Ducks 3, Avalanche 2.

One second remained on the clock in a 3-2 game, a perfect time for divine intervention.

“All of a sudden the puck came out of nowhere and hit me on the side of the head,” Ducks goalie Dan Ellis said. “I heard it hit a post. I was just praying that it hit the right post. Thank God it stayed out.”

Indeed, in a game the Ducks had to win, Milan Hejduk’s late shot off the post might have been the turning point. Should Anaheim reach the playoffs, it will be a moment to remember. So too will Todd Marchant’s first goal of the season, Brandon McMillan’s game-winner, and Erik Johnson’s bone-headed giveaway that led to Ryan Getzlaf’s goal in the first period.

Often, the rest wasn’t pretty. Ellis finished with 22 saves but he was outplayed by his counterpart for the second time in as many games as a Duck. Peter Budaj made 11 of his 29 saves on the power play and could hardly be blamed for the Avs’ 13th loss in their last 14 games.

The Ducks snapped a five-game losing streak and won for the first time without injured goalie Jonas Hiller since Curtis McElhinney backstopped a 5-4 overtime win in Calgary. They remained one point behind the 72-point cutoff for the eighth and final playoff spot.

With the Ducks on the power play at 11:23 of the third period, McMillan broke a 2-2 tie, scoring on a putback after Budaj came out aggressively after allowing a rebound to the right of the net.

The rookie center was only out on the power play because Saku Koivu missed his third straight game with a groin injury. Yet he, Bobby Ryan and Jason Blake (and defensemen Luca Sbisa and Francois Beauchemin) turned it into a minute-long cycle play that wore down the Colorado PK with Brandon Yip serving a double-minor for high-sticking Beauchemin.

Considering the Ducks were outshot 23-19 at even strength –and only had one power-play goal to show for their previous six games –it was a badly needed goal.

“We found a way to score a big power play goal to win us the hockey game,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “That is what you have to do. You have to find ways to get points at this time of the year. Hopefully this is a springboard for our hockey club to get back to playing the way we are quite capable of playing.”

Marchant’s goal ended a streak of 70 games without a goal. The goal, the 186th of his career, came at the end of a give-and-go with Sbisa. The defenseman jumped up in the rush and backhanded the puck to Marchant, streaking down the slot; Marchant needed only get a sliver of stick on the puck to re-direct it past Budaj.

“It’s certainly the longest drought of my career,” Marchant said. “I’m not sure what it was prior to this, but it wasn’t anywhere near this. I didn’t let it get me down mentally. I know I’ve got many other roles on this team besides scoring goals. The bottom line is it’s about wins this time of the year. It’s not about how many goals or assists I get. It’s about winning hockey games, getting into the playoffs and see how far it takes you.”

A few more notes:
Continue reading

Wild 3, Ducks 2, OT.

Setting aside Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s breakaway goal in overtime for a moment, the Ducks did well to salvage a point against the Minnesota Wild on Friday. Two minutes away from a regulation loss on home ice, the Ducks forced overtime to remain one point behind eighth place in the Western Conference.

However, the three teams ahead of them– Chicago, Dallas and Nashville –all have one game in hand. And their slide from first place in the division (and third in the conference) on Feb. 13 to fifth place in the division (11th in the conference) shouldn’t sit well.

Remember 10 days ago how there was that 2-point gap between first and fifth place in the Pacific Division? It’s a 9-point gap now.

“We have to look at the positives,” said defenseman Francois Beauchemin, whose putback goal with 2:00 left in the third period allowed the Ducks to tie the game at 2 and force overtime. “We got one point. That is not enough, but we’ll take that. We’ll have a good practice tomorrow and go back to work on Sunday. We have to take it one game at a time.”

One positive is that it’s looking easier to blame the goaltending. Even with Saku Koivu’s groin injury keeping him out of the lineup a second straight day, the Ducks put 48 shots on Jose Theodore — two off their season high.

Is Dan Ellis an upgrade over Curtis McElhinney as a temporary starter? Obviously Bob Murray thought so before making the trade with Tampa on Thursday (and was rewarded today with a four-year contract extension). Clayton Stoner’s go-ahead goal with 4:57 left in the third period might disagree.

Ellis stopped 28 of 31 in his Ducks debut, a respectable .903 save percentage. He could hardly be blamed for John Madden’s first-period goal at the end of a 2-on-1 rush, but all three goals he allowed came on the rush with nobody standing between him and the shooter.

So why is being able to isolate the goaltending a positive again? Jonas Hiller is working his way back from what he’s been told is a case of vertigo, and that’s treatable. Hiller doesn’t even have to board a plane for a while; the Ducks are at home until March 9, play once in Denver, then come back to Southern California for their next four games.

In the meantime, all the Ducks really have to do is keep it close in the standings. That should be the plan, at least. Maybe this team can win without Hiller — it’s now 0-4-1 since Hiller last went on IR — but as Corey Perry said, “it’s a matter of finding those bounces again that we were getting early on when we were winning.”

A few more notes:
Continue reading

Ray Emery on making it back (almost).

The Ducks hope Ray Emery doesn’t have to back up his words with actions. Not yet, at least.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I was ready to contribute,” Emery said Thursday, following his first NHL practice in more than a year. “If I get a chance, I’m going to try to make the most of it, try to do my best.”

Earlier in the morning, general manager Bob Murray said that Emery would ideally get his next game action in a Syracuse Crunch uniform.

Emery made three starts for the Crunch, going 2-1-0 with 2.62 goals-against average and .925 save percentage, after the Ducks signed him to a two-way contract last week. On Wednesday, he was back on an NHL bench as the back-up to Curtis McElhinney against the Kings. Reading into the situation, Emery will probably back up Dan Ellis tomorrow against the Minnesota Wild.

“I think we have to stick to the game plan with him,” Murray said. “He’s here now, he’s getting shots, he’s getting NHL shooters right now. He’s (working) with (goaltending consultant) Pete Peeters. He’s going to be here, obviously, until Jonas (Hiller) comes back. He’s got to play more games. Hopefully at the end of all this, we have three strong goaltenders that are ready to make a run.”
Continue reading

Ducks ship McElhinney to Tampa for Dan Ellis.

As the Ducks’ goaltending world turns, Curtis McElhinney is out and Dan Ellis is in.

The straight-up swap with the Tampa Bay Lightning was completed in the early hours Thursday. Ellis was scheduled to arrive tonight and be ready to play Friday against the Minnesota Wild.

The trade means a couple things for the Ducks. One, that the team thinks Ray Emery isn’t ready for NHL games and two, that McElhinney isn’t ready to be a starter indefinitely – at least, as long as Jonas Hiller is dealing with the brain issues that he’s been told are a result of vertigo.

“We just felt that we needed some more experience going down the stretch,” general manager Bob Murray said. “We gave Curtis a chance to pay last night, and we thought he played OK last night. Going forward with the uncertainty with Jonas at the moment, we felt we needed more experience. Dan has had experience being a number one, and playing in the playoffs.”
Continue reading

Emery up, will back up tonight; Pielmeier down; Hiller update.

Well that didn’t take long.

Ray Emery was recalled from AHL affiliate Syracuse and will back up Curtis McElhinney tonight when the Ducks play the Kings. The move seemed inevitable after Emery’s 34-save effort last night for the Syracuse Crunch, his third start in five days after going 12 months without playing a live game.

Emery went 2-1-0 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .925 save percentage with the Crunch. He will wear number 36 with the Ducks.

“We didn’t think it was going to be this quick, but he’s played three hockey games, he’s played really well in them,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told reporters this morning. “If we need him, we’re not afraid to put him in the net.”

Timo Pielmeier, who struggled in his first NHL appearance Saturday in St. Louis, was assigned to Syracuse.

Jonas Hiller, meanwhile, gave an update on his status Wednesday, telling reporters that the latest, most specific diagnosis of his “balance issue” is vertigo.
Continue reading

On Ray Emery’s latest start, and what it means for the Ducks.

Ray Emery improved to 2-1 in his first three AHL starts Tuesday, earning the win in the Syracuse Crunch’s 4-3 win over the visiting Charlotte Checkers.

Emery stopped 34 of 37 shots between regulation and overtime, then stopped 3 of 4 in the shootout to preserve the win. Veteran forward Josh Green told the Syracuse Post-Standard after the game that “Ray’s an NHL goalie right now.”

That’s up to the Ducks to decide, and there was no indication at Tuesday’s practice that Emery was in the pool of candidates to start Wednesday night against the Kings. Aside from the logistical constraint of having the goalie fly across the country on short notice, Emery would have to make back-to-back starts for the second time in less than a week after not playing a game in 12 months. Emery already started consecutive games Friday and Saturday – and at least those were in the same time zone.

So the question before the Ducks probably isn’t if Emery will start tomorrow, but rather, is Josh Green right?

Here are the facts on the table: Emery has a 2.62 goals-against average and .925 save percentage to go with his 2-1-0 record. The Wild visit Anaheim on Friday and the Avalanche visit Sunday. The Crunch have home games Friday and Saturday. Jonas Hiller is recuperating from another bout of dizziness, and Curtis McElhinney is recuperating from three bad starts. If neither goalie has resolved his issues come Friday — and if Josh Green is right – it makes sense that Emery would be on his way to Anaheim.

Hiller still out; Koivu a game-day decision.

Curtis McElhinney and Timo Pielmeier were the only two goalies on the ice when the Ducks got back to practice Wednesday. No Ray Emery – he is still in Syracuse – and no Jonas Hiller, either.

Hiller is eligible to come off injured reserve prior to Wednesday’s game against the Kings, but that won’t happen. There seem to be mixed signals about just how long Hiller’s return from his latest ailment will take.

Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle sounded cautiously optimistic when he said of Hiller, “when he’s available to go on the ice, I haven’t got a timeframe for that, but we expect that to happen in the next little while. We don’t feel it’s going to be an extended period of time.”

Hiller has only played one full game since he first experienced symptoms of dizziness and light-headedness following the All-Star Game on Jan. 30. Recently, Hiller has been meeting with a therapist to deal with what the team is calling a “treatable balance issue.”

On Tuesday, he worked out off the ice then left Anaheim Ice just before his teammates finished practice. When asked for an update on his condition, the goalie didn’t offer any specifics, saying only that things are “not going the way I’d like them to.”

Still, Carlyle said it’s a “positive sign” that Hiller is being encouraged to work out and stay active, rather than completely refrain from any physical activity.
Continue reading

Hiller goes back on IR, Pielmeier recalled.

The strange symptoms that shelved Jonas Hiller earlier this month — and perplexed the Ducks — have landed the goalie on injured reserve again.

Hiller was placed on the
injured list with light-headedness after the goalie reported symptoms at
Tuesday’s practice. He will miss at least the next three games and is
eligible to be activated on Monday. Timo Pielmeier was recalled from ECHL affiliate Elmira and figures to back up Curtis McElhinney tonight against the Washington Capitals.

The Ducks play back-to-back games Friday and Saturday in Minnesota and St. Louis, respectively.

Continue reading

Hiller activated from IR; Pielmeier to Elmira.

Jonas Hiller was activated off injured reserve Friday, and the goaltender will be available for tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames. Hiller has missed the last two games after experiencing fatigue and light-headedness, while Curtis McElhinney has gone 2-0 against the Avalanche and Canucks as the starter. McElhinney could be in goal at the Saddledome tonight against his former team.

Timo Pielmeier, the backup to McElhinney the last two games, was assigned to ECHL affiliate Elmira. The Jackals are in Ontario this weekend for a rare West Coast road trip. Pielmeier did not appear in either game for the Ducks.

Hiller placed on IR, but can play Friday.

The Ducks placed goalie Jonas Hiller on injured reserve Tuesday retroactive to Feb. 3, as the goalie is still day-to-day with fatigue and light-headedness.

By placing Hiller on IR, the Ducks effectively ruled him out for tomorrow’s game in Vancouver, and opened up a roster spot for Timo Pielmeier without having to burn their second and final 48-hour emergency goaltender exception. (The Ducks burned their first last weekend, adding Pielmeier as the backup in Colorado, which temporarily put them over the 23-man roster limit).

Hiller will be able to return to the lineup Friday in Calgary if he’s deemed healthy. Hiller hasn’t played since the first 12 minutes of a 4-3 loss to San Jose last Wednesday.

Pielmeier was recalled from Elmira of the ECHL and figures to back up Curtis McElhinney against the Canucks.