were extraordinary; he also had help from a goal frame that robbed Matt Beleskey and Lubomir Visnovsky in the third period.

Second-chance shots were few and far between, part of Nashville’s blue-collar M.O. for as long as the team has existed.

Even though he didn’t score, Maxim Lapierre had one of the Ducks’ better efforts in his first game since arriving from Montreal. Playing 15:46 while centering the first and third lines, Lapierre put four shots on goal and was one of the few black-clad players consistently charging on net.

Another player making his 2011 debut, Dan Sexton, had the primary assist on Koivu’s goal. He started the game on a third line with Lapierre and Joffrey Lupul and ended it on the second line with Koivu and Selanne.

It was one of those efforts that probably gets a team more than one goal on most nights, but didn’t Wednesday. These things happen.

A few more notes:

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Friday’s game story.

The blogs are back up and running, a great way to ring in 2011, and I’ll take advantage of this space to give you the full version of yesterday’s game story. Only a partial version made it online:

The Ducks will begin the new year the same way they ended the last – without their captain and star center, Ryan Getzlaf.

Turns out that’s not the end of the world.

The Ducks took advantage of a tired Philadelphia Flyers squad for a 5-2 win Friday before an announced crowd of 17,103 at Honda Center. Jason Blake and Lubomir Visnovsky scored two goals apiece and Bobby Ryan added another, each of them ending a notable scoring drought.

“He’s irreplaceable,” Blake said of Getzlaf. “He’s our captain, he’s our leader, not only on the ice but in the locker room. So I mean, you can’t replace a guy like that. Guys obviously have to give a little bit more … it was a good team effort.”

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Ducks 5, Flyers 2.

Jason Blake and Lubomir Visnovsky had two goals apiece, and Bobby Ryan added another to lift the Ducks to a 5-2 win in their first game since Ryan Getzlaf’s potentially serious injury.

Ryan centered a top line with left wing Matt Beleskey and right wing Corey Perry. Other than that, the lineup looked mostly the same, with the Masterton Line of Blake (two goals), Teemu Selanne (two assists) and Saku Koivu (two assists) coming up the biggest. Defenseman Toni Lydman also had two assists for the Ducks, including a precision
pass to spring Blake on a breakaway for his first goal of the game.

Jonas Hiller made 35 saves and stood tall after Jeff Carter’s goal brought the Flyers within 3-2 at 3:30 of the third period.

Visnovsky’s goal, with 3:10 left in the game, gave him 100 for his career and completed the scoring.

The Ducks blocked 14 shots, including four by Andy Sutton and three by Visnovsky. Cam Fowler blocked another late that appeared to injure the 19-year-old defenseman, but Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said that Fowler was OK after the game.

More details in tomorrow’s editions.

Updates on Getzlaf, Bonino, Smith-Pelly. Update.

Ryan Getzlaf earned his day off practice Wednesday.

The center received 10 stitches Tuesday after he was struck in the forehead by a close-range shot by Shane Doan in the second period of the Ducks’ 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Getzlaf was oozing blood from the moment he was struck and did not return to the game.

“He got the puck directly between his eyes, eyebrows. There’s quite a
gash there,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “He had bleeding into his nasal cavity and whatnot, and he
felt nauseous at times, but that’s because the blood is draining into
his stomach.

“We told him to stay at home today. … It’s better that he stay still here for a while and just basically soak that forehead with as much ice as he possibly can. Get his rest and that really should start the healing process here as we go.”

A team spokesperson said that Getzlaf will have further tests and an MRI on Thursday.

One good omen, Bobby Ryan said, is that the captain “was in good spirits” and “was very vocal after the game.”

Carlyle said it’s too soon to know if Getzlaf is going to be available for Friday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Honda Center. If he can’t go, expect Bobby Ryan to take his place on the top line between left wing Matt Beleskey and right wing Corey Perry.

At least, that’s how they skated at practice Thursday. The second line of Jason Blake-Saku Koivu-Teemu Selanne remained intact. Todd Marchant centered Brandon McMillan and Joffrey Lupul on the third line, and Nick Bonino shifted to left wing on a fourth line with center Kyle Chipchura and right wing George Parros.

Bonino, a natural center, said after practice that it was the first time he’s skated at left wing since he was in high school four years ago. Starting Bonino in a fourth-line role (as opposed to the third line, where he’s been pretty much all season) could be an indication that Carlyle is looking to ease the minutes burden on the 22-year-old center, who will be available to the Ducks for the first time since suffering a bruise on his right foot Dec. 20 in Boston.

Also Wednesday, the Ducks announced that 2010 second-round draft pick Devante Smith-Pelly has signed a three-year, entry-level contract. The 18-year-old right wing has 20 goals and 37 points in 33 games for Mississauga of the OHL.

More in tomorrow’s editions.

12 p.m. update: Smith-Pelly will make $750,000 each year he is in the NHL.

Ducks 3, Boston 0.

Goalies are often the biggest proponents of false modesty after a shutout, crediting everyone but themselves for what is often a stellar individual performance.

Not to imply that Jonas Hiller wasn’t stellar in stopping all 45 shots he faced Monday night in Boston – but the Ducks would be rightly credited with one of their more balanced wins of the season.

They exorcised some first-period demons by taking a 1-0 lead on Brandon McMillan’s goal at 5:57 and not letting go. They took that early confidence boost for a spin on both ends of the ice, allowing Hiller to weather (and more importantly, see) the Bruins’ 45 shots, giving Anaheim two wins in four games of its five-game East Coast trip.

Andreas Lilja (paired with Cam Fowler) and Andy Sutton (paired with Luca Sbisa) both re-entered the lineup on defense and “both of those players played one of their best games of the year for us,” in the words of Randy Carlyle.

McMillan played probably his best game too, scoring when the rebound of Sbisa’s shot fell to his feet in front of Tim Thomas (22 saves), then leading the charge to the net that resulted in Corey Perry’s short-handed goal at 15:05 of the second period.

McMillan also was part of the rush that led to Lubomir Visnovsky’s second-period tally, giving the rookie a plus-3 rating and his first multiple-point game in the NHL.

“The kid has worked hard and he got an opportunity,” Carlyle said. “I moved him out with [Saku] Koivu and [Teemu] Selanne to try and balance out three lines. Because, when you look at their three lines that they have, they got [Marc] Savard centering one line, they got [David] Krejci and then you got [Patrice] Bergeron. Those are three pretty good centers so offensively they can create a lot, so we had to try and match that up so we weren’t overwhelmed by any one line.”

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Detroit 4, Ducks 0.

The Ducks’ 41 shots amounted to a whole hill of beans against Jimmy Howard.

Howard’s fifth career shutout, two of which have come against Anaheim, allowed the Red Wings to stay perfect in three games against the Ducks this season. The Wings won’t be back until March 2, by which time Teemu Selanne should have recovered from the groin injury that kept him out of Friday’s game.

In spite of their chances, the Ducks had no answer for goals by Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom, Danny Cleary and Valtteri Filppula.

A split crowd of 15,173 at Honda Center had little to cheer for in a game that saw the Ducks commit 16 giveaways, and fail to screen Howard nearly as much as the Wings screened Hiller.

“We have to eliminate those mistakes we made in our own zone, especially just giving the puck away way too often,” said Hiller, who stopped 25 shots. “They were able to keep us on the outside all night long, and we weren’t really able to get second opportunities.”

More details in tomorrow’s editions. Here are a few notes that won’t make tomorrow’s editions:

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Ducks 6, Phoenix 3.

The only certainty at the moment in the Pacific Division is that you can’t be certain about anything in the Pacific Division.

All five teams are separated by two points, thanks to the Ducks’ 6-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. Losers of six straight, the Ducks ended the Coyotes’ seven-game winning streak by scoring five straight goals to erase a 3-1 deficit.

Bobby Ryan scored three of the five for his first hat trick of the season. Corey Perry scored one and Brandon McMillan had another, the first goal of his NHL career, off a precision pass by Ryan Getzlaf from behind the Coyotes’ net.

Jason Blake scored in the first period against Anaheim goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who had allowed six goals in his past four games but doubled that total Saturday. “Bryz” fell to 9-7-2 against the Ducks in his career.
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Edmonton 4, Ducks 2.

Ales Hemsky’s breakaway goal with 6:31 left in the third period lifted the Edmonton Oilers to a 3-2 win at Honda Center and sent the Ducks to their fifth straight loss.

The Ducks outshot the Oilers 19-4 in the first period, but couldn’t put a goal past Devan Dubnyk. The onslaught continued into the second period, but goals by Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall 1:41 apart gave Edmonton a 2-0 lead.

Needing a break, the Ducks caught one when Oilers defenseman Theo Peckham was mistakenly penalized for a delay of game – skating in his own end, Peckham flipped the puck through a camera hole and into the stands. Bobby Ryan converted the ensuing power play, and Saku Koivu scored 22 seconds later, to tie the game at 2.

Jonas Hiller stopped 22 of 25. Dubnyk finished with 38 saves as Edmonton broke a streak of six games without a regulation win.

Andy Sutton was activated from injured reserve prior to the game and played 18:30 on a pairing with Cam Fowler.

The Oilers’ final goal came when Corey Perry’s centering pass from behind the Edmonton net missed everyone and traveled the length of the ice, landing in the Ducks’ empty net with 16 seconds left in the game.

All-Star voting begins today.

Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan are on the ballot for the NHL All-Star Game, which will be played Jan. 30 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. Voting began at midnight and closes Jan. 3 at vote.nhl.com.

Ryan has never appeared in an All-Star Game in three NHL seasons. Perry played in the 2008 game; Getzlaf appeared in the 2008 and 2009 contests and Selanne invented the game as a youth. Not quite, but he got his first All-Star bid as a 23-year-old in 1993 and has played in 10 Games during in his 18-year career.

Selanne could well make it 11. He is tied with Getzlaf for ninth in the league in scoring with 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 19 games. Perry is tied for fifth with 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists). Ryan is tied for 19th with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) and his plus-7 rating – for whatever that is worth in fan balloting – is the highest of the Ducks’ quartet.

Interesting to note: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2.62 GAA, .899 save pct.) is on the ballot. Jonas Hiller (2.83 GAA, .920 save pct.) is not. The other ex-Ducks on the ballot include Chris Pronger (Philadelphia) and Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix).