Phoenix 7, Ducks 4.

The first game of the NHL preseason is a haphazard ritual, its beauty comparable to gargling the morning breath out of one’s mouth at the crack of dawn, its timing and coordination no better than of a pack of hyenas attempting to divide a carcass of raw meat.

There is no need here to romanticize the hockey-viewing experience of 12,544 announced spectators at Honda Center — it was pretty ugly — but there were a few takeaways.

First, the quick and dirty game synopsis:

Igor Bobkov played roughly the first 30 minutes and John Gibson played the last 30. It was the first NHL game action of any sort for either goalie (Bobkov was at last year’s NHL camp and did not appear in an exhibition game), but the seven goals couldn’t totally be pinned on them. “We’ve got to work on defensive-zone coverage. That’s what we have to work on, obviously,” head coach Randy Carlyle said.

Sean Zimmerman, Kyle Palmieri, Andrew Cogliano and Nate Guenin scored goals for the Ducks, who never led in the game. The offensive effort wasn’t much to blink at, either.

“We just seemed to be slapping the puck around in too many situations,” Carlyle said. “From our standpoint it’s an evaluation game.”

On with the evaluating then …
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Notes from rookie scrimmage.

It was tempting to leave Anaheim Ice on Thursday with a broad set of generalizations, but the Ducks’ rookie scrimmage amounted to a one-hour snapshot of a portion of the organization’s prospect pool.

Twenty-two players have been invited to the six-day camp that began Thursday. All but one was at the rink Thursday morning — a team spokesperson said that goalie Igor Bobkov’s flight into California was delayed. Maybe Bobkov knew something the other 21 didn’t: Of the players on the ice for the intrasquad scrimmage, the goalies had the least fun.

The final score was 9-6, apropos for the 4-on-4 game of river hockey that featured no hitting and plenty of uncoordinated improvisation. John Gibson, the 39th overall pick at last week’s Entry Draft, and Iiro Tarkki, whom the Ducks lured from Finland this summer, absorbed all of the burden.

Tarkki gave up the nine-spot, but faced more shots than Gibson (by my unofficial estimate) and made the more impressive saves. The 6-foot-3 netminder, who turns 26 today, is not ready for the NHL, and the Ducks will be happy if he and Bobkov can upgrade the goaltending picture in Syracuse. Gibson struggled early but seemed to settle down. He’ll have up to four seasons at the University of Michigan to iron out the kinks before he ever plays a game in Anaheim.

Goals were scored by Chris Wagner (4), Emerson Etem (2), Joseph Cramarossa (2), Devante Smith-Pelly (2), Andy Welinski, Tim Heed, Andreas Dahlstrom, Brett Perlini and Radoslav Illo. Rickard Rakell was at the rink but didn’t scrimmage because his equipment hadn’t arrived. Neither did Jake Newton, who is battling illness.

Those are the facts. They can be overestimated. I did longer interviews with Justin Schultz and Rakell, and will save their stories for a later post.

Since it was the only scrimmage that will be open to the public, here’s a few snap judgments:
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Bobkov goes to Kingston in OHL trade.

Prospect Igor Bobkov won’t be reporting back to the London Knights in 2011-12.

That’s because the goalie’s Ontario Hockey League club swapped his rights to the Kingston Frontenacs earlier today after a season in which the Ducks’ 2009 third-round draft pick went 4-10 with a 4.12 GAA as a backup.

The London Free Press has the story:

“He came in here behind the eight-ball and had to battle his weight
early on,” said Knights goalie coach Bill Dark, “and he didn’t get to
play as much because Michael Houser never opened the door for him.

“Bob steadily improved as the year went on (he stopped 44 shots in a
win over Kitchener in the season finale) and won two games facing over
40 shots in Syracuse but I think, if he goes to Kingston and is the
starter there, he’ll be well-served by another year in the OHL.”

Bobkov’s junior eligibility is up, but he could return to Kingston next season as an overage player if he doesn’t go pro.

Iiro Tarkki update. Update.

The team still could not confirm the signing of Finnish goalie Iiro Tarkki as of this morning, but Tarkki’s agent appears to have confirmed it to a Finnish publication (thanks to Google translate).

Update (3 p.m.): The team has confirmed the signing. From the official release:
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Ellis likely to start; New third line?; Black Aces up.

Dan Ellis was the first of the three Ducks goalies to leave the ice at the morning skate. That’s usually a good sign that he will be the starter, as if the writing weren’t on the wall already.

At his post-skate presser, Randy Carlyle at once declined to name his starter and explained why he doesn’t: “I’m sure that Barry Trotz and his staff have dissected what all three of our goalies have done. They probably had to do more work because we know who’s going to play for Nashville.”

Meanwhile, the forward lines stayed the same:

Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry
Blake-Koivu-Selanne
Beleskey-Bonino-McMillan
Winchester-Marchant-Parros
Ruutu-Chipchura-Sexton

Brandon McMillan is definitely skating at right wing. I think I might have mistakenly penciled him down on the left side earlier, maybe because that’s the only position other than center he’s played in his first NHL season. Switching a productive two-way center to the right side in favor of another rookie (Bonino) who hasn’t scored a point in the NHL all season is a bit unexpected, assuming Beleskey, Bonino and McMillan are in the lineup tonight against Nashville.

Carlyle, of course, had his reasons.
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Dallas wins, playoffs at stake tomorrow, and more.

The Ducks must wait another day to clinch a playoff berth after the Dallas Stars handed the Colorado Avalanche a 4-2 loss Thursday.

Aside from whether or not they will participate in the postseason, the biggest question facing the Ducks in their home-and-home series against the Kings is who will be in goal.

Ray Emery did not practice Thursday, one day after leaving midway through the Ducks’ 6-2 win over San Jose with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Emery finished the game on the bench, while Dan Ellis finished the final 29 minutes between the pipes.

“I felt a lot better this morning than I thought I would last night,” Emery said Thursday. “It’s a thing where I’m trying to be cautious, because I’m leery of things I’ve had in the past and I want to be able to contribute when I’m in there for a long period of time. It’s more of me being cautious.”

Said head coach Randy Carlyle, “we felt it was best for him to work out off-ice and have a treatment this morning, and we’ll make an assessment tomorrow morning at the morning skate.”

Emery was not the only Ducks player missing at practice.
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Ducks at the WJCs, Day 11 (part ).

Down 3-0 after two periods, Igor Bobkov and Team Russia weren’t content to go down as a footnote in the gold-medal game at the World Junior Championships on Wednesday.

Bobkov – a 2009 third-round draft pick by the Ducks and the only Canadian Hockey League player on Russia’s roster – relieved starter Dmitri Shikin with 13:33 left in the middle period and stopped all 20 shots he faced. Bobkov watched his teammates score five unanswered goals in a span of 16:11 of the third period to claim the 5-3 victory and the gold.

Artemi Panarin scored twice, Yevgeni Kuznetsov had three assists, and Vladimir Tarasenko, Nikita Dvurechenski and Maxim Kitsyn all had goals for Russia.

Tournament MVP Brayden Schenn, Ryan Ellis and Carter Ashton had the goals for Canada.

Ducks at the WJCs, Day 9.

It was a somber day for Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri at the World Junior Championships. The American forwards were held scoreless as the U.S. lost 4-1 to Canada in the semfinals, dashing their gold-medal ambitions in Buffalo.

The U.S. will play Sweden in the bronze-medal game Wednesday.

Goaltender Igor Bobkov didn’t play in the Russians’ 4-3 shootout win over Sweden in the other medal-round semifinal matchup. Bobkov has pretty much ceded the starting goalie position to Dmitri Shikin.

Ducks at the WJCs, Day 5.

Team USA vaulted into the semifinal round of the World Junior championships in Buffalo with a 2-1 win over Switzerland.

Whittier native and Detroit Red Wings prospect Mitch Callahan scored the game-winning goal midway through the second period, while forwards and Ducks prospects Emerson Etem (Long Beach) and Kyle Palmieri were held without a point.

The U.S. will play the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between Canada and Switzerland on Monday at 4:30 p.m. Canada lost, 6-5 in overtime to Sweden earlier Friday.

Defenseman Sami Vatanen, a fourth-round pick in 2009, had an assist in Sweden’s 6-0 win over Slovakia. Finland takes on the winner of Sunday’s Sweden-Russia contest earlier Monday. Igor Bobkov, a third-round Ducks draft pick in 2009, didn’t play in Russia’s 8-3 win over the Czech Republic.

Ducks at the WJCs, Day 3.

Syracuse Crunch forward Kyle Palmieri scored two goals in the first 8:31 as the United States cruised to a 6-1 win over Slovakia on Tuesday. Palmieri tipped in a great pass from Charlie Coyle at the net front to open the scoring, then notched a power-play tally off a long rebound off the boards from a sharp angle to make it 2-0.

Palmieri added an assist and Long Beach native Emerson Etem completed the scoring in the second period with his first goal of the tournament, a wrist shot that slipped out of the glove of Slovakian netminder Dominik Riecicky.

Goaltender Igor Bobkov got the night off as Russia lost 2-0 to Sweden.

Defenseman Sami Vatanen was held pointless but finished plus-2 in Finland’s 4-0 win over Switzerland.