Ducks at the World Championships, Day 11. Update.

And then there was one.

Among the Ducks participants, only Cam Fowler (and Team USA) gets to keep playing at the IIHF World Championships after the U.S. lost 5-3 to Luca Sbisa and Team Switzerland on Monday in Kosice.

Fowler had an assist, the primary helper on James van Riemsdyk’s third-period goal during a delayed penalty, in 21:42 — the second-most ice time of any American skater. Fowler was on the ice for one other U.S. goal and two Swiss goals, finishing with an even-0 rating.

Sbisa didn’t register a point but finished plus-1 in 21:06 — the second-most ice time of any Swiss skater.

Win or lose, Switzerland was playing its last game, having been mathematically eliminated from the quarterfinal round. The Swiss finished 1-1-1-2 (W-OTW-L-OTL) and had the distinction of being the best penalty-killing team in the 16-team tournament at 95.83 percent, of which Sbisa probably played a large role. Individually, he finished with no goals, one assist, and an even-0 rating in 18:21 TOI over six games.

The U.S. will play the Czech Republic for a semifinal berth on Wednesday. The winner of that game plays either Sweden or Germany in the semifinals, while the loser goes home.

Ducks at the World Championships, Day 10.

Tomorrow, Luca Sbisa figures to play his last competitive hockey game in a while.

Sbisa and Team Switzerland lost 2-0 to Sweden on Sunday at the IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. It was an all-around poor game for the Swiss, who couldn’t solve goalie Viktor Fasth and didn’t help themselves by taking a string of minor penalties – seven in all – that left them short-handed for 14 minutes.

Sbisa stayed out of the penalty box in 21:43 TOI, but was stuck with a minus-1 rating when Mikael Backlund scored into an empty net in the final minute.

Switzerland (0-1-1-2), now the fifth-place team in Group F, plays the third-place U.S. (2-0-1-1) tomorrow. By then, they will know the result of the game between fourth-place Norway (1-1-0-2) and sixth-place France (0-0-1-3). Norway has five points in the standings and Switzerland has three, but Norway beat Switzerland in the only head-to-head game between the teams. That would seem to preclude Switzerland from reaching fourth place (and thus the Quarterfinal Round), but according to the game recap, Switzerland still has a mathematical chance of advancing.

We’ll find out for sure tomorrow.

Ducks at the World Championships, Day 7.

Luca Sbisa and Team Switzerland dug themselves a hole one game into the qualification round at the World Championships, losing 3-2 to Norway at Steel Arena in Kosice, Slovakia.

Sbisa was held scoreless and finished with an even-0 rating in 20:45 time on ice.

The Swiss have two games left in the qualification round, but might need to win both to place in the top four in a group that includes Canada, the U.S., Sweden and a surprising Norway squad. All four teams are ahead of the Swiss in the standings.

Ducks at the World Championships, Day 5.

One blocked shot wasn’t enough for Luca Sbisa and the Swiss national team on Tuesday.

Playing the Canadians in Kosice, Slovakia, Sbisa was on the ice for Alex Pietrangelo’s overtime goal in a 4-3 loss. The Ducks defenseman was doing more than taking up space. From

Pietrangelo picked up his own rebound after Swiss defenceman Luca Sbisa had blocked his initial shot. The puck came right back to Pietrangelo, who buried it behind Swiss goalie Leonardo Genoni.

Sbisa also had one assist in 21:13 time on ice.

Group play is over for Switzerland. Tomorrow the Swiss will learn the opponent for their next game, which will be played Thursday.

Lubomir Visnovsky made his debut at the tournament for Slovakia, playing a team-high 22:29 and recording an assist in a 4-3 loss to Russia.

Visnovsky had been battling injuries to both shoulders, forcing him to miss the first two games of the tournament on his home soil.

Slovakia also finds out tomorrow who awaits them in their next game Thursday.

Ducks at the World Championships, Day 3.

Luca Sbisa was the only Duck in action Sunday in Slovakia. The Swiss defenseman didn’t figure into the scoring in a 4-1 victory over Belarus. He had an even-0 rating in 14:13 time on ice.

The tournament got physical Sunday according to reports out of Slovakia, with the most intense action limited to games involving longstanding Eastern European rivals: Latvia-Czech Republic and Russia-Slovenia. Without delving into the history of regional politics, suffice it to say that some of those countries really don’t like each other. These rivalries often spill over into the rink.

The takeaway: Sbisa and Cam Fowler, who is playing for the United States, shouldn’t be inherently worried about the increased potential for injury.

Ducks at the World Championships, Day 2.

Only one current Ducks player took the ice Saturday in Slovakia: Cam Fowler played 14:38 and collected an assist in the United States’ 5-1 win over Austria. It was the first game of the tournament for the Americans.

Swiss defenseman Luca Sbisa, the other Anaheim participant, was held scoreless Friday night in his team’s 1-0 win over France.

Fowler and Sbisa are the only Ducks players taking part in the tournament. Typically the IIHF World Championships are a bigger deal in Europe than North America, where those whole Stanley Cup playoffs are going on. Check out the list of players who suited up for the U.S. and you’ll see why the NHL playoffs are a more compelling draw.

Slovakia native Lubomir Visnovsky said he would like to take part in the tournament on his home soil, but only if his balky shoulder joints allow it. He didn’t dress in the Slovaks’ 3-1 win over Slovenia Friday night.

Former Ducks taking part in the tournament include Ryan Shannon and Mike Brown (U.S.), Evgeny Artyukhin (Russia), and Petteri Nokelainen (Finland).

Stars 4, Ducks 3.

It’s never a good day when a coach is asked to recall an overturned goal that went against his team, and has to specify which one.

It hasn’t been a good weekend for Randy Carlyle and the Ducks.

Back-to-back losses to the Sharks and Stars have put their playoff plans on hold, and this one was frustrating on a couple counts. Namely, Teemu Selanne’s goal at 17:56 of the third period and Bobby Ryan’s goal at 19:11, neither of which counted in the eyes of referee Brad Meier.

Those tended to overshadow the goals that counted — by Lubomir Visnovsky, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry — and the fact the Ducks played like a group worn down by Saturday night’s loss in San Jose. The low point was probably a 5-on-3 shift spanning 80 seconds of the middle period during which the Ducks couldn’t get off a shot from within 20 feet of Kari Lehtonen.

Ray Emery (27 saves) lost his second game as a Duck, second game of the season, and second in as many days.

Tomorrow’s game story focuses on the reaction in the Ducks’ room to the calls by Meier, whose crew also missed a too many men on the ice call against Dallas in the second period. There was plenty of steam to be blown off, and Carlyle instructed his players to “do nothing” tomorrow — no practice, no golf — just recharge the batteries for another game against the Sharks on Wednesday, with a playoff berth at stake again.

A few more notes:
Continue reading “Stars 4, Ducks 3.” »

Ducks extend Sbisa for four years, $8.7 million.

The Ducks secured a major piece of their defense Tuesday by signing Luca Sbisa to a four-year contract extension worth $8.7 million. The 21-year-old will make $1.2 million next season, $2 million in 2012-13, $2.6 million in 2013-14 and $2.9 million in 2014-15.

“We are pleased to be able to reach an agreement with Luca on a long-term contract,” general manager Bob Murray said in a statement. “He has a bright future ahead of him and we look forward to watching him continue to develop.”

Sbisa becomes only the second Ducks player signed through 2014-15 (Bobby Ryan is the other) and gives the team seven defensemen under contract for next season. Sbisa would have become a restricted free agent July 1, when the entry-level deal he signed with Philadelphia was set to expire.

Already a smooth skater when he broke in as a rookie with the Flyers in 2008-09, the former first-round draft pick has taken tremendous strides since the beginning of the season to become a more well-rounded defenseman. He’s eliminated the ill-advised forays with the puck through the neutral zone in favor of a more conservative game, in the process becoming a third-pair fixture (recently with Francois Beauchemin) on the back end.

Sbisa has two goals and eight points in 52 games this season. He’s second on the team in hits (131) and sixth in blocked shots (61) while averaging 16:23 time on ice per game.

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 “Ducks 3, Avalanche 2.” »

Ducks lose a wild one, trade Mara to Montreal.

Alex Semin’s third goal of the game, with 1:47 left in the third period, sent the Ducks to a wild 7-6 loss to the Washington Capitals at Honda Center.

Easily lost in the 13-goal outburst was the fact that the Ducks squandered a golden opportunity to take over first place in the Pacific Division.

The Dallas Stars suffered their second loss in as many days, 4-2 to the Calgary Flames, creating a five-way logjam in the Western Conference standings. The Ducks (32-22-4) are mired in the middle with the fourth through eighth-place teams all tied at 68 points. The entire Pacific Division is separated by two points, from first-place Phoenix (30-19-9, 69 points) to fifth-place Los Angeles (32-22-3, 67 points).

Just easily overlooked was the postgame announcement of a trade.
Continue reading “Ducks lose a wild one, trade Mara to Montreal.” »