|Anaheim is scoring just 2.53 goals per game to rank 24th in the league.|
After dropping a showdown for the Pacific Division lead to the Stars Sunday at Dallas, the Ducks return home for a Wednesday for an even bigger game when they meet Detroit in a contest that could foreshadow the Western Conference Finals.
When the Stars beat the Ducks, 5-2, Sunday afternoon, they not only snapped Anaheim’s six-game winning streak, but also took over first place in the Pacific Division. Dallas began the week with 60 points compared to the Ducks’ 61. The victory improved the Stars’ record in the season series against the defending Stanley Cup champions to 4-1-0.
Dallas has been able to match up with the Ducks by playing a physical style, essentially beating the defending champs at their own game. But with this week’s the Detroit matchup looming large, Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle preferred his team not dwell on the defeat. “This is one you just throw away,” Carlyle said after the game.
Instead, the Ducks will gear up for their showdown with the League’s overall point leader Wednesday in Anaheim. At 16-6-4, the Ducks boast the League’s second-best home record, while Detroit’s 16-6-2 road record is the League’s third-best.
Both teams have been playing well. Anaheim has gone 8-1-1 in its last 10 contests; Detroit has posted a 6-3-1 record during that same span.
Offensive production represents the biggest difference between the two clubs. Detroit is tied for the NHL lead at 3.35 goals per contest, while Anaheim is scoring just 2.53 goals per game to rank 24th in the league.
Johnson won’t accept losing -- With Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Cammalleri, and Jack Johnson, the Kings have some of the brightest young talent in the NHL. At 19-28-2, they also have a league-worst 40 points.
Someday, perhaps, those young players will look back on this trying season and realize how much better they are for having gone through it.
Maybe, but if they do, Johnson won’t be among them.
“I think a lot of people try to justify losing,” Johnson said. “I don’t think you need to lose in order to win. I think losing stinks. Flat out, period. There’s no need for it. There’s nothing wrong with winning all the time. I don’t believe that you have to learn from losing before you can win. I think you need to have the mentality that winning is everything.”
The Niedermayer way -- Scott Niedermayer says he’s not particularly proud of missing the Ducks’ first 34 games while pondering retirement.
“I didn’t think it was right for me to do what I did,” Niedermayer said. “I thought I was done in the summer, but I just gradually changed my mind.”
Niedermayer’s way might turn out to be the right way. A little guilt seems a small price to pay for a rejuvenated body and reinvigorated psyche.
“That feeling I had just got stronger and stronger that I should be here,” the 34-year-old Niedermayer said.
It’s hard to blame Niedermayer, given that the veteran’s absence from training camp and the season’s first two-and-a-half months appears to have resulted in the best possible outcome for all involved. Besides, sometimes you don’t know the right decision until you know.
Since his slow epiphany, the Ducks have gone 12-3-2 and looked like they are capable of becoming the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since Detroit in 1997 and 1998. A short off-season is typically one of the reasons for a Stanley Cup pratfall, and Niedermayer’s sojourn effectively removed that destructive element from the equation as he prepared to help the Ducks defend their title.
Teemu Selanne, operating on a similar plan, is believed to be close to make a decision on whether or not to rejoin his teammates on the ice.
In the NHL, where imitation has long been the sincerest from of flattery, you can’t help but wonder if the notion of veterans skipping out on early season games will be viewed as the elixir that cures the Stanley Cup hangover.
Young Star -- At 20, Anze Kopitar of the Kings will be the youngest player in the upcoming All-Star game. But after a year-and-a-half in the NHL, Kopitar is feeling like he’s not that young anymore. “I’m still 20-years-old,” he said, “but I’m not a rookie anymore. I don’t really feel like a young player.”
Rumor mill -- San Jose’s Patrick Marleau is rumored to be on the trading block, with Boston and the New York Rangers among the teams interested. … The second tour of duty in Los Angeles for Rob Blake could be winding down. Blake is in final season of a two-year contract, and Detroit or Ottawa are possible trade deadline destinations for the 38-year-old defenseman. The Kings also appear willing to part with Brad Stuart and Ladislav Nagy. … Anaheim’s Samuel Pahlsson, sidelined since before Christmas with an abdominal injury, does not expect to rejoin the Ducks until after the All-Star game.
Who’s hot -- Ryan Getzlaf has been instrumental in the Ducks’ recent surge, picking up eight points (2 goals, 6 assists) in his last four games. Getzlaf is in the midst of a career-best 14-game point-scoring streak that is also the NHL’s longest currently running such streak. Teammate Corey Perry has four points (1 goals, 3 assists) in his last two games. Defenseman Mathieu Schneider, meanwhile, has three assists in his last two games. Anaheim backup goaltender Jonas Hiller is 2-0 in his last two stars, posting a 1.50 goals-against average with a .938 save percentage. … Peter Mueller of the Coyotes has six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in his last three games.
Who’s not -- Rob Niedermayer’s scoreless streak has now reached 24 games. Anaheim teammate Brian Sutherby has not scored in 11 contests. … Phoenix defensemen Derek Morris and Keith Ballard are both scoreless in four games. … Jaroslav Modry of the Kings has not scored in 12 games. … Los Angeles goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin has struggled in his last three appearances, posting a 4.82 GAA and .795 save percentage.
The week ahead -- The Ducks are in the midst of playing 12-of-13 games away from Honda Center, and their one home contest during that period comes Wednesday, and it’s a big one. The defending Stanley Cup champs will host the NHL’s overall point leader when the Red Wings visit Anaheim. The Ducks then hit the road again for nine consecutive games away from home. Division-leading Dallas looks to extend its modest three-game winning streak by hosting Columbus (Tue.) and Buffalo (Thu.). The Kings’ quest to climb out of the NHL’s cellar won’t get any easier this week: they play host to Detroit, and defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim. Phoenix wraps up a five-game homestand by hosting Nashville Thursday. The Sharks hope to snap a four-game losing streak — including two in a row at home — when they host Chicago Tuesday.