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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Coyotes 5, Ducks 2.

Seeing Ilya Bryzgalov face the Ducks is no longer a novelty. Sunday marked the 22nd start for Bryz against the team that placed him on waivers in Nov. 2007. Statistically, the 30-year-old goalie has had better starts in Anaheim, but the Ducks have rarely looked so frustrated against their former backup goalie.

The biggest reason: Their own goaltending wasn’t so spectacular. Dan Ellis was off, allowing four goals on 21 shots over two periods before giving way to Ray Emery. Emery, making his first start since Feb. 1, 2010, played the entire third period and appeared to be on, stopping all nine shots he faced.

By then it was too late. The Coyotes (36-23-11, 83 points) denied any notions of another third-period comeback by the Ducks (37-37-5, 79 points), and gained a four-point cushion on their rivals with a 5-2 victory.

“They sat back and played a defensive-style game,” Ducks center Todd Marchant said of the third period. “They put the puck around the boards, around the rim quite a bit, chipped it by our defense. We had a tough time in the third sustaining any kind of forecheck. You can point your finger at Bryz. He played really well for them. We put 39 [actually 38] shots on net, a lot of them were point-blank opportunities, and he made some good saves. That’s not an excuse, but it’s a reality of the game.”
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Phoenix 6, Ducks 2, and a possible trip to Europe.

Whatever mojo the Ducks had working on their 5-1 homestand disappeared somewhere over the skies between Anaheim and Glendale.

Starting in the second period, Phoenix scored four straight goals to break open a 1-1 game and send the Ducks to their second loss in their last eight games.

Matt Beleskey and Corey Perry scored the goals. Jonas Hiller (22 saves on 26 shots) absorbed the loss and was pulled from the game after allowing the Coyotes’ fourth goal. Curtis McElhinney stopped six of eight in relief.

“It was just one of those nights,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told reporters following the game. “I don’t have an explanation for it but we have to find one in a hurry.”

The Ducks host the Edmonton Oilers – who will also be playing on back-to-back nights – at 5 p.m. Sunday.

More interesting than Saturday’s game was the prospect of where the Ducks will begin the 2011-12 seaon.
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Taking the show on the road.

The Ducks have made quite a charge up the standings and won’t be sneaking up on anyone thanks to their current 6-1-0 stretch. They’ll have Thursday and Friday to take a deep breath, let some teams make up a few games in hand, and reflect on their present perch: tied for fourth place in the Western Conference.

Eleven of their next 14 games will be on the road, where the Ducks’ record ain’t pretty – 8-11-3 compared to 16-7-1 at Honda Center. The question of whether they can keep up their torrid pace is a valid one.

“It’s a very crucial road trip coming up,” Teemu Selanne said. “It’s good motivation to try to use this time before the All-Star Break really strong.”

Selanne, as his is habit, sees the glass as half full. He points out that, through 46 games last season, the Ducks were 20-19-7 (47 points), five points behind this year’s pace (24-18-4). The Ducks have always been a second-half team and just because the second half is starting on the road, well, that shouldn’t be an obstacle. Right?
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Ducks 3, Coyotes 1.

The tone was set early, when Jonas Hiller withstood an early barrage of shots, and continued long after Ryan Getzlaf left the ice spilling blood from his forehead.

There were some ugly moments to be sure, but the Ducks had to be pleased with a 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale. Goals by Luca Sbisa (his first in the NHL), Joffrey Lupul and Corey Perry completed the scoring in the first period.

“I’m sure it probably wasn’t our best start, but we were able to brush
it off and found a way to score,” Hiller said after an outstanding 31-save effort, “and at the end everyone was playing well
and sacrificing for the team.”
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Phoenix 3, Ducks 0.

The Ducks were shut out for the second time in three nights at Honda Center, leaving the ice to an assortment of boos after Ilya Bryzgalov’s 26-save effort.

Taylor Pyatt, Shane Doan and Lee Stempniak scored goals for Phoenix, which limited the Ducks’ scoring chances to give Bryzgalov a relatively easy night. Stempniak’s goal came into an empty net with 2:56 left.

Jonas Hiller stoped 36 of 39.

Ducks 6, Phoenix 3.

The only certainty at the moment in the Pacific Division is that you can’t be certain about anything in the Pacific Division.

All five teams are separated by two points, thanks to the Ducks’ 6-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. Losers of six straight, the Ducks ended the Coyotes’ seven-game winning streak by scoring five straight goals to erase a 3-1 deficit.

Bobby Ryan scored three of the five for his first hat trick of the season. Corey Perry scored one and Brandon McMillan had another, the first goal of his NHL career, off a precision pass by Ryan Getzlaf from behind the Coyotes’ net.

Jason Blake scored in the first period against Anaheim goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who had allowed six goals in his past four games but doubled that total Saturday. “Bryz” fell to 9-7-2 against the Ducks in his career.
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Roundup: Fowler breaks nose; Doan suspended; Getzlaf honored; (update: Mikkelson waived).

By noon Monday, there was enough Ducks-related weekend fallout – some good, some bad – to fill one page of an afternoon sports section. If those existed anymore.

1. Defenseman Cam Fowler was diagnosed with a broken nose as a result of this play in the second period of Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes. He is listed as “probable” for Wednesday’s game in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.

2. Shane Doan – who also steered Fowler toward the end boards – has been suspended three games for his third-period hit on Dan Sexton. No penalty was called on the play at the time.

3. Update: Brendan Mikkelson has been placed on waivers. The 23-year-old appeared in five games this season, posting one assist and seven penalty minutes, after winning one of the final defenseman spots in training camp. A second-round draft pick by the Ducks in 2005, Mikkelson was a healthy scratch Sunday against the Phoenix Coyotes. He had been averaging 19:24 – fourth among Anaheim defensemen and sixth overall.

4. Ryan Getzlaf was named the NHL’s third star of the week, behind only Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun and Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa. Getzlaf led all scorers last week with eight points (two goals, six
assists) in four games as the Ducks posted a 2-1-1 record.

Here’s how Getzlaf’s four games break down:

1. 0-0-0 in St. Louis on Monday

2. A goal, three assists and a +2 rating in a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks in the home opener at Honda Center on Wednesday.

3. One goal and one assist in a 5-4 shootout loss to Atlanta Thrashers on Friday.

4. Two assists and a +3 rating in a 3-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday.

Ducks 3, Phoenix 2. Update.

Corey Perry’s breakaway goal with 5:37 left in the game lifted the Ducks to their second win in three games to finish their season-opening homestand.

Cam Fowler scored his first NHL goal but left the game minutes later with a bloodied nose and did not return. Toni Lydman also scored for the Ducks, who got 36 saves from Jonas Hiller.

Scottie Upshall and Eric Belanger brought Phoenix back from down 2-0 with their goals in the third period.

8:56 p.m. update: Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said that keeping Fowler out of the game was “more precautionary than anything at this point.” He did not know whether or not Fowler had broken his nose.

Carlyle (just like anyone who hadn’t seen a video replay of Doan’s hit on Fowler) didn’t offer an opinion on the hit. Fowler was not available after the game.

Here was Doan’s take: “I hit (Fowler) and he fell,” Doan said. “Then he was so low, he hit my hip I think. I’m not sure. Something like that. I knew he went into the boards awkward because he’d hit my hip low. He was kind of going down, trying to drive around, I think. … You never want to see anyone get hurt.”

A few more notes from the game:
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Fowler scores first NHL goal, then leaves game.

The second period of Sunday’s game between the Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes was an eventful one for rookie defenseman Cam Fowler.

At 3:41, he wound up from the left point and buried his first NHL goal past Jason LaBarbera, who was screened in front by Ducks forward Corey Perry and teammate Sami Lepisto. Fowler, playing his sixth NHL game, had a predictably huge smile on his face as he was congratulated by teammates.

The smile didn’t last long. At 8:45 he burned through the Phoenix defense for a shot on goal and was going to have trouble holding up before crashing into the end boards anyway. However, Coyotes captain Shane Doan intercepted Fowler at the end of the rush to steer him away from the net, then steered Fowler into the end boards.

Fowler collapsed in a heap, blood dripping from his nose. He was slow to get up and received help from a trainer before leaving down the tunnel. Later in the period, the team announced that Fowler was still being evaluated in the locker room and would not return to the game.

More to come.