Parting thoughts from the All-Star Game.

I had some burning questions for Corey Perry and Cam Fowler after watching the two compete at the NHL’s All-Star weekend in Raleigh.

On Jan. 8, Fowler won the Ducks’ intrasquad speedskating competition in 13.945 seconds. The course looked the same, and the timing was just as digital, but there’s no way of knowing if we can make an apples-to-apples comparison to the times recorded by the All-Stars at Saturday’s fastest skater comptition. Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders won the event, posting a low time of 14.061 seconds.

If in fact Fowler’s time can be accurately compared to the past winners of the league’s fastest skater competitions, his 13.945 puts him in elite company. Among the seven who have recorded better times since 1992? Fowler’s landlord/mentor, Scott Niedermayer.

So why did Fowler compete in the hardest shot competition instead?
Continue reading “Parting thoughts from the All-Star Game.” »

Getzlaf’s back, and other notes from practice.

Ryan Getzlaf returned to practice — looking trim, but weighing the same, he insisted — for the first time since he went on injured reserve after suffering multiple nasal sinus fractures on Dec. 28. He skated on a line with usual fourth-liners Todd Marchant, George Parros, Kyle Chipchura and Aaron Voros — who was officially activated off IR today.

The occasion of seeing Getzlaf on the ice allowed a moment to put his injury into perspective. I tried, with limited success, to extract from him the potential severity of taking a puck between the eyebrows. Check out tomorrow’s editions for more on that.

Voros was the other big news. Because he gave the Ducks a total of 22 players on the active roster, there was only room for one player to come up from Syracuse. Dan Sexton got the call and Matt Beleskey, who had two goals and seven points in 11 January games, was left behind.

It’s worth noting that Voros was scratched from 20 of the Ducks’ 31 games before he went down with a fractured orbital bone, and his injury opened up ice time for youngsters like Beleskey, Sexton and Brandon McMillan — who skated as the top-line center again Monday. Voros could well find himself in the press box again Wednesday when the San Jose Sharks visit Honda Center.

The forward lines and defensive pairings remained the same. Corey Perry said his flight back from North Carolina touched down at 1 p.m. local time, giving him just enough time to make the 3 p.m. practice (but not enough time to unpack). Jonas Hiller and Cam Fowler were also on the ice, as was goaltending consultant Pete Peeters, wearing the full goalie pads.

Perry and Cam Fowler talked a bit about their All-Star Game experiences, but I’ll save that for the next blog.

One more tidbit that you never find in a newspaper (which reminds me why blogs were invented): Teemu Selanne said today’s practice, which ended around 4:30 p.m., reminded him of how it used to be when he was coming up because he was able to leave the rink with darkness creeping in outside. Winnipeg, I asked? Nope, Finland. “Back home,” he said.

Ducks All-Star recap.

The NHL All-Star Game is over, and the lasting Corey Perry-versus-Jonas Hiller moment still took place Saturday, when the Ducks’ leading scorer beat the Ducks’ leading goaltender (

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) in an exhibition shootout.

Perry wasn’t responsible for any of the game-high 17 shots Jonas Hiller faced in the second period Sunday, but Hiller had a few dandies among his game-high 15 saves. If any goalie were to be named MVP of an NHL All-Star Game – Mike Richter was the last, in 1994 – Hiller did well to state his case. After giving up goals to Patrick Sharp and Kris Letang on his first five shots, Hiller stopped 12 straight as Team Nicklas Lidstrom took a 7-6 lead.

Down 4-0 at one point, Team Lidstrom walked away with an 11-10 win.

Perry had a pair of primary assists for Team Eric Staal. Staal, the team captain, did most of the work on his third-period goal after taking a short pass from Perry. Later in the period, Perry had a nice set-up on Rick Nash’s goal, reaching around a defender to sneak through a pass on the breakaway:

In case you missed the game, it was a fairly typical NHL All-Star Game despite the build-up from Friday’s creatively staged draft.

Sharp was named the game’s MVP – a curious choice considering that his team lost, and his three points (one goal, two assists) were matched or eclipsed by five players, including four on the winning team. An educated guess: Sharp was credited with three assists in the first period. One assist was taken back during the second period, but some of the voting contingent literally might not have gotten the memo before their votes were cast.

(Video courtesy of; photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Perry reigns in the shootout at skills competition (Video).

Consider the expectations raised for Corey Perry the next time he’s called upon in a shootout.

Perry was a perfect 3-for-3, including a goal against teammate Jonas Hiller on his first attempt, in the shootout challenge at the NHL’s SuperSkills competition Saturday. Perry outlasted Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis’ go-to 90-degree turn with a variety of moves – going top-shelf on Hiller, 5-hole on Marc-Andre Fleury and top-shelf again on Tim Thomas to win the competition.

Perry’s personal accomplishment also clinched victory for Team Eric Staal in the head-to-head points against Team Nicklas Lidstrom, 33-22. Perry would have been properly labeled an underdog going into the event – he’s only 1 for 6 in shootouts so far this season.

Perry had the most memorable day of the three Ducks, a day that included this set of moves in the breakaway challenge (won for the third straight year by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin):

Hiller had a quiet day. He wasn’t called upon until the second round of the shootout challenge, didn’t compete in the fastest skater competition (leaving that spectacle to Tim Thomas and Cam Ward), and wasn’t in the net against any of the breakaway shooters. Given Hiller’s relative lack of activity, it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see Perry beat him on the first shot he saw.

Of the next 10 shots Hiller saw, only one got by – off the stick of Columbus’ Rick Nash.

Cam Fowler participated in the hardest shot challenge and recorded shots at 93.7 and 93.8 mph. It was the second-slowest shot among the 12 shooters (ahead of only Nash). Fowler also missed on his only shootout attempt, against Ward.

The All-Star Game is tomorrow at 1 p.m. (televised on Versus).

Hiller goes in 10th round, Perry 15th at All-Star draft.

A seldom-seen set of spectacles gave Jonas Hiller a dignified look as he sat with his fellow NHL All-Stars at the draft room in Raleigh, N.C.

Then Hiller was met with the indignity of being the last goalie selected Friday, in the 10th round by team captain Nicklas Lidstrom. Hiller and Ducks teammate Corey Perry were split up for Sunday’s All-Star game, which will be played at the RBC Center, home of the Carolina Hurricanes.

According to the rules of the first-year “draft” format, Hiller could not have been picked any later than he was. All six all-star goalies had to be picked in the first 10 rounds.

Hiller, who leads the NHL with 25 wins, watched as Cam Ward was the first player selected overall by captain Eric Staal, Ward’s teammate in Carolina. Tim Thomas (fifth round, Lidstrom), Henrik Lundqvist (sixth round, Staal), Marc-Andre Fleury (ninth round, Lidstrom) and Carey Price (10th round, Staal) all went first.

Perry had to wait until the 15th round to hear his name called, when he was selected by Staal  — one spot after Minnesota Wild forward Martin Havlat and one spot ahead of Kings forward Anze Kopitar.

In addition, Ducks rookie Cam Fowler joined Team Lidstrom and will compete opposite Perry in the SuperSkills competition Saturday. The rookies were divided into two teams of six, before each group of rookies joined up with one group of All-Stars.

Ducks 3, Columbus 2.

The Ducks will not play another game this month, but not by choice.

Anaheim wrapped up a four-game Eastern trip with another one-goal win, leaning again on their goalie to pull out a tough win in a hostile environment. The wins in Columbus, Montreal and Ottawa gave the Ducks six of a possible eight points on the trip, and brought their January record to 8-3-0.

Teemu Selanne, Cam Fowler and Jason Blake scored goals, Blake his 200th in the NHL. Jonas Hiller had another monster game, finishing with 35 saves, including point-blank stops on Rick Nash and Anton Stralman point-blank in the third period.

The Ducks got a needed cushion when Derek Dorsett was hit with a five-minute major penalty for boarding Corey Perry in the first period. Selanne and Fowler cashed in with power-play goals 61 seconds apart and, just as importantly, Perry returned to the game before the period was over.

Nash scored before the period was over to pull Columbus within 2-1, but Blake’s insurance goal early in the third, on a beautiful backhand flip in front of the net, restored the two-goal margin. Brassard’s power-play goal at 9:54 of the third period cut the lead to 3-2 but the Jackets couldn’t convert with Steve Mason (19 saves) pulled for an extra attacker.

A few more notes:
Continue reading “Ducks 3, Columbus 2.” »

Ducks 4, Montreal 3, SO.

Saku Koivu’s first game back in Montreal began with a heart-warming, name-chanting tribute – and nearly ended in heartbreak.

The longtime captain of the Canadiens could only sit and watch from the penalty box as Max Pacioretty jammed a rebound past Jonas Hiller with 12.6 seconds left in the third period to tie the game at 3.

But for the second time in three games, Bobby Ryan saved the day. Using the same forehand move on Carey Price that he used four days earlier to win a game in Ottawa, Ryan scored the only goal of the shootout, and Jonas Hiller stopped all three Canadiens attempts on the other end, to give the Ducks the win.

Cam Fowler and Corey Perry scored power-play goals in regulation, and Ryan scored at even strength, to give Anaheim (27-20-4) a 3-1 lead heading into the third period. Goals by Pacioretty – his second of the game – and Mathieu Darche allowed the Habs to tie the game in a third period that saw them outshoot the Ducks 23-5.

Hiller, who made 37 saves, was his usual outstanding self in a head-to-head matchup with Price. By getting the win, Hiller matched Price for the NHL lead with 24 wins.

With one stop left (Tuesday in Columbus) on a four-game road trip, the Ducks have collected four of a possible six points to move into a tie with Nashville for fourth place in the Western Conference standings.

A few more notes:
Continue reading “Ducks 4, Montreal 3, SO.” »

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:
Continue reading “Ducks 2, Senators 1, SO.” »

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.
Continue reading “Phoenix 6, Ducks 2, and a possible trip to Europe.” »

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:

Continue reading “Ducks 7, St. Louis 4.” »