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Pacific: Ducks mighty unhappy with start

Tuesday, 10.21.2008 / 10:30 AM / Division Notebooks

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

A 1-5-0 start was not what the Anaheim Ducks had in mind this season. But that's the record they took on a swing through Eastern Canada after Sunday's 3-1 home loss to Carolina.

Little has gone right for the 2007 Stanley Cup champs, who have struggled offensively, allowed opponents too many scoring chances and given them too many power-play chances. Even their one victory, a 4-0 win over San Jose on Friday, didn't come easily -- the Sharks carried the play for most of the night and outshot Anaheim 38-20, but were foiled by Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who played his best game of the season.

"I think it speaks for itself," Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer said of the team's slow start. "We are not happy. The first few games in the year we really didn't play well. The last maybe three we've scrambled back and started to work harder. It doesn't always turn right away. Offensively, we're not running smoothly."

That's an understatement.

Anaheim's leading goal-scorers are defenseman Francois Beauchemin and checker Rob Niedermayer, both with 2. Niedermayer and linemate Travis Moen are tops in points with 4. The top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz has produced only two assists, while Teemu Selanne has 1 point (a goal) in six games.

The 1-5-0 start for the Ducks equals their worst since compiling a 1-4-1 mark to start the 2003-04 season. Anaheim hopes to turn it around on the trip to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

"A change of scenery will maybe do us good," Niedermayer said. "We're in a tough spot right now and not happy with the way things have gone up until now. We have to think positively and work harder than we have."

Stars struggle -- The Dallas Stars have never finished worse than sixth in goals-against under Dave Tippett. That could change this season unless the Stars tighten things up. They had allowed a League-worst 4.6 goals per game through five games before Monday's 2-1 victory against the Rangers.

"Losing is losing, but losing when you're giving up five a night, that's really losing," Tippett said. "It goes against just about everything we believe."

It's not that the Stars were giving up a lot of shots -- opponents were averaging less than 25 per game, the fourth-fewest in the NHL. But the number of quality shots Marty Turco faced in that span was unusually high.

"There's just too many mistakes, too many 2-on-1s," defenseman Stephane Robidas said.

Turco took a 4.71 goals-against average and .814 save percentage with him when the Stars headed East for three games in the New York Metropolitan area against the Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders. His one-goal performance against the Rangers marked the first time this season he had allowed fewer than three goals.

"I just need to do whatever it takes to stop the puck," Turco said prior to the trip. "We just need to get the job done. We're all in this thing together and my job on the surface seems a little more instantaneously valuable. We've been down that road before. The best way I can be a leader for this team is to build a wall for them and give them confidence, whether they need it or not. That's pretty much all I have to do."

Tippett knows that as Turco goes, so go the Stars.

"Turco needs to find a way to elevate his game," he said. "He's a big part of who we are, a big part of our identity. We need him to play well. We need to help him in every way to be successful, just like he needs to help his teammates be successful."

The one-goal performance against the Rangers may be just what Turco and his teammates needed

 
 
"It was much needed," Turco said. "You've gotta want it. Things weren't clicking, and when you get in those doldrums you have to earn your way out of it. It's still only one game, but it was a step in the right direction. That's the most important thing -- getting back on track. It's a good feeling."

Tough way to start -- Mikael Tellqvist has been a spectator in each of the Phoenix Coyotes' first 5 games while Ilya Bryzgalov played. That's expected to change Thursday, when he's slated to make his first appearance of the season.

But while some teams save their backup netminders for "easier" teams, the Coyotes are throwing Tellqvist into the fire -- the opposition will be the Washington Capitals, led by Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin and early-season scoring leader Alexander Semin. The Caps are off to a 3-1-1 start and have scored at least three goals in every game.

Tellqvist is just happy to get the chance to play.

"I've been waiting for a while," said Tellqvist, who had a 9-8-2 record with a .908 save percentage last season. "It's been a while since I have played a game, but I'm anxious to get the season going for myself, contribute to the team, play solid and help the team win a game."

The last time Ovechkin played at Jobing.com Arena, the Russian superstar scored his most famous goal, swatting the puck into the net while sliding after being knocked down. He has just two goals so far this season after getting 65 in 2007-08.
"It's been a while since I have played a game, but I'm anxious to get the season going for myself, contribute to the team, play solid and help the team win a game." -- Coyotes backup goalie Mikael Tellqvist







"I don't think there is one way you can prepare for him," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We are going to try and do a few things with one of them being matchups."

Defenseman Kurt Sauer is expected to get a lot of the responsibility for shutting down Ovechkin.

"We are going to have to try and keep him to the outside as best we can," Sauer said. "As a (defenseman), you are just trying to take away time and space. When Ovechkin comes across the blue line, he can score from anywhere, so we have to be on him and just try to frustrate him a little bit."

It's the first of a four-game homestand -- one that Gretzky was glad to see after losses at Chicago, Ottawa and Montreal.

"We need to go back home," Gretzky said after the 4-1 loss in Montreal Saturday. "We had four games on the road. Listen, would we like to be 3-2 and .500 on this trip? Absolutely. We're not, but you learn from it. And as I said to the players after Sunday's win in Anaheim, you don't get too high when you win and don't get too low when you lose."

News and notes -- Sean Avery's return to New York was relatively quiet, though he was booed more than cheered by the Madison Square Garden crowd that had cheered him during his days with the Rangers. Avery had 5 hits, but no goals or assists in 13:55 of ice time in his first game against his former team. Avery high-fived teammates on the bench after Dallas won the game 2-1. "It was nice to get back, and to get back and start something with my new team," Avery said afterward. "I've got a big dinner ticket to pick up now. I was enjoying the boos just as much as the cheers. I'm with a new organization that I'm excited about."...  It took 6 games, but Dan Boyle finally scored his first goal as a Shark. The defenseman picked a good time -- his overtime winner gave San Jose a 5-4 victory over Philadelphia in a game that saw the Sharks overcome 2-0 and 3-1 deficits. "I've always said if I'm getting chances I'm happy," said Boyle, who came from Tampa Bay during the summer. "But it's nice when it goes in there, because that starts to kind of get to you after a while. I'm just glad I could chip in there and help out." ... San Jose finishes one of the oddest home-and-home series: The Sharks hosted the Flyers on Oct. 18, then begin an Eastern swing in Philadelphia on Oct. 22. ...  The Kings agreed to terms with defenseman Andrew Campbell, their third-round pick in 2008. The 20-year-old will start his pro career with Manchester in the AHL. ... Los Angeles overcame 2-goal deficits in back-to-back victories over Anaheim and Carolina -- matching their total for all of last season. ....  Los Angeles also signed defenseman Matt Greene, acquired from Edmonton during the summer, to a five-year contract. The 25-year-old also got an "A" when the team named its captains and alternates. ... Dallas would like to repeat the results of last year's swing through the New York area -- they became only the third team to sweep 3 games on the same visit. ... Stars rookie Fabian Brunnstrom was the NHL's third star for the week ending Oct. 19. He became only the third player to score three goals in his NHL debut when he got a hat trick in a 6-4 win over St. Louis on Oct. 15. Brunnstrom, a highly sought-after free agent, had been a healthy scratch for the Stars' first two games. ... With injured regulars such as Milan Michalek ready to return, the Sharks put 2004 first-round pick Lukas Kaspar on waivers. Kaspar had the lone goal in a 1-0 win at Los Angeles on Oct. 13, but that was his only point. ... Phoenix assistant Ulf Samuelsson's son earned a place on Sweden's team for the Under-18 Four Nations tournament to be held next month in Lake Placid, N.Y. Philip Samuelsson plays for the Chicago Steel in the USHL. The 17-year-old is a defenseman, like his father. ... Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky will serve as an adviser to Canada's Olympic program, which will be headed by Steve Yzerman. Gretzky served as Canada's executive director for the 2002 and 2006 Olympics as well as the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the 2001 IIHF World Championship.

Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report


Quote of the Day

You don't see many. The [Drew] Doughtys, the [P.K.] Subbans, those are guys that create offense from the back and then on top of that ability, the size that he has. In the West you play against some pretty big players, and being able to clear the crease and contain the [Ryan] Getzlafs and the [Corey] Perrys and [Anze] Kopitars and players like that, we're excited about him going back there.

— Sharks general manager Doug Wilson on Brent Burns returning back to defense