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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Crunch on bad end of blowout.

It was the only game in the American Hockey League on Monday, but the Syracuse Crunch probably preferred that no one watched.

The Ducks’ top affiliate lost 10-3 to the Charlotte Checkers after falling behind 9-1 after two periods. According to the Syracuse Post-Dispatch, Charlotte’s eight-goal second period was the most in an AHL period since Providence scored a league-record 10 in the first – also vs. the Crunch – on Nov. 25, 1998. During the middle period Charlotte scored twice in a span of 21 seconds, three goals in 1:07, four in 1:41, five in 2:41, six in 3:39, seven in 7:15, and eight in a span of 13:44.

Timo Pielmeier started in goal before giving way to Jean-Phillippe Levasseur in the fateful second period. Levasseur provided no relief, allowing goals on both shots he faced, before being pulled in favor of Pielmeier, who finished with 33 saves on 41 shots.

Dan Sexton played his first game back in Syracuse since returning from Anaheim. Kyle Palmieri, Stefan Chaput and San Jacinto native Jake Newton scored goals for the Crunch.

Syracuse has won two of its last 10 games, falling to 8-12-1-3 on the season.

Down on the farm, some Ducklings are hatching.

The Syracuse Crunch can loosely be broken down into two
groups of players: Those who are still developing, and those you might see in
Anaheim this season.

Nick Bonino and Kyle Palmieri cut to the front of the
promotion line with strong performances last week. By Wednesday they were in
Ducks uniforms, playing against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

That might have been ahead of the curve for both, who are
just beginning their first full season in professional hockey. Even though
Ducks fans have been hearing about Bonino and Palmieri for more than a year, if
anything they have been fast-tracked to the NHL.

“In baseball, most of the top prospects get put into
Single-A and work their way up,” said David McNab, the Ducks’ senior vice
president of hockey operations. “It doesn’t appear that they draft a player and
immediately stick them in Triple A. that’s what the American League is:
Triple-A baseball. It’s a tough league. There’s a lot of veteran hockey players
in the American Hockey League who are great players. It takes time.”

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Randy Carlyle on Jake Newton.

Randy Carlyle today gave his thoughts on Jake Newton, the San Jacinto native who survived the first round of training-camp cuts, but not the second.

“I think in some situations he played in, he was unsure of himself and made some decisions that showed his inexperience,” the Ducks’ head coach said. “We’re asking a lot of a young player who had only played college and practice with our hockey club.”

Carlyle praised the 22-year-old defenseman for his skating ability, size, skills, “moving the puck with authority,” and “brain for the game.” The coach, himself a former Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, said that Newton needs to move his feet more, and avoid “not backing up and being as close to the check as possible.”

Newton wasn’t expected to make the NHL roster. In his one exhibition game he had a goal and an assist, but Carlyle noticed a difference from practice to the game.

“When you see him skate in practice, it’s not the same skating in the game,” Carlyle said. “That tells you the player is a little bit away from his comfort zone.”

Latest round of cuts helps clarify roster picture.

The Ducks had a day off the ice Sunday, but it was a busy day of travel for six players released from training camp.

Center Trevor Smith, center MacGregor Sharp, goaltender Timo Pielmeier and defenseman Jake Newton were assigned to Syracuse of the American Hockey League. Igor Bobkov was assigned to his Ontario Hockey League team, the London Knights, and forward Stephane Veilleux was released from his pro tryout contract.

Only 30 players remain on the roster and the opening-day roster is starting to become more clear.

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Ducks 5, Sharks 4.

The 15,872 who showed up at HP Pavilion got their money’s worth for a mere exhibition, in which the Ducks and Sharks racked up nine goals and six separate fights.

Both coaches, who figured the game would merely be a good chance to tinker with their personnel in preparation for the regular season, probably got their money’s worth, too.

Playing on a line with Aaron Voros, Corey Perry had three goals and Ryan Getzlaf had four assists. San Jacinto’s Jake Newton scored his first of the preseason and Dan Sexton potted the game-winner with five minutes remaining.

Curtis McElhinney started in goal and stopped 18 of 20 shots in 29:25. Timo Pielmeier came on in relief to stop 22 of 24.

Veteran forwards Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Todd Marchant postponed their preseason debuts another day, likely until tomorrow night in Vancouver. Bobby Ryan also sat the game out. But Getzlaf and Perry more than held their own. Getzlaf had the primary assist on all of Perry’s goals, as well as Newton’s goal – which deflected into the net off San Jose’s Derek Joslin. All four of Getzlaf’s assists came on the power play.

Sexton took a nice pass from Jason Blake to beat Sharks goalie Harri Sateri with the game-winner.

Stephane Veilleux’s second game of the preseason was limited to 2:20. He and Scott Nichol fought at 11:55 of the first period – the fourth fight in less than two minutes – and were promptly ejected.

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.
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Ducks open rookie tourney with 4-1 loss to Sharks.

Nick Bonino scored during a 5-on-3 power play for the Ducks’ lone goal in a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks in the opener for both teams in the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, British Columbia.

The Ducks didn’t lack for opportunities against San Jose goalie J.P. Anderson, an undrafted 18-year-old invitee from the Ontario Hockey League. But too often for their liking, Anderson made a great save, or watched the Ducks misfire.

Bonino broke up the shutout by scoring in a scramble in front of the net while the Ducks held their second two-man advantage of the period.

The Sharks scored two of their four goals on the power play. They mostlhy succeeded in creating traffic in front of Timo Pielmeier, a former San Jose prospect who was acquired along with Bonino for Kent Huskins and Travis Moen back in 2009.

The Ducks didn’t create nearly as much traffic in front of Anderson and relied on the breakaway for most of their chances.

The game was streamed live on the Ducks’ website in nearly high-definition quality, and the stream should be available again for tomorrow’s game against the Calgary Flames (4 p.m.) and Wednesday’s game against the host Vancouver Canucks (4 p.m.).
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