The roller-coaster ride is over. Now the fun begins.
The Ducks couldn’t be happier about their position after 82 games — fourth place in the Western Conference, and guaranteed home-ice advantage for the first round — thanks to their win and losses by the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators earlier in the day.
The end result is that the Ducks will either host the Chicago Blackhawks or the Predators in the first round beginning no earlier than Wednesday.
“We found a way to get ourselves into a good position from thinking about where we were a couple months ago,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “You’ve got to credit our players; they’re the ones who put it out on the line night in and night out. It’s about a team that’s trying to work its way through all the hurdles that it’s been presented and now we have an opportunity to play at home.”
Here’s what the roller coaster looked like: The Ducks sat in third place in the West on Feb. 13. They fell as low as 11th and were there as late as March 8. They rejoined the top 8 on March 20 and did not leave. They began the day Saturday in seventh place and had risen to fourth by the end. Along the way there were subplots galore — skill, luck, 50 goals, 40-year-olds, vertigo — and it’s been fascinating to watch it all unfold.
The playoff scenarios are simple. If Chicago beats the Detroit Red Wings Sunday, the Ducks will play the Blackhawks. If Chicago loses, the Ducks play the Predators. That and more in tomorrow’s editions.
Here are a few more notes:
Wednesday was a long day for the Ducks.
Jonas Hiller said he’s got vertigo, Timo Pielmeier was demoted to Syracuse, Ray Emery was flown in to Anaheim, Curtis McElhinney earned another start, Saku Koivu tried to play despite a groin injury but sat, Ryan Getzlaf tried to play but his wife gave birth so he sat out too, and then the Ducks lost 3-2 to the Kings.
Time to breathe now.
A one-goal loss to the Kings was about the most uplifting way to extend a losing streak to four games, short of earning a point in overtime or a shootout. Figure that with Getzlaf and Koivu in the lineup, Jarkko Ruutu isn’t starting the game on the top line; the Ducks are putting more pressure on Jonathan Quick and not relying on a pair of deflections to constitute their offense; and certainly Bobby Ryan and Brandon McMillan aren’t dressing as the No. 1 and 2 centers.
“I think we played good enough to win the game,” Teemu Selanne said, and against a team that isn’t as hot as the Kings (9-1-3 in their last 13 games), he’s probably right.
Here’s the game story, and here are a few details I left out:
The Ducks weathered a slow start in the nation’s capital en route to their third straight win, getting a goal from captain Ryan Getzlaf with 56.6 seconds left in overtime.
Joffrey Lupul scored in the second period for the Ducks (17-3-4) and Brooks Laich scored in the first period for Washington (18-11-4), which has lost seven in a row.
After outshooting the Ducks 26-14 through two periods, the Capitals seemed out of gas in the third. Anaheim controlled the play, leading 7-5 in shots on goal, but couldn’t score on Semyon Varlamov, who finished with 22 saves.
In overtime, Jonas Hiller was only called upon to make one of his 31 saves. The Ducks looked like they were on the way to their third shootout in their last four games until Getzlaf carried the puck up the left wing, put on the brakes near the goal line, spun back around and used Scott Hannan as a screen for his game-winning wrist shot from 11 feet out.
Teemu Selanne made the trip but decided to rest his sore groin. Lupul took his spot on the second line, but got his goal on the first power play, flinging a puck that deflected to him underneath Varlamov at the 12:47 mark. It was Lupul’s second goal of the season in his sixth game back.
Saku Koivu centered the Ducks’ second line and played little more than 20 minutes after missing the last game with the flu. Selanne, center Kyle Chipchura and defenseman Paul Mara were the Ducks’ scratches.
The Ducks pushed their winning streak to three, moved into a virtual tie for the Pacific Division lead, and beat a team that they’re expected to beat – all good things.
Their 5-4 win over the Florida Panthers will be remembered for none of these things, however, because George Parros scored two goals.
Parros took a behind-the-net pass from Kyle Chipchura to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead in the first period, then made it 3-0 in the second period on another one-timer from the slot off a feed from Chipchura. The game’s final 33 minutes seemed as much about getting Parros the hat trick as getting the win.
“I wanted the hat trick for sure,” Parros said following the first multigoal game of his career. “It was a great
feeling. Glad our line could finally contribute. We can’t rely on the
top two lines every night. It definitely helps to chip in.”
Parros also had a fight and Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan also scored goals. Jonas Hiller stopped 29 of 32, including a brilliant third-period stop on a Stephen Weiss wrister.
The Ducks host the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.
Kyle Chipchura was cleared to play after passing his most recent neuropsych test. The Ducks center, who suffered the second concussion of his career on Oct. 30, skated on a line with Todd Marchant, Aaron Voros and George Parros in practice Wednesday.
“I felt fine all of the past week,” Chipchura said, “but the neuropsych tests showed some signs that it was still affecting me.”
Joffrey Lupul played a full practice, splitting the session between the first and second line, but there is still no timetable for his return. More from him coming in a bit.
Teemu Selanne, who missed Sunday’s game with a sore groin, was on the ice to start practice but left after about 20 minutes.
“Why push it at this point, when we feel he’ll be available for us Friday, and here we are on Wednesday,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “We have tomorrow’s practice. Today he had some ART (Active Response Technique) work done, which could contribute to a little stiffness and soreness in the area. … Hopefully that isn’t a setback. We don’t think it is. He doesn’t think it is.”
Lupul took Selanne’s place on the second line with Jason Blake and Saku Koivu. Brandon McMillan, Nick Bonino and Dan Sexton, who were recalled today from AHL affiliate Syracuse, formed a line of their own.
The Ducks assigned forwards Brandon McMillan, Dan Sexton and Nick Bonino to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, on Monday. The Ducks aren’t practicing today or tomorrow, and the move allows the three youngsters to practice in Syracuse while saving the parent club a little money by getting three NHL salaries off the books.
The Ducks have a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any or all three players back on the ice then.
Ryan Carter and Josh Green are another matter. Both forwards were on waivers Monday and eligible to be claimed by any of the other 29 NHL teams before 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Green was actually placed on non-roster waivers Sunday, which allowed the Ducks to activate defenseman Andy Sutton from injured reserve and play him against the Edmonton Oilers. That also allowed Green, who has played 11 scoreless games for Anaheim, to remain on waivers an extra day.
The Ducks have now placed Carter on waivers twice this year. The 27-year-old utlilityman has one goal, two assists and 22 penalty minutes in 18 games this season. Carter also had a minus-4 rating while averaging 10:44 a game in mostly a fourth-line and penalty-killing role. His 50.3 faceoff percentage ranked third on the team.
Forwards Kyle Chipchura (concussion) and Joffrey Lupul (back) are nearing closer to their return from injuries. Placing Green and Carter on waivers could be a prelude to making room on the NHL roster.
Journeyman forward Josh Green has been placed on waivers.
Green was scoreless in 11 games as a Duck, with a minus-2 rating and six penalty minutes, playing primarily a fourth-line left wing role. The veteran started the season with Syracuse, playing seven games and notching a goal and three points.
With forwards Kyle Chipchura (concussion) and Joffrey Lupul (back) on the mend, waiving Green could be the first step toward making room for one or both to return to the lineup. The Ducks also assigned Kyle Palmieri to Syracuse this week, and recalled forwards Dan Sexton and Brandon McMillan.
More to come soon, including comments from general manager Bob Murray.
Kyle Palmieri’s first NHL goal, in his first NHL game, came with 4:20 left in the third period of a game the Ducks were trailing 2-1. Ryan Getzlaf showed up on the scoresheet with 2:07 left in overtime.
Clutch scoring and tight defense against the NHL’s highest-scoring team almost seemed to much to ask from the Ducks, but it was exactly what the announced crowd of 13,034 was treated to Wednesday.
Kyle Chipchura was diagnosed with a concussion and placed on injured reserve Tuesday, the result of a hard hit delivered by San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray on Saturday. The center is listed as day-to-day.
Chipchura joins forwards Matt Beleskey (concussion), Dan Sexton (broken nose) and Joffrey Lupul (blood infection/back), along with defenseman Andy Sutton (thumb) on a growing injured list for the Ducks. He’ll miss games Wednesday and Friday and is eligible to return Sunday at the earliest.
For Chipchura, who hasn’t had a concussion since his final junior season of 2005-06, Sunday could be a realistic goal.
“I think it’s very mild,” he said. “Talking to other people, when they had more
severe (concussions), this seems nothing like that. I just got a little
discomfort with headache. Nothing too major. The neck is really the most
Nick Bonino was summoned from AHL affiliate Syracuse on Monday. He has practiced with the team the last two days and is a candidate to take Chipchura’s place in the lineup tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bonino had a subpar training camp – by his own estimation and that of head coach Randy Carlyle. With some motivation behind him, Bonino rebounded nicely in Syracuse, posting seven assists and nine points in eight games on a line with Kyle Palmieri and Nicolas Deschamps.
“Training camp was just a new experience,” Bonino said. “I wasn’t totally happy with the way I played, confidence-wise I was kind of nervous. Everyone is. I certainly didn’t play like I thought I could play.”
Bonino wore a fourth-line jersey Tuesday along with Aaron Voros, Josh Green and George Parros (who shaved his moustache for “Movember.” It looks weird.)
The Ducks have signed center Kyle Chipchura to a 1-year, $650,000 contract. Chipchura, who was due to become a restricted free agent on July 1, became the everday fourth-line center soon after he was acquired in a midseason trade from Montreal.
The 24-year-old set career highs in 2009-10 for games (55), goals (six) and points (12) after three disappointing seasons with the Canadiens, who made him the 18th overall draft pick in 2004. Chipchura also won 47.9 percent of his faceoffs, the fifth-best percentage on the team.
Along with Todd Marchant and Ryan Carter, Chipchura gives the Ducks three experienced candidates for the third- and fourth-line center positions in 2010-11.