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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 5:22 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Avalanche, Flames relishing the playoff atmosphere

DENVER -- Despite the intense pressure of having to win on a nightly basis as the regular season winds down in the wild, wild Western Conference, coaches and players involved in the tightly-bunched playoff race insist they are enjoying the ride.

"It is fun," Calgary Flames left wing Alex Tanguay said this morning at the Pepsi Center, where his team will face the Colorado Avalanche tonight in a game with significant postseason implications. "As a player, as a competitor, you always want to play in games like this and in a fun atmosphere. That's going to be the case tonight."

The Flames are in 11th place with 81 points in 73 games, just two points behind the Avalanche, who sit in the eighth and final playoff position with 83 points in 74 games. Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Jose are also in the mix for a playoff berth, all with 83 or 82 points, and they all play tonight.

"It sure makes for an interesting finish," Tanguay said. "It almost feels like, with the five or six teams battling, that we've already entered the playoffs, just three weeks early. It's certainly going to be fun, and hopefully we can get some big wins."

Everybody "is scoreboard watching on a nightly basis," he said.

That includes the coaches.

"It's a great time of year," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "I tell the players, this is why you play. You play to be in situations like this. Right now we're in the playoff picture, but every day it changes. This is the biggest game to date, the last game was the biggest game and the one after this one will be the biggest game."

The Flames have beaten the Avalanche nine consecutive times, four times this season with one more meeting in Calgary on March 30 after tonight. The clubs haven't met since a 3-2 Flames win in Calgary on Dec. 8 when both were hovering around .500.

"I'm not even worrying about what's transpired in the past against them," Sacco said. "I feel we're a different team right now. We're certainly playing a lot better."

The Avalanche are coming off a three-game swing through the East in which they posted a 2-0-1 record. Colorado has gone 4-0-1 in the past five games and 10-3-1 since Feb. 22. Goalie Semyon Varlamov has won four in a row, six of seven and gone 9-2 in his past 11 starts while registering a 1.53 goals-against average with two shutouts and a .949 save percentage.

"It's not like we beat them nine times in a row back-to-back-to-back-to-back," Tanguay said. "Every game is different. I don't think it will make any difference in the outcomes of the last two games of our series."

Avalanche forward Peter Mueller was recovering from post-concussion symptoms and didn't play in the previous four games against Calgary, but he knows all about the nine-game streak.

"They've had our number," he said. "Hopefully it doesn't repeat. We're concentrating on this game and we're not looking to the past. We're just trying to figure out what can be successful against this team, and hopefully we'll find it tonight."

The Flames have gone 10-4-7 since Feb. 3 and won five games in a row before stubbing their toes in the past two games, losing 3-1 in Edmonton and dropping a 2-1 shootout decision to Columbus. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has gone 6-1-3 in his past 10 starts, is tied for third in the NHL with 33 wins, and he owns a 26-14-5 career record against the Avalanche with a 2.50 GAA and four shutouts.

"We've been in playoff mode for a long time," Tanguay said. "We kind of shot ourselves in the foot the last two games. Edmonton and Columbus are at the bottom of the pack, and we came out of those two games with one point. But there's so much parity. We just played those two teams and we didn't play our best game and we didn't win. That's the way it should be."

The Avalanche have played one more game than the Flames, but would move four points ahead of them with a regulation win if they can find a way to solve Kiprusoff and put an end to that nine-game drought.

"We have to do what we've been doing for the past couple of weeks," Mueller said. "It's going to be a dogfight tonight. We've been in playoff mode for the last two months. We're happy coming to the rink and it's an exciting time of the year. It's going to be exciting coming down to the wire."

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 3:36 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Flames, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

FLAMES
Alex Tanguay - Matt Stajan - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Tom Kostopoulos
Lee Stempniak - David Moss - Blake Comeau
Greg Nemisz - Roman Horak - Guillaume Desbiens

Jay Bouwmeester - Cory Sarich
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Derek Smith - Anton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson 

INJURIES: C Mikael Backlund (shoulder), D Chris Butler (thigh laceration), LW Michael Cammalleri (upper body) and C Blair Jones (ankle) are out.  LW Lance Bouma (upper body), D T.J. Brodie  (upper body), and RW Tim Jackman (shoulder) are day to day.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Mark Olver - Matt Duchene - Peter Mueller
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Milan Hejduk

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Matt Hunwick - Ryan Wilson

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: None.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.12.2012 / 4:28 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ducks could be without Perry against Avalanche

DENVER -- March madness is in full swing for the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks, who meet at the Pepsi Center tonight.

Only 12 games remain on the schedule for the Avalanche, who sit 10th in the Western Conference but are tied with eighth-place Calgary and ninth-place Los Angeles with 76 points. The Ducks have 13 games to play, but they are in 12th place with 68 points and have a much tougher road ahead.

It won't help the Ducks' cause if right wing Corey Perry doesn't play. Perry, who won the Hart Trophy last season and leads the Ducks with 34 goals, hurt his right shoulder in Saturday's 2-0 loss to Dallas and is questionable for tonight. Perry didn't take part in this morning's skate.

Perry was injured when he was ridden into the boards by Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas while losing his balance. Perry attempted to return to the game but the pain was too severe.

"He's got a lot of character," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who felt Robidas should have been assessed more than a minor penalty. "(Perry) has a lot of gumption and a lot of everything else that's positive. He just couldn't go."

If Perry is scratched, he would be replaced by Kyle Palmieri, who has been summoned from Syracuse in the American Hockey League. Palmieri, 21, had 1 goal in 11 games with the Ducks earlier this season and leads the AHL with 32 goals in 42 games.

While Perry's consecutive games played streak (272 games) is in jeopardy, Ducks center Saku Koivu will play in his 1,000th NHL game.

"Very impressive," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said of Koivu. "I think anybody that can play 1,000 games in this League, there's a lot to be said for that. You have to be durable, you have to be consistent. Even a guy like Koivu, who went through some battles during his career, to be able to come through that and be able to finish off with 1,000 games, is very impressive. Any player in this League that can hang around that long is doing something right."

Ducks right wing Teemu Selanne could reach a milestone as well. With 1,398 points, he is tied with fellow Finn and Hall of Famer Jari Kurri for 19th place on the NHL's all-time list.

"It's very special," Selanne said. "I could never imagine having as many points as Jari Kurri. It's a big honor. He was my idol growing up. His picture was on my wall and everything."

The Avalanche won two of the three previous meetings with the Ducks, taking a 4-1 decision in the most recent game, Feb. 27 at the Pepsi Center. Colorado hasn't won a season series from Anaheim since 2006-07.

"There is an eight-point cushion now with a chance to make it 10," Sacco said, referring to his team's lead over the Ducks. "If you don't (win), it could be six points and you give them hope again. I certainly believe that they believe they still have a strong chance to get in there if they put some wins together. It'll be our job tonight to discourage those chances."

Despite the pressure to win every night, Sacco said this should be a fun time for players.

"This is why you play, to have an opportunity to get into the postseason," he said. "We're right in the thick of things with a handful of other teams. I think it's easy to keep that intensity and that level up to where it should be. We're a young team, we should have good legs and we should be excited about where we're at right now, an opportunity to get into the dance. That's the biggest thing, just to get there."

The Avalanche won't know until game time if rookie left wing Gabriel Landeskog will be able to play. He was ill this morning and didn't skate.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.12.2012 / 4:20 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Ducks, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

DUCKS
Niklas Hagman - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry/Kyle Palmieri
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Jason Blake - Andrew Cogliano - Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey - Ryan O'Marra - George Parros

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers 

INJURIES: G Dan Ellis (groin) is out. RW Corey Perry (shoulder) is questionable. C Nick Bonino (leg) is day to day.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog/Mike Connolly - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Peter Mueller - Mark Olver - Milan Hejduk
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Kevin Porter

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Matt Hunwick - Ryan Wilson

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: C Matt Duchene (knee) and RW Chuck Kobasew (back) are out. LW Gabriel Landeskog (ill) is a game-time decision.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 5:10 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ankle injury to sideline Duchene at least one game

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene will miss at least one game with a right ankle injury that was still being evaluated Wednesday.

Duchene was injured at 5:14 of the third period in Tuesday night's 7-1 rout of Minnesota when he was tripped by Wild right wing Nick Palmieri. Duchene's ankle was X-rayed, but coach Joe Sacco said he didn't know if a fracture had been found. He said after practice Wednesday that more tests were being administered.

"All I know is it's an ankle injury right now," Sacco said. "He'll be re-evaluated today and I'll know more tonight or tomorrow morning."

Duchene and right wing Chuck Kobasew, who has missed four games with a back injury, didn't accompany the team for Thursday night's game in Nashville, a one-game trip.

"We have plenty of bodies right now and we'll just do some line shuffling," Sacco said.

Mark Olver, who has been playing left wing on a line with Duchene and right wing Peter Mueller, will shift to center on the unit. Mueller will move to the left side and Milan Hejduk will skate at right wing.

Defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, who has missed seven games with a knee injury, took part in contact drills Wednesday and will be available Thursday.

"It's tough to keep a totally healthy lineup in this game," O'Byrne said. "Dutchie is a big part of our team and hopefully he's not out for long."

It's been a difficult season for Duchene, who suffered a left knee injury in a Dec. 29 game against Phoenix and missed 20 games. He came back Feb. 22 against Winnipeg and was used as a left wing for a few games until returning to his natural center position in Sunday's 2-0 win in Minnesota.

Duchene led the Avalanche in scoring last season when he posted career highs for goals (27), assists (40) and points (67), but he has just 13 goals and 13 assists in 48 games this year. He has 1 goal and 1 assist in nine games since returning from his knee injury.

"Every team goes through injuries, whether it's the same guy getting hurt or other guys at different times," center Paul Stastny said. "We just have to find a way to deal with it."

Stastny and teammate David Jones thought Duchene might have re-injured his knee when tripped, a play that didn't result in a penalty.

"I think he just fell awkwardly," Jones said.

Stastny said a penalty could have been called, but he didn't think it was intentional.

"Sometimes it's just a string of bad luck," he said. "You just hope he's OK. It's been a frustrating year for him. It wears on you mentally, but he'll get stronger from it. We just hope he gets back as soon as possible. If he's out for a certain amount of time, we'll pick him up. When he gets back, it'll be another good addition."

Sacco has been impressed with Olver, who is fearless when it comes to skating into the corners and in traffic despite being listed at 5-feet-10 and 170 pounds.   

"He plays the game in those areas all the time," Sacco said. "He's not a big man in stature, but he plays big. He's one of those players, when he gets on the ice, the opposition takes notice because it seems like he's always a pain in the rear end. Those are some of the type of players that we need. He's been making some plays, playing with some physicality in his game. He's been real good. I've been real happy with his play so far."

Olver missed 35 games to recover from a concussion he sustained in training camp. He had 2 goals and 7 assists in 15 games with Lake Erie in the American Hockey League and has 3 goals and 2 assists in 10 games with the Avalanche since his Feb. 16 recall.

"Being my size, either you have to be skilled or you have to be gritty," Olver, 24, said. "I don't have that much skill, so hopefully I can get a little grit and help the team out as much as I can. If I have to go to those dirty areas to help the team win, I will."

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 4:00 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Downie could play vs. Wild

DENVER -- It's possible right wing Steve Downie could be in the Colorado Avalanche lineup Tuesday night to play against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center.
   
Downie didn't make the trip for Sunday's 2-0 win in Minnesota after suffering a shoulder injury in Saturday's game against Pittsburgh, but he took part in Tuesday's morning skate and looked fine in shooting drills.
   
Downie was to be examined by a doctor Tuesday afternoon when a decision would be made on his availability. He has 2 goals and 5 assists in six games since his Feb. 21 acquisition from Tampa Bay. If Downie doesn't play, his place will be taken by Mike Connolly, who made his NHL debut Sunday.
   
"If he gets cleared by the team doctor, he'll be in the lineup tonight," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "If he's not cleared, then we'll go with Connolly. It's very good news."
   
Sacco also said that defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, who will miss his seventh consecutive game Tuesday with a knee injury, would take part in a full practice Wednesday and be available for Thursday’s game in Nashville.
   
"He's another player who has made good progress with his injury as well," Sacco said.
   
Matt Duchene, who was shifted from left wing to his natural position of center Sunday, will stay in the middle Tuesday night on a line with Mark Olver and Peter Mueller.
   
"I think we had 10 scoring chances last game," said Duchene, who has 1 goal, 1 assist and 18 shots in eight games since returning from a knee injury that kept him out of the lineup for 20 games. "The fact that our line didn't get (a goal) is a bit of a crime, but we want to keep bringing that level of hockey and put some in the net."
   
Jamie McGinn, playing in his third game since his Feb. 28 acquisition from San Jose, scored two first-period goals Sunday and goalie Semyon Varlamov, who will start again Tuesday night, made 30 saves for his second shutout in the past four games.
   
"(Minnesota) is frustrating to play against, for sure," Duchene said. "They try and slow it down and make it as slow as possible. Last game we pushed the pace pretty good and made them try and play at our speed. We didn't let them play that game they're so good at where they trap it up and slow it down. We have to have a similar effort tonight."
   
The Wild haven't had much success lately. Minnesota is on a four-game winless streak (0-3-1) and has been shut out in all three regulation losses. The Wild have three wins in the past 20 road games, but two of them have come against the Avalanche.
   
The Wild have won three of five games against the Avalanche this season and have gone 10-1-2 in the past 13 visits to Denver.
   
With goalie Niklas Backstrom out with a groin injury, rookie Matt Hackett will make his second start in a row. Hackett, 22, made 34 saves Sunday and owns a 2-1 record with a 0.96 goals-against average and .971 save percentage in six games.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 3:24 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Probable lineups for Wild vs. Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for Tuesday night's game between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

WILD
Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Stephane Veilleux - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Darroll Powe - Nick Palmieri
Matt Kassian - Erik Christensen - Jed Ortmeyer

Steven Kampfer - Tom Gilbert
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Kurtis Foster - Nate Prosser

Matt Hackett
Josh Harding

INJURIES: G Niklas Backstrom (groin), C Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), D Justin Falk (leg), C Mikko Koivu (upper body), LW Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), D Mike Lundin (lower body), C Carson McMillan (lower body), RW Jarod Palmer (concussion) and D Clayton Stoner (leg), are out.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie/Mike Connolly
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Mark Olver - Matt Duchene - Peter Mueller
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Milan Hejduk

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliott

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: RW Steve Downie (shoulder) is day to day. RW Chuck Kobasew (back) and D Ryan O'Byrne (knee) are out.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 2:44 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Probable lineups for Penguins vs. Avs


DENVER – These are the projected lineups for Saturday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

PENGUINS

Chris KunitzEvgeni MalkinJames Neal
Steve SullivanJordan StaalPascal Dupuis
Matt CookeJoe VitaleRichard Park
Eric TangradiCraig AdamsArron Asham

Paul MartinBen Lovejoy
Brooks OrpikZbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanan – Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brad Thiessen

INJURIES: C Sidney Crosby (concussion), G Brent Johnson (undisclosed), RW Tyler Kennedy (ankle) and D Kris Letang (concussion) are out.

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog – Ryan O’Reilly – Steve Downie
Matt DuchenePaul StastnyMilan Hejduk
Jamie McGinnMark OlverDavid Jones
Cody McLeodJay McClementPeter Mueller

Shane O’Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliott

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

INJURIES: RW Chuck Kobasew (back) and D Ryan O’Byrne (knee) are out.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 3:39 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

New look for McGinn in first home game with Avs

DENVER -- Jamie McGinn will be wearing a new uniform and a new number tonight when he makes his Colorado Avalanche debut.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound left wing, who was acquired from the San Jose Sharks on Monday, has traded in the No. 64 he wore with the Sharks for parts of four seasons for No. 11, which he'll don against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday at the Pepsi Center.

"Sixty-four was a training camp number," McGinn said after Thursday morning's practice. "I never picked that number and I didn't want that number. It was just a number that they gave me and I wasn't able to switch it.  Every (previous) number I've worn has been a double-digit, so I figured I'd try this one."

McGinn will skate on the Avalanche's third line, with center Mark Olver and right wing David Jones, and he also will be used in penalty-killing situations.

"Jonesie is a proven goal scorer and Ollie is quick up the middle, so I'm excited to get going and to get to know them better," he said. "I've got to do what Colorado wanted me here for. I have to continue to do those things and I'm sure we'll jell just fine."

McGinn arrived in town Tuesday and took part in his first practice Wednesday, but still is adjusting to the mile-high altitude.

"All the guys in the locker room have warned me about it," he said. "I felt it a little bit at practice yesterday, but I felt good this morning. I'm just going to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated and get some sleep and I'll be ready to go tonight. If I can stay on top of that, I hope it will be an easy transition. But I can't use that as an excuse tonight. I have to give it my all and do what makes me successful."

McGinn, who has 12 goals and 12 assists in 61 games, is replacing Daniel Winnik on the third line and as a penalty killer. Winnik was dealt to the Sharks with T.J. Galiardi and a seventh-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

"We're looking for energy and for him to be a strong, physical player who can really create havoc on the forecheck and use his size and use his energy to be hard to play against, to be abrasive up front," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "The biggest thing for him is to use his feet and not get paralyzed by thinking too much; just play your game. He's got 12 goals, so certainly he's got the capability to score."

McGinn said he has gotten over the shock of the trade, but added: "Tonight will be a big game for me; reality will hit. I'm really excited to be here. It's going to be a real good opportunity for me. It's going to be a fun month with this playoff push just to make the playoffs. It's an exciting time of the year and I'm ready to tackle it."

The Avalanche have won four games in a row and are 7-2-2 in their past 11 games to pull within one point of eighth-place Dallas in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Stars are idle tonight, so a Colorado win would give it sole possession of that spot, at least for a day.

The Avalanche won the first two meetings with the Blue Jackets this season, both in Columbus, and have won nine of the past 10 games between the teams.

This is the first of a two-game road trip for the Blue Jackets, who have lost three games in a row and are 30th in the NHL standings with 18 wins and 43 points.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:50 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blue Jackets, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

BLUE JACKETS
RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Cam Atkinson
Ryan Russell - Derek MacKenzie - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Ryan Johansen

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
John Moore - Brett Lebda

Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

INJURIES: RW Jared Boll (foot), LW Kristian Huselius (lower body), D Radek Martinek (concussion) and D Marc Methot (jaw) are out.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Jamie McGinn - Mark Olver - David Jones
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Peter Mueller

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliott

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: RW Chuck Kobasew (back) and D Ryan O'Byrne (knee) are out.
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I was in there icing my face as she was trying to push a baby out.

— Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf on going to the hospital with a facial laceration while his wife was in labor following Game 1 on Wednesday