Schultz opts for the patient route.

It’s not always easy being a bona fide NHL prospect.

It’s not easy when you have chosen the NCAA route over the junior route, reducing your options to the all-or-nothing proposition of staying in school or turning pro.

It’s not easy when your best friend and defense partner in college was drafted in your same class by the same NHL team -then traded two years later, prohibiting you from continuing your journey together side-by-side into the pro ranks.

This was the scenario facing Ducks prospect Justin Schultz, who had to watch from the University of Wisconsin, Madison while Jake Gardiner was traded from Anaheim to Toronto, then signed an entry-level contract this year.

While Schultz was named one of 10 Hobey Baker finalists, Gardiner went on to impress observers during a 10-game stint with the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate at the end of the season.

For Schultz, staying in school might not have been an easy choice. But it’s choice, and he’s sticking to it.

“Yeah, I think definitely I believe I could do it if I wanted,” he said of turning pro. “But I really feel like I want to play in the AHL next year and get ready so I can make the jump right to the big club.”
Continue reading “Schultz opts for the patient route.” »

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.
Continue reading “Dallas wins, playoffs at stake tomorrow, and more.” »

Five things about the Joffrey Lupul-Francois Beauchemin trade.

The Ducks will be posting a complete transcript of this morning’s conference calls with Francois Beauchemin and general manager Bob Murray soon.

In the meantime, here are five things you need to know:

1. Beauchemin isn’t playing tonight. He’s flying to Vancouver today, then will hopefully practice with the Ducks tomorrow and play Friday night in Calgary, Murray said.

2. Murray said he determined the Ducks were a playoff team when they rallied in January with captain Ryan Getzlaf on injured reserve. Then he determined the team needed the most help on defense now – but not down the road, with youngsters Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa and prospect Nick Schultz developing well. That made Jake Gardiner expendable. “We gave them a good young prospect here,” Murray said. “We feel we’re really deep at that position of prospects, on defense.”

3. Including Beauchemin, the Ducks have nine defensemen. Asked if another move was in the works, Murray said “nothing’s imminent.” So it looks like there will be eight defensemen and 13 forwards available tonight in Vancouver. Left wing Aaron Voros, who cleared waivers this morning, might be back in the lineup.

4. Beauchemin admitted he “didn’t really like it” when the Ducks didn’t match the Maple Leafs’ offer to him in free agency in June 2009. But he liked Anaheim enough to put the Ducks on his list of 12 teams he would accept a trade to. “Bob (Murray) was the guy who mentioned to (Brian Burke) in that (Sergei) Fedorov deal, to include me in it, because he saw me playing the American League five, six years ago,” Beauchemin said, “and our relationship hasn’t really changed.”

5. Lupul said he has “a lot to prove” to a Ducks team that “just let me go after 20 games.” He’ll have to wait – the two teams won’t play each other again this season.

Ducks re-acquire Beauchemin for Lupul, Gardiner.

Defenseman Francois Beauchemin is coming back to Anaheim in a major deal announced Wednesday that will send forward Joffrey Lupul, defenseman prospect Jake Gardiner and a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2013 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Beauchemin, who played for the Ducks from 2006-09, has two goals, 12 points and 16 penalty minutes in 54 games with the Maple Leafs this season. An alternate captain in Toronto, the 30-year-old Beauchemin was second only to Dion Phaneuf in ice time (23:45) and was leading the team in blocked shots (131). In addition to Beauchemin’s physical play, the Ducks get a more reliable puck-mover from the back end than they currently possess outside Lubomir Visnovsky and Cam Fowler.

Lupul had scored five goals and 13 points in 26 games since returning from a blood infection in December. The 27-year-old winger was well off his career point production, relegated to a third-line role and second-unit power play duty while averaging just 13:13 per game.

Gardiner, 20, is a former first-round draft pick (17th overall, 2008) playing for the University of Wisconsin. In 30 games this season, he has seven goals, 30 points and a plus-20 rating.

The trade will allow the Ducks to save $450,000 toward the salary cap this year and next. In terms of actual salary, Beauchemin represents a net savings this year ($4.25 to $3.55 million) and next year ($4.25 to $3.8 million) and comes off the books in 2012, a year ahead of Lupul.

More details to follow …

Big weekend for Gardiner, Schultz at UW.

Two of Anaheim’s 2008 draft picks had huge offensive performances for the University of Wisconsin a the College Hockey Showcase on Friday and Saturday.

Defensemen Jake Gardiner and Nick Schultz, drafted 17th (first round) and 43rd (second round), respectively, combined for 11 points (six goals, five assists) in the two games against Michigan State.

In the second game, a 4-1 Badgers victory, Gardiner had three points, all assists. Schultz notched a hat trick-the first hat trick by a Wisconsin defenseman since Barry Richter scored three goals against Minnesota Duluth exactly 18 years ago to the day on Nov. 27, 1992.

Gardiner, 20, had three points (two goals, assist) and Schultz, 20, scored two points (goal, assist) in a 4-4 tie against the Wolverines on Nov. 26 (first game). Gardiner finished the two-game showcase with six points (two goals, four points) and Nick Schultz had five points (four goals, assist).

Ducks fall 8-4 to Flames’ rookies.

Playing their second game in less than 24 hours, fatigue seemed to catch up to the Ducks’ rookies in an 8-4 loss to the Calgary Flames at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, British Columbia.

Tied at 3 midway through the second period, the Flames rallied for five straight goals against Anaheim goalie Marco Cousineau, who allowed all eight in his first appearance of the tournament. Forward Jon Rheault, who split last season between the AHL and ECHL, had three goals and an assist for Calgary.

John Kurtz, Jake Newton, Devante Smith-Pelly and Jake Carrick scored for the Ducks, who were outshot 41-22. Calgary had four power-play goals to the Ducks’ two. Cam Fowler and Peter Holland had assists on the goals by Kurtz and Newton, respectively.

“Penalty kill is a hard thing. You have to have special people that are
committed to doing it – guys that are committed to blocking shots all
the time,” Mark Holick, coach of the rookie Ducks, told the team’s website. “We didn’t
jump on loose pucks and we didn’t put enough pressure on their power
play. Your goalie is your best penalty killer and I thought maybe a
couple of those he would like back too.”

The Ducks will play their third and final tournament game Wednesday against the host Vancouver Canucks (4 p.m.), a game that will be streamed live on the Ducks’ website.
Continue reading “Ducks fall 8-4 to Flames’ rookies.” »

WJC: Palmieri, Gardiner lead Team USA past McMillan, Canada.

Ducks prospects Kyle Palmieri (first round, 2009 Entry Draft) and Jake Gardiner (first round, 2008) had cause to celebrate Tuesday, when Team USA upset tournament host Canada, 6-5 in overtime at the IIHF World Junior Championships in Saskatoon.

Palmieri had one assist Tuesday to bring his seven-game tournament total to eight, second on his team and third among all players at the WJCs. His nine points were third on Team USA, and his plus-8 rating tied for second. Gardiner led the team with a plus-9 rating, and finished with three assists in seven games.

Brandon McMillan, a third-round pick by the Ducks in 2008, found himself on the losing end Tuesday. He finished the tournament with four goals and eight points for Team Canada, including two power-play goals.

Gardiner, Palmieri on U.S. WJC roster

A pair of recent Ducks first-round draft picks, defenseman Jake Gardiner and forward Kyle Palmieri, were chosen for the 22-man Team USA World Junior Championships roster Wednesday.

Gardiner (2008) and Palmieri (2009) joinfellow Ducks prospects Brandon McMillan (Canada), Sami Vatanen (Finland), Igor Bobkov (Russia), Radoslav Illo (Slovakia) and Luca Sbisa (Switzerland), who were also named to their respective national teams for the WJCs, which begin Saturday in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Gardiner, 19, is in his second season at the University of Wisconsin. Palmieri, 18, is a freshman at Notre Dame.

Thousand Oaks native Max Nicastro, a 19-year-old defenseman who was drated by Detroit in 2008, did not make the final Team USA roster.