Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Marcia C. Smith of the OC Register,
In other news, some local guys in skates start the playoffs Thursday night at Honda Center against the Dallas Stars and … (Cue the crickets, please).
Hello? Hockey? Anyone?
Look around Orange County and listen. Has anyone outside team itself and their loyalists noticed that the Ducks — the defending STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS! — are starting the NHL playoffs?
Where’s the county’s pluck for the puck? Where’s the talk? The energy? The emotion? The fan wearing the orange and black Selanne jersey to pick up milk at the local Ralph’s? The scalpers asking double-face-value for tickets?
Nowhere. Nothing. There’s college-library-like silence. Which is a little surprising from this region renowned for front-running sports enthusiasts.
From Eric Stephens at the LA Times,
The sight of Perry taking part in a couple of drills was encouraging for the Ducks as it appears their leading goal scorer this season could be in position to return sometime during the Western Conference quarterfinals against Dallas.
Perry skated for the first time since his right quadriceps muscle was severed just above the knee when he was cut by the skate of Colorado goaltender Jose Theodore in a game March 6.
“Today, it felt great,” Perry said. “That’s why I stayed out and did a couple of drills with the team. If it continues to be like that, it could be quicker than everybody thinks.”
*Plus more from the LA Times on expectations of a rough series between the Ducks & Stars
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
So unless these Ducks are going to change drastically over the next 2 1/2 months, they’re going to have to repeat while scoring less often than last year’s squad and while having to kill off more penalties than the other team most nights.
That doesn’t leave much room for error.
Two major factors work in the Ducks’ favour, however. First, in Jean-Sebastien Giguere, they have a brilliant playoff netminder who owns a 31-13 record all-time in the Stanley Cup tournament, including 12-1 in overtime matches.
Second, they can buckle up the chinstraps and grit their teeth more than any other club. Consider the fact, for example, that in the 10 regular-season and playoff games for which defenceman Chris Pronger has been suspended since last May, the Ducks have won eight.
from Dan Wood of Ducks Blog at the OC Register,
The Ducks, who will return to practice Tuesday after taking Monday off, enter the playoffs without a Pacific Division championship to their credit, as they boasted last year, and seeded fourth in the Western Conference instead of second, as they were in 2007. Should they advance, they could have to open every series after the first round on the road, and potentially play any decisive seventh games on enemy ice.
In the minds of the Ducks, those negatives classify merely as minor annoyances. They’re in the playoffs, with the opportunity they wanted, the chance to win a second consecutive Stanley Cup. For all the challenges they have faced this season, the Ducks believe they have another gear, and will shift into overdrive now that the stakes are at their highest.
from Jennifer Floyd-Engel of the Star-Telegram,
That crushing Game 6 loss to the No. 7-seeded Anaheim Ducks in 2003 capped a demoralizing conference semifinal series loss and arguably began what amounts to a near death spiral in Dallas Stars hockey.
They have not gotten out of the first round since 2003. Nor does anybody other than themselves expect them to when this playoff go-round begins Thursday.
Because to do so requires facing the beast, staring down ghosts, going back to Anaheim and beating Jiggy and his Ducks.
Only now, five years later, the Stars are the under-underdogs.
from the Press-Enterprise,
“I’m talking to guys who have ice packs and all kinds of things, my old teammates and buddies on other teams, and they’re saying, ‘It’s been a tough time,’ ” Selanne said with a laugh Saturday afternoon. “And I say, ‘Well, I feel great.’ I highly recommend that we play only 25 games before the real season starts and go from there.
“I’ve never felt this good. Obviously, the break was really good for me, mentally and physically, and hopefully I can take advantage of that.”
from the LA Times,
If being scratched for one of the few times in his long career was a message sent to Doug Weight, it was momentarily lost on the veteran center.
“I don’t need a message,” Weight said, when asked about being in street clothes Sunday for the Ducks’ shootout win. “I’ve played 1,100 games. The message was I have to be at the rink at 7 o’clock [to work].”
from the Ducks Blog a the OC Register,
The magnitude of Sunday night’s game between the Ducks and Dallas Stars at Honda Center cannot be overstated.
By winning, the Ducks would move to the brink of clinching fourth place in the NHL’s Western Conference and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. A regulation loss to Dallas, meanwhile, would leave the Ducks no longer in control of their own destiny in pursuit of the all-important fourth spot and home ice.
With a regulation victory, the Ducks would have 98 points and need just one point in their final two games to secure fourth place because the maximum number of points the Stars and Calgary Flames could reach would be 98.
from Randy Youngman of the OC Register,
Next up is Dallas, the team right behind the Ducks in the Pacific and a possible first-round playoff opponent.
“Now Sunday is huge,” Ducks winger Teemu Selanne said after Friday night’s disappointing loss. “We would pretty much clinch fourth place (in the West) by winning that game.”
But is it going to be difficult keeping their competitive edge now that the division title is out of reach?
“Maybe a little bit,” Selanne said. “We know how good a team we have here . . . so it kind of hard to motivate yourself for anything other than that (first place). But our biggest challenge now is to find momentum going into the playoffs.”
Coach Randy Carlyle said Friday night he doesn’t think there will be a letdown after watching their division title hopes evaporate.
from Ducks Blog at the OC Register,
Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere went through a full practice Thursday and pronounced himself set for duty in Friday night’s game against the San Jose Sharks at Honda Center.
“I’m ready to play,” said Giguere, who has sat out the past three games because of back spasms.
Now the question becomes whether Ducks coach Randy Carlyle will go back to Giguere, or stick with the hot hand of rookie Jonas Hiller, who has stopped 102 of 106 opposition shots while filling in for Giguere.
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