Ducks dissect the Predators

If there was one general theme to the Ducks’ discussion of Nashville Monday, it was toughness. The Predators, who finished second in the Central Division, aren’t the flashiest team in the NHL playoffs, but the Ducks aren’t allowing themselves to be fooled by that.

“Their whole team is very underrated and can’t underestimate them at all,” Teemu Selanne said. “Respect that and do our job the best we can. It’s going to be a tough series for sure.

“We have to be patient, they have a great system. They are what they are so we have to make sure we don’t give them any turnovers and play smart. I expect they’ll be low-scoring games and we have to play very tight.”

The Predators receiving the most praise Monday were goaltender Pekka Rinne and his goals-against average of 2.12 along with their No. 1 defensive pair of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Ducks goaltender Dan Ellis, who played for the Predators from 2007-10, was effusive in his praise of the trio and the franchise in general.

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First-round series set: Ducks vs. Predators. Updates with schedule.

The Chicago Blackhawks’ 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday means the Ducks will host the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs.

The Ducks had the day off Sunday, but will get back to practice at 10 a.m. Monday with their next opponent in mind.

Update: Here is the first-round schedule:

Game        Date                               Venue                                Time (Pacific)
1                Wednesday, Apr. 13         Honda Center                     7:30 p.m.
2                Friday, Apr. 15                 Honda Center                     7:30 p.m.
3                Sunday, Apr. 17               Bridgestone Arena              TBD
4                Wednesday, Apr. 20         Bridgestone Arena              TBD
5                Friday, Apr. 22                 Honda Center                     7:00 p.m.
6                Sunday, Apr. 24               Bridgestone Arena              TBD
7                Tuesday, Apr. 26              Honda Center                     TBD

*If necessary

What can the Ducks expect from the Preds?
Continue reading “First-round series set: Ducks vs. Predators. Updates with schedule.” »

Nashville 4, Ducks 1.

With 52 seconds left in the game and a puck having just crossed into an empty Ducks net, Corey Perry slammed his stick over his own goal frame, the logical reaction to a typical Nashville Predators victory.

Wednesday’s was one of those. The Ducks outshot their opponent 41-24 but had only a Saku Koivu goal – not a thing of beauty in its own right – to show for it.

The Preds never trailed in ending Anaheim’s three-game winning streak, taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Jerred Smithson and Patric Hornqvist. After Koivu’s goal halved the Ducks’ deficit at 11:46 of the third, empty-net goals by Sergei Kostitsyn and Shea Weber provided the final score.

“The puck was doing funny things for us,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told reporters after the game, “and in some of the situations they beat us for 1-on-1 battles with the puck. That was really the telltale story of the game, where they won more little puck battles 1-on-1 where we should have come up with the puck.”

Nashville won its third straight game by the same score, though Anaheim played better than a three-goal difference would indicate. A few of Pekka Rinne’s 40 saves were extraordinary; he also had help from a goal frame that robbed Matt Beleskey and Lubomir Visnovsky in the third period.

Second-chance shots were few and far between, part of Nashville’s blue-collar M.O. for as long as the team has existed.

Even though he didn’t score, Maxim Lapierre had one of the Ducks’ better efforts in his first game since arriving from Montreal. Playing 15:46 while centering the first and third lines, Lapierre put four shots on goal and was one of the few black-clad players consistently charging on net.

Another player making his 2011 debut, Dan Sexton, had the primary assist on Koivu’s goal. He started the game on a third line with Lapierre and Joffrey Lupul and ended it on the second line with Koivu and Selanne.

It was one of those efforts that probably gets a team more than one goal on most nights, but didn’t Wednesday. These things happen.

A few more notes:

Continue reading “Nashville 4, Ducks 1.” »

Nashville 4, Ducks 1.

So much for avoiding those slow starts.

Two days into the regular season, the Ducks are 0-2 and have been outscored 8-1. It may be time for a day off already, and the Ducks will get one before playing the Blues on Monday in St. Louis.

Saku Koivu’s 34-foot wrist shot at 5:25 of the second period was the only goal for the Ducks. Teemu Selanne and rookie defenseman Cam Fowler picked up the assists, and the line of Koivu, Selanne and Jason Blake combined to put 13 shots on goal.

The Ducks took 37 shots as a team, usually enough to outshoot — and often outscore — an opponent. But they allowed 49 while giving the Preds seven power-play chances. Nashville converted just one, by Sean Sullivan at 8:33 of the second period, but got even-strength tallies from Marcel Goc, Patric Hornqvist and David Legwand.

Jonas Hiller, making his second start in as many nights, stopped 45 shots. Counterpart Pekka Rinne was replaced with rookie Anders Lindback after sustaining a third-period collision with Troy Bodie, and did not return to the game.

Plenty going wrong for the Ducks.

By losing their fifth straight game to start the month of March, the
Ducks have settled in nicely among a group of clubs whose season is looking like a “near miss.”

The first tier in the Western Conference has been established for some
time; only Chicago (93 points) and San Jose (95) have a realistic
chance of capturing the No. 1 playoff seed. The second tier is rounding into
shape, with seven teams separated by nine points, and only six
playoff positions to accommodate them.

Then there’s the third tier, in which four teams (St. Louis, Dallas, Minnesota, Anaheim) are separated
by three points for the consolation-only 10th through 13th spots.

It would be callous to
include the 13th-place Ducks in this group based on their 30-29-8 record alone. But
when he was asked Friday about his team’s emotional intensity, Randy
Carlyle delivered a strong vote of confidence for their record.
Continue reading “Plenty going wrong for the Ducks.” »

Nashville 1, Ducks 0.

A 5-on-3 power-play goal by Nashville’s Shea Weber was the difference, as Pekka Rinne stopped all 31 shots he faced. Two minor penalties in a game can usually pass by unnoticed, but not in the Ducks’ first period Friday.

Aaron Ward was whistled for interference at 17:19 and Ryan Getzlaf was caught high-sticking 17 seconds later. Few would have predicted that Weber’s blast 18 seconds into the 2-man power play would be the only goal all night.

Jonas Hiller played his best game since the Olympic break, stopping 27 of 28 shots.

More to follow.

Ducks 3, Nashville 2.

Teemu Selanne rejoined the lineup and the Ducks skated away with their first road victory since Dec. 22.

Selanne, Matt Beleskey and Ryan Getzlaf scored goals, with Getzlaf’s long wrister at 11:26 of the second period — right after he gloved down an errant Preds pass along the glass — proving to be the game-winner.

It was the third NHL goal for Beleskey, who remained at left wing with Getzlaf and right wing Corey Perry. He’s scored one in each of the last three games. Selanne shifted to a line with left wing Mike Brown and center Petteri Nokelainen, and was credited for tipping in a Nokelainen shot for the Ducks’ first goal.

Patric Hornqvist and Martin Erat added goals in the third period, but Jonas Hiller hung on to make 25 saves.

The Ducks travel to Chicago for a 4 p.m. Sunday game.

More details in tomorrow’s editions.

Nashville 3, Ducks 1.

Two Predators goals in the final 10 minutes doomed the Ducks, who played without Ryan Getzlaf for the third straight game, and lost their second in a row.

Mike Brown scored the lone goal for the Ducks at 7:45 of the first period, and Jonas Hiller stopped 33 of 35. But he was left to dry on the Preds’ second goal, when Jason Arnott was given plenty of space to complete an odd-man rush at 10:11 of the third period, snapping a shot into the top of the net to make it 2-1.

The Ducks(16-18-7) also failed to gain ground on another Western Conference opponent, while falling further back of the final playoff spot. Thanks to a Kings win over the Washington Capitals earlier Saturday, the Ducks sit 12 points out of eighth place. They’ll get another chance to make up ground Sunday, when they face the Central-leading Blackhawks in Chicago.

A scratch for most of December, Evgeny Artyukhin played his second consecutive game and picked up an assist. So did Petteri Nokelainen, as Anaheim’s fourth line combined for its only goal.

Geztlaf is accompanying the Ducks on their current three-game road trip but hasn’t played as he recovers from a lacerated leg.

Selanne in the spotlight.

Teemu Selanne is, rightfully and uniquely, a center of attention in Anaheim for two very different reasons right now.

For most every action he makes in a game this season, there is an equal and opposite reaction in the hockey history books. With a pair of goals against Nashville on Thursday, Selanne brought his career points total to 1,220 and demoted Jean Beliveau to 39th in the all-time rankings.

Continue reading “Selanne in the spotlight.” »