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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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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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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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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Bonino doing everything except scoring.

You don’t need to remind Nick Bonino about his stat line.

How closely does he track it?

“Pretty closely,” the 22-year-old center said Saturday. “It’s frustrating not having a point.”

For a man with no goals and no assists, it’s almost a surprise that Bonino has been a fixture on the so-called “kid line” in Anaheim. The kids on the wing have changed frequently, but the center position has been locked up since Bonino was recalled from the American Hockey League in early November. He’s only been scratched once in 20 games, averaging 9:42 in ice time per contest.

Only one player in the entire NHL – Kings defenseman Matt Greene – has played in more games than Bonino without picking up a goal or an assist. Among forwards, only new York Islanders tough guy Trevor Gillies has played as many games without a point.

The reason Randy Carlyle keeps penciling in Bonino is simple.
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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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Chipchura activated; still no timetable for Lupul; Selanne leaves practice.

Kyle Chipchura was cleared to play after passing his most recent neuropsych test. The Ducks center, who suffered the second concussion of his career on Oct. 30, skated on a line with Todd Marchant, Aaron Voros and George Parros in practice Wednesday.

“I felt fine all of the past week,” Chipchura said, “but the neuropsych tests showed some signs that it was still affecting me.”

Joffrey Lupul played a full practice, splitting the session between the first and second line, but there is still no timetable for his return. More from him coming in a bit.

Teemu Selanne, who missed Sunday’s game with a sore groin, was on the ice to start practice but left after about 20 minutes.

“Why push it at this point, when we feel he’ll be available for us Friday, and here we are on Wednesday,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “We have tomorrow’s practice. Today he had some ART (Active Response Technique) work done, which could contribute to a little stiffness and soreness in the area. … Hopefully that isn’t a setback. We don’t think it is. He doesn’t think it is.”

Lupul took Selanne’s place on the second line with Jason Blake and Saku Koivu. Brandon McMillan, Nick Bonino and Dan Sexton, who were recalled today from AHL affiliate Syracuse, formed a line of their own.

Three sent to Syracuse; Carter placed on waivers.

The Ducks assigned forwards Brandon McMillan, Dan Sexton and Nick Bonino to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, on Monday. The Ducks aren’t practicing today or tomorrow, and the move allows the three youngsters to practice in Syracuse while saving the parent club a little money by getting three NHL salaries off the books.

The Ducks have a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any or all three players back on the ice then.

Ryan Carter and Josh Green are another matter. Both forwards were on waivers Monday and eligible to be claimed by any of the other 29 NHL teams before 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Green was actually placed on non-roster waivers Sunday, which allowed the Ducks to activate defenseman Andy Sutton from injured reserve and play him against the Edmonton Oilers. That also allowed Green, who has played 11 scoreless games for Anaheim, to remain on waivers an extra day.

The Ducks have now placed Carter on waivers twice this year. The 27-year-old utlilityman has one goal, two assists and 22 penalty minutes in 18 games this season. Carter also had a minus-4 rating while averaging 10:44 a game in mostly a fourth-line and penalty-killing role. His 50.3 faceoff percentage ranked third on the team.

Forwards Kyle Chipchura (concussion) and Joffrey Lupul (back) are nearing closer to their return from injuries. Placing Green and Carter on waivers could be a prelude to making room on the NHL roster.