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Sharks-Ducks Blog

Sunday, 04.26.2009 / 12:20 AM / 2009 Playoffs Conference Quarterfinals

By NHL.com Staff

Super Selanne
4.28.2009 12:11 a.m. EST

There is absolutely no question about who has been the best player on the ice tonight: Teemu Selanne. Yes, he just scored the go-ahead power play goal - banking the puck off Sharks' defenseman Christian Ehrhoff - but even before the goal, Selanne has been all over the ice.

Every time he touches the puck he seems to make something happen. He is flying and has blown by at least two defenders that I recall specifically. At one point earlier in the second period, Selanne took the puck near center ice and just cruised past a Sharks defenseman only to fire a massive slap shot just wide of the net. The man is playing with some serious heart and seems to want this series more than anyone out there.

With Francois Beauchemin scoring just 43 seconds after the Selanne power play marker, the Ducks are in complete control of the game. Look for them to skate to a more defensive game from this point on, with Pronger and Niedermayer playing some heavy minutes.

-- Matthew Cubeta


Power play proves vital so far

4.27.2009 11:46 p.m. EST

After 20 minutes of play there have been penalties galore between these two rivals. So far each team has had three power-play opportunities - with both teams scoring their goals while on the man advantage - and there have been a total of 30 penalty minutes in the first period.

It has been a nasty game to this point with plenty of altercations and a few scrums after the whistle, including one that saw Dan Boyle throw his gloves to the ice and go after a Ducks player. He was only handed a two-minute minor for roughing as the linesmen broke it up quickly.

I expect more of the same the rest of the way and with both teams having excellent power plays, we could be in line for a high-scoring affair tonight in Anaheim.

-- Matthew Cubeta


Getzlaf and Thornton rivalry

4.27.2009 11:15 p.m. EST

Well, that was quite a way to start Game 6.

Two seconds barely had the chance to tick off when San Jose's Joe Thornton and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf dropped their gloves in a spirited battle between the All-Star centers.

Either Thornton wasn't content with jawing and bumping Getzlaf in the early moments of Game 5 or Getzlaf wanted a little payback. It's safe to say that the two weren't discussing playing for Canada together at the 2010 Winter Olympics as Thornton claimed on Sunday.
 
-- Eric Stephens


The gloves are off

4.27.2009 10:59 p.m. EST

What a start to this Game 6 at the Honda Center. Last game it looked like Joe Thornton and Ryan Getzlaf were constantly going at each other all game, including off the opening faceoff when Thornton gave Getzlaf a sneaky cross check.

Well, tonight they took it to the next step. Immediately after the puck fell to the ice, the two centers dropped their gloves and went at it. This is something we rarely see from either player. Getzlaf scrapped three times during the regular season, while Thornton dropped his gloves just twice all year.

I would say it was a pretty even fight, but these two All-Stars have set an energetic tone for both teams tonight. I can't wait to see what happens when Thornton and Getzlaf return to the ice, especially since the Ducks said they'd be matching the Thronton-Marleau-Setoguchi line with their Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan line the entire game. Should be plenty more excitement in this matchup tonight.

-- Matthew Cubeta


McLellan expects more from second line
4.27.2009 10:48 p.m. EST

Sharks coach Todd McLellan had to answer another round of questions about his stars, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, before Game 6, but he made a point of getting a message across to his second line of Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and Milan Michalek.

Though the trio has often been the most consistent line the Sharks have put out, it's produced just one goal and two assists. Clowe scored in Game 2 and assisted on Dan Boyle’s goal in Game 3, but Pavelski has just one assist and Michalek is pointless.

“They’ve scored 70 goals all year and they’re at one,” McLellan said. “They’re on the hook a little bit here, too. They have to take some pressure off the big boys and they become a little bit of a focus for us, as a staff and as teammates in the locker room as well.”
 
-- Eric Stephens


Sharks focus on Sharks
4.27.2009 10:32 p.m. EST

Forget about the Sharks being inspired by the Washington Capitals forcing a seventh game against the New York Rangers after being down 3-1 in their series.

“Washington and the Rangers are playing thousands and thousands of miles away,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “If we have to go to another series to use as a motivator, I think we’re in more trouble than we think. It’s about what the guys in the locker room are saying to each other and how they’re going to motivate each other. How they’re going to get hungry.

“Has it been done before? Absolutely. But we haven’t even discussed that. We haven’t even discussed how teams have come back from 3-1 deficits and won Stanley Cups. That’s not how we operate. We operate in the locker room, holding each other accountable.”

For that matter, a total of 20 teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series.
 
-- Eric Stephens


Sharks expected toughness in first round

4.26.2009 12:20 a.m. EST

 
Had they won their last game of the season, the Ducks would have earned the No. 6 seed and faced Vancouver while the top-seeded Sharks would have drawn St. Louis.

Instead, Anaheim lost in a shootout and St. Louis won on the season's final day to jump the Ducks into seventh. The Blues, who hadn't been in the playoffs since 2004, were swept in four games by Vancouver.

The Sharks instead got a playoff-tested Anaheim squad with much of the core intact from the 2007 Stanley Cup champions. A fine reward after winning 53 games in the regular season and leading the NHL with 117 points.

"That's the way things are going to fall, no matter what," defenseman Rob Blake said. "And we knew coming in that Anaheim was a very good opponent. They've been there before in the past couple of years and they've kept the same nucleus around.

"But again, no matter who you play in the playoffs, you have to raise your game to beat them."

Winger Jonathan Cheechoo said he didn't feel the Sharks were unlucky in drawing their Pacific Division rival.

"We knew it was going to be a tough series regardless of who we played," Cheechoo said. "St. Louis played us tough all year. It just happens that the Ducks are probably a little more physical than St. Louis would have been. But St. Louis has a lot of speed and they skate.

"We knew it was going to be tough. Both were coming in hot to the playoffs. We knew we had to be ready."
 
-- Eric Stephens


Ducks duo still got game
4.26.2009 12:19 a.m. EST

So far they haven't put up the points from the blue line that they've been accustomed to throughout their careers, but the Ducks' Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger have made their impact in leading a revamped defense core that has limited San Jose to six goals in the series.

Niedermayer and Pronger have four points between them, but it's the way they've controlled the tempo and gotten the puck out of their end that has been impressive. Ryan Whitney, James Wisniewski, Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Brookbank have followed their lead.

Experience may have something to do with it. The former Norris Trophy winners have combined to play in 331 playoff games.

"One guy's very vocal [Pronger] and the other guy's very quiet [Niedermayer]," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said, noting the differences between the two. Both accept their responsibility and that's huge. Because when players are in situations like they have played in, there's an expectation and it's not just from coaches and management and fans. There's more expectation from themselves. They expect themselves to play to a high level. They demand that out of themselves.

"They're the ones that live it. And they're the ones that do the preparation. Those are the guys that have the ability to calm the game down when things are getting hairy out there. And believe me, it does happen. Things are going to get hairy at some point."

Pronger is averaging 23:46 of ice time and has a plus-6 rating, the best of anyone in the series. Niedermayer, the 2007 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, is averaging 25:09 and is a plus-1.

"They've been good," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "Our forecheck hasn't been that good though. Again, as good as they are and as good as they've been back there, a lot of it still, I think, comes back to us. We need more of a forecheck.

"They've done a good job pressuring from behind. We've got to find a way to be a little better than them and for longer."
 
-- Eric Stephens


Sharks look like usual Sharks

4.26.2009 12:02 a.m. EST

Well that's more like it, San Jose. The Shark Tank is alive again as the Sharks lead the Ducks 2-0 after two periods of play. Two of their most productive players during the regular season found the back of the net here in Game 5. With Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi scoring their first goals of the postseason, the Sharks look like they did much of the regular season.

Thornton tallied a power-play goal in the first period and then Setoguchi scored from a difficult angle late in the second period to give the Sharks their two-goal cushion.

If the Ducks are planning a third-period comeback they'll need a lot more puck possession then they've had in the first two periods. The Sharks have dominated most of this game and most of the play has taken place in Anaheim's zone. The Ducks need to play a more physical game like they did in Games 1 and 2 in San Jose. The forwards need to forecheck harder and pressure their defense when they dump the puck in, and the Anaheim defensemen need to take chances in the third and pinch more often.

I think we'll see Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger taking a few more chances than we normally would. And I actually think San Jose will continue to do what they've done in the first two periods: attack, attack, attack. I don't think they will sit back at all. That's not what the Sharks do. They are an offensive team that loves to shoot the puck, and I expect more of that in the third period of this contest.

-- Matthew Cubeta


Ducks applying pressure

4.25.2009 11:24 p.m. EST

Despite only having five shots on goal, the Ducks played a pretty solid first period. A couple of penalties, including one leading to the Sharks' lone goal, and no power-play opportunities hurt them though.

The second period has started completely different for the eighth-seeded Ducks, with tons of pressure early on. If it weren’t for Evgeni Nabokov this game would be tied at one apiece. Nabokov made a stellar glove save on Bobby Ryan when Corey Perry found him open right at the door step. Moments later the Sharks took their first penalty of the game. The Ducks were unable to capitalize on the power play, but they look good so far here in the second.

The Ducks definitely have the Sharks on the ropes in the beginning of this period, but we’ll see if San Jose can build some momentum having killed off this Anaheim power play.

-- Matthew Cubeta


Thornton thinking straight?

4.25.2009 10:37 p.m. EST

 

 

About four and a half minutes into this game Joe Thornton made a very poor decision and was off to a slow start in Game 5.

Douglas Murray made a terrific defensive play, stepping up with a big hit at the Sharks' blue line that forced a turnover and a San Jose rush led by Joe Thornton. Thornton carried the puck into the Ducks' zone, and it appeared he was going in with a two-on-one. But the Ducks back-checked quickly and erased the odd man advantage; unfortunately for San Jose, Thornton was unaware of that.

He forced a pass that was never there instead of shooting the puck. I know Joe Thornton is a phenomenal passer and playmaker, but he has got to shoot the puck a little more often. It was pretty obvious that the pass wasn’t there and Thornton made a decision that he normally wouldn’t. He is a smarter player and rarely makes the wrong choice. But this time, he has got to get some sort of shot on goal. Whether he shoots for a goal or just for a rebound, just make sure you get it on goal when you have an opportunity like that.

Well, maybe Joe Thornton heard my fingers pounding the keyboard, because while I was writing this entry Sir Thornton potted his first goal of the playoffs. Granted it was quite an obvious decision this time, on a rebound during a Sharks power play, but I applaud him for actually pulling the trigger this time.

-- Matthew Cubeta


Line Changes for Sharks

4.25.2009 10:14 p.m. EST

It may change, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan has gone back to something that worked during the regular season in an attempt to jump start his team for Game 5.

McLellan has put the line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi back together to start the game, as the unit will skate against Anaheim’s top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan.

After being shut out in Game 1 of the series, McLellan broke up the trio in the hopes of spreading out the scoring among different lines. The ploy didn’t work, as Marleau has the only goal among the three – the winner in Game 3.

How long McLellan stays with them tonight could depend on whether they generate any offense and if they can handle Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan, who tore through the Sharks for three of the four goals in the Ducks’ 4-0 Game 4 win.

Thornton, Marleau and Setoguchi were the Sharks’ top-three scorers in the regular season, combining for 94 goals and 128 assists. Marleau and Setoguchi were the top goal scorers with 38 and 31 respectively.
 
-- Eric Stephens


Sharks and Ducks to battle in Game 5

4.25.2009 08:31 p.m. EST

Well the numbers do not look good for the Sharks, but they still have their hope.

"Not a lot of people probably believe we can come back," said defenseman Dan Boyle, one of the few players that have played up to their expectations this series. "We've got to show up with a desperate attitude. We were missing that desperation (in Game 4), and in a do-or-die situation, that's not good. We just need more."

The Sharks have a steep hill to climb and hope to start tonight in Game 5 at the Shark Tank. The Sharks have to get back to basics, and that means doing what they did best during the regular season: winning at home. San Jose went 32-5-4 during the regular season on home ice, but somehow dropped Games 1 and 2 to the Ducks at home this series. One of the Sharks' five regular season losses did come against the Ducks on April 4, so maybe Anaheim has their number. 

Personally, I just believe the Ducks have out-hustled, out-smarted and simply out-played the Sharks this series. From Jonas Hiller dominating between the pipes to Ryan Getzlaf out-playing Joe Thornton, the Ducks have played really good hockey. If the Sharks plan to get back in this series they are going to need a lot more contributions from players like Thornton (just two assists), Rob Blake (a minus-5 rating) and captain Patrick Marleau, who has just one goal this series despite potting 38 during the regular season.

I expect the Sharks to come out ready to play tonight, with plenty of desperation like Boyle mentioned, and rightfully so; they are facing elimination. I also anticipate more of the same from this hungry eighth-seeded Ducks group, as they try to wrap things up and meet the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals.

-- Matthew Cubeta


Mitchell, a valuable role player for Sharks

4.25.2009 08:20 p.m. EST

In his first two games since missing the entire regular season because of a broken left leg, San Jose center Torrey Mitchell has averaged 7 ½ minutes per contest and has won 6 of 11 faceoffs.

After Game 3, Sharks coach Todd McLellan praised Mitchell’s ability to bring speed and energy to the lineup. Mitchell, who replaced 43-year-old veteran Claude Lemieux, played 8:44 in Game 4 and was a minus-1.
 
-- Eric Stephens


McLellan to ride horses

4.25.2009 08:15 p.m. EST

Don’t expect too many changes in the Sharks’ lineup for Game 5, according to coach Todd McLellan. If they plan to come back in the best-of-7 series, it’ll have to be their “horses” pulling the load, as McLellan put it.

In other words, McLellan is counting on prominent players such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and goalie Evgeni Nabokov to lead the way.

“We tinker a little bit with the lines,” McLellan said Saturday, answering a question about possible changes. “But I’ve been talking about our core group. A group of players that have to lead the way. That doesn’t leave the others off the hook one bit. But you have significant players in your lineup that have contributed offensively throughout the season. If we’re going to win, it’s going to go through them.

“So we’ll ride them. We’ll expect everything they have from minute one to however many minutes it takes.”
 
-- Eric Stephens


Sharks need ... teeth?

4.24.2009 01:30 a.m. EST

Final score is Anaheim 4, San Jose 0, and the Ducks have a 3-1 series lead. This was also the first victory by a home team in the series.

Simply put, one reason the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sharks are trailing in this series is that their top players are not delivering, and the Ducks' are, and in a big way. Count the confident Jonas Hiller as possibly Anaheim's top player in this series with a second shutout.

Just heard the Versus announcers observe something that is very key to this series: There is little bite or nastiness to the Sharks' game, despite a lineup that is deep and balanced. There may be something to be said for that thought in that many of the great clubs -- which the Sharks have plenty of ingredients to become -- are able to play any style necessary to win against any team.

We'll see what happens when they return to the friendly confines of HP Pavilion Saturday with the potential of an early playoff exit at hand.

-- Brian Schiazza


Men in the middle

4.24.2009 01:12 a.m. EST

Sure it's never over 'til it's over, but if there is anything more indicative of how this series is going, it's Joe Thornton's ill-advised clearing pass out of the corner right onto the waiting blade of Ryan Getzlaf in the high slot. A quick shot and rebound later, Corey Perry puts the Ducks in front, 3-0 with 5:51 remaining in the game.

The Ducks simply are forcing themselves on the Sharks, and have out-played them in every way all night. What microchip is missing from San Jose's game? Why so many open looks for Anaheim in the middle?  

We'll get more answers next time in Game 5, presumably. Same Duck time, same Duck channel.

-- Brian Schiazza


Ryan rocks again

4.23.2009 12:19 a.m. EST

 
Another goal for Bobby Ryan at 10:13 of the second period. The kid seems galvanized by his Calder Trophy nomination. Four goals in three games now. No Sharks were covering Ryan in the low slot, as all drifted toward Corey Perry on his wraparound attempt that resulted in a hard rebound to Ryan. This kid doesn't, and can't, miss.

This top line of Anaheim's is surely the envy of most of the league. Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan are all big, fast, skilled -- and occasionally, glove-droppers -- and under 25. Can we call them ... The Legion of Duck?

The hunger emanating from Anaheim's forwards is really giving San Jose trouble, especially defensemen trying to transition out of their own end.

-- Brian Schiazza


Can't stop now
4.23.2009 12:14 a.m. EST

It’s been an interesting Game 4 to say the least.

During the first period intermission, a 4.0 magnitude earthquake shook in nearby Yorba Linda. It didn’t seem to disturb the lively Honda Center crowd, although it was felt by several reporters in the press box.

The most damage was done during the second period when the glass between the two benches was shattered as a result of the force created when San Jose winger Milan Michalek checked Bobby Ryan into the sideboard at center ice.

It took about 15 minutes for arena personnel to clean up the mess and install a new piece of glass. It was one of the few times the Sharks stopped Ryan in his tracks. Ryan has both goals for Anaheim’s 2-0 lead and his two scores are the first by a Ducks rookie in a postseason game since Francois Beauchemin did the trick in 2006 in Game 3 of the West quarterfinals against Calgary.
 
--Eric Stephens


Shattered glass

4.23.2009 12:05 p.m. EST

More strangeness out in Anaheim. It's not every day that the glass between the players benches gets broken, given that it's not even facing the ice. A quick skate-by of a few tangled players with extended sticks made that mess and quieted a matchup that the Ducks lead, 1-0.  

Yeah, glass replacement! Extend that late game! Hearing "Walk this Way" and "You Shook Me All Night Long" courtesy of Honda Center game ops is not quickening the pace.

By the way, Joe Thornton is clearly losing his head-to-head matchup against Anaheim's top center Ryan Getzlaf. He's got his assists, he's got a great supporting cast, but he's got to play like an animal at one point. Having good hands is a gift. Having size is even better. Once again -- be mighty, Joe.

-- Brian Schiazza


Not quite a big rumble

4.23.2009 11:40 p.m. EST

Maybe this is a little wake-up call to the Cali teams: it was reported an earthquake measured at 4.0 on the Richter scale hit the Anaheim area during the first intermission.  

The Sharks and Ducks started the second period on a four-on-four, where the wheels on both of these big, skilled, quick teams were on display.  

Bobby Ryan broke the scoreless deadlock at 6:33 of the second with his third goal in three games. The Honda Center erupted.

Tidbits: The team that has scored first has won every game of the series.  ...  Ryan Whitney, who is credited with putting a charge into the Ducks dressing room since arriving in the deal with Pittsburgh for Chris Kunitz, has a point in each game for the Ducks in this series, all on the power play. ... The Sharks' 240-pound D-man Doug Murray has been in Teemu Selanne's face most of the evening, and throughout much of the series.  

-- Brian Schiazza


Nokelainen scratched
4.23.2009 11:05 p.m. EST

The Ducks made one change in their lineup for Game 4 as they inserted Ryan Carter at center on the fourth line and scratched Petteri Nokelainen.

Nokelainen played in the first three games and did not register a shot in any of them. The Finnish center averaged 8 minutes, 22 seconds, and struggled in the faceoff circle, winning just six of 20 draws.

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said that the quality of Nokelainen's play is usually tied to the circle.

"I think his contribution has been sporadic," Carlyle said. "At times it's been up and at times it's been down. It seems that when he's been strong in the faceoff circle, he has a huge impact in the game. And when he struggles in the faceoff circle, he's not very effective. And I told him so.

"For whatever reason, when he first came here he was 85, 65, 70 percent in the faceoff circle and we thought we had a dominant player. Some games he's been strong and other games he hasn't."
 
--Eric Stephens


J.R. lauds Hiller
4.23.2009 10:29 p.m. EST

Never at a loss for words, Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick was asked what he thought of Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller. Hiller has started all three games for the Ducks and became the 14th goalie to record a shutout in his first NHL playoff game.

"He's got big pads, I’ll tell you that," Roenick said. "He fills up a lot of the net. You’ve got to go in there and get him and expect an opportunity for a deflection because he usually makes the first stop or has the angle covered on the initial shot.

"We've seen a couple of deflections go off him in the last couple of weeks. The more shots, the more traffic we can get, the more chances the puck bouncing off him."

In his second season, Hiller went 23-15-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average and four shutouts.
"He's shown great poise and great confidence in the net,” Roenick said. "I think he's impressed a lot of people. There’s a reason why he’s in there and not (Jean-Sebastien) Giguere. That’s a tribute to him and his hard work."
 
-- Eric Stephens
 
Coaches mum on Marleau
4.23.2009 10:31 p.m. EST

Patrick Marleau got his first point of the series Tuesday night when he scored the winning goal for the Sharks in their Game 3 victory.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan defended his captain following the game and he shielded Marleau again following the morning skate.

"We talked about us needing to get more out of certain individuals and they've been dealt with in the locker room,” McLellan said. "We'll leave it in there. You guys can guess or anticipate who they might be. But Patty is part of the core group and you usually win and lose with your core group."

Don’t ask Ducks coach Randy Carlyle about Marleau either.

"The one thing I don’t like to do is I don’t like to talk about the other team," Carlyle said.

"I'll leave the comment about the other team's players to [others]. I've got enough to worry about in our dressing room. I've got to worry about our team and how we perform.

"We know we’re playing against a world-class team. Patrick Marleau’s a world-class player."
 
-- Eric Stephens


Bring it to a Boyle
4.23.2009 9:45 p.m. EST

Can the Sharks' re-discovered power play sustain success for Game 4?  That is probably the most burning question for the regular-season champs -- other than whether they can stave off going down 3-1 in the series -- when they face the Ducks again in Game 4 tonight.

This San Jose team, which must be well-versed to hearing whispers of "always-a-bridesmaid, never-a-bride," is a difficult squad to root against ... and for. The embarrassment of riches they have with effective young players, coupled with the experience of venerable vets and solid goaltending make them a complete team that should have been deep in the playoffs over the past few years. But there's that "should" word that makes it confounding, and that's your cue for the old "championships are not won on paper" adages.

Personally, I expect this team to roar out of the gate and force the still-pugilistic Ducks to take penalties so that the power play can ride the momentum generated by their 2-for-3 showing in Game 3, which ended an 0-for-12 start in the series.

With all respect to fellow blueliner Rob Blake, Dan Boyle has been every bit as much of a steal for the Sharks as Joe Thornton was a few years ago. Boyle and Brad Lukowich came to the Sharks for defensemen Matt Carle and Ty Wishart, a 2009 first-round draft pick and a 2010 fourth-round draft pick. Carle has since been dealt.

With Boyle, the Sharks' power play, which ranked a respectable No. 10 in the 2007-08 season at an 18.7 per cent clip, elevated to third in the league this past season with a 24.2 percentage. Boyle had 32 power-play points, and only three other defensemen had more than him. The addition of Blake, who had 22 power-play points himself, and Boyle makes a huge difference over what the Sharks had last season, where deadline acquisition Brian Campbell and the enigmatic Sandis Ozolinsh were San Jose's best offensive threats from the blue line. And it's high time the Sharks maximize this luxury to escape a potentially humiliating first round disposal.

-- Brian Schiazza


An apt comparison

04.23.2009   6:55 p.m. ET

As he was discussing how well the Anaheim Ducks defense has been keeping the Sharks from getting into areas around the net, the loquacious Jeremy Roenick turned his attention to Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer.

“He might be one of the … probably the best defenseman I’ve ever seen,” Roenick said.
Really? “Yeah,” he added. “You go back to Bobby Orr, [Nicklas] Lidstrom. I can’t remember seeing a better defenseman.”

A reporter brought up the comparison between Niedermayer and his former New Jersey Devils defense partner Scott Stevens and Roenick said, “Scott was more physical, more brutal. Niedermayer can hurt you in all different ways. Offensively, defensively. I’ve never seen a guy make something look so easy in my whole life. It’s frustrating.”

The smooth-skating, agile Niedermayer also drew a comparison to Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey.

“Coffey even looked like he was working hard at times,” Roenick said. “Niedermayer never works hard. Ever. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. One of the smartest guys I’ve ever seen.

“I hate him,” he added, with a laugh. “Right now.”
 
-- Eric Stephens


California scoring
04.23.2009   2:30 p.m. ET

The Ducks and Sharks defensemen are anything but afraid of getting involved in the offense.

Anaheim defensemen Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski all had more than 20 points this season. Both Niedermayer and Pronger both had more than more than 45 points. All of this is without mentioning Francois Beauchemin, who missed 63 games with a torn ACL, and has had more than 20 points in the three regular seasons prior to this one.  

San Jose's defensemen, however, are arguably more potent than Anaheim's. Both Dan Boyle and Rob Blake, who apparently has plenty left in the tank at 39, had 45 points. Christian Ehrhoff was just three points shy of reaching the 45-point plateau himself and Blake's defense partner, Marc-Edouard Vlasic had 30 assists and 36 points.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan is more than aware of when both Niedermayer and Boyle are on the ice at the same time and knows their ability to join the play.

"When Scott Niedermayer and Dan Boyle are on the ice, both teams are playing with four forwards," McLellan told the L.A. Times. "They are both dynamic, they both skate so well, they read the rush well. Often as a coaching staff -- I'm sure they (Anaheim's coaching staff) feel the same way -- you feel like you're playing with one defenseman.

"We want to encourage that. We feel that's an asset that Dan brings and we'd be remiss if we weren't encouraging him to do it."

While Boyle may be the most offensively gifted defenseman the Sharks have, Blake was the biggest threat for the Sharks from the back end in their Game 3 win when he scored a goal and added an assist in a game, which got San Jose had to win to get back into the series.

Pronger knows the importance of stopping all of the Sharks weapons from the blue line, particularly Blake.

"Once Blake gets it in his hands, we have to close him out more," Pronger told the Orange County Register. "And not give him as much time as he had. He was able to kind of walk down and take his pick if he was shooting, making a pass across the crease, or, like you saw on the winning goal, throw it in the slot. So closing him out is going to be important."

-- Adam Schwartz

Game 3's all right for fighting

04.21.2009  11:30 P.M. ET

The first fight in the series took place at the 18:58 mark of the first period with Ducks enforcer George Parros getting into a scrap with Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray.

Parros no doubt took exception to Murray’s physical play in the period, as the 240-pound rearguard dropped skill players Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne with big hits.

Both heavyweights traded a few punches with none of them landing very cleanly. We’ll call it a draw.
 
-- Eric Stephens
 
Do it Bobby
04.21.2009  11:20 P.M. ET

Ducks winger Bobby Ryan became the first player with multiple goals in this series as he got his second on the power play when he knocked the puck off the skate San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who inadvertently put it in the net when he reached back to cover it.

The Sharks’ defensemen were responsible for their first-period goals as Rob Blake and Dan Boyle provided the tallies. Boyle got his on the power play to break an 0-for-13 drought for San Jose.

All it did was help them earn a 2-2 tie after one period. Anaheim defender James Wisniewski scored the first playoff goal of his career on a slap shot past Nabokov to forge the tie.
 
-- Eric Stephens


Got his health

04.21.2009  10:40 P.M. ET

Both the Sharks and Ducks are relatively healthy in this series, at least as healthy as any team can be at this time of the year.

The only player between the teams that has been asked often about his health has been San Jose center Torrey Mitchell, who has been out all season because of a broken leg.

“The hours are going by quickly,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the morning skate. “If Torrey can play, again, he’ll be in the lineup.”

Apparently, the last few hours did wonders for Mitchell. He took the warm-up and is in the lineup for the first time since breaking his left leg in training camp.

Defenseman Kent Huskins has yet to play his first game with San Jose after being acquired at the trade deadline. Huskins, who’s practicing as well, is still trying to return from a broken leg suffered inn December when he played for Anaheim.

The only players the Ducks have out are defenseman Bret Hedican (back) and left wing Brad Larsen (hip surgery).
 
-- Eric Stephens

Time for fatherhood
04.21.2009  10:38 P.M. ET

These are the best of times for Todd Marchant and Francois Beauchemin.

The two Ducks players are not only sitting pretty with a 2-0 series lead over San Jose, but they became fathers again Monday. Marchant’s wife, Caroline, delivered the couple’s fourth child, Bradley, while Beauchemin’s wife, Marie Claude, delivered their second child, Emily.

Both players missed practice Monday to spend the entire day with their newest additions. To hear Beauchemin tell it, Marie Claude told him to leave so he could rest up for tonight’s game.

“She had to kick me out of the room actually,” he said. “I didn’t really want to leave. I was supposed to leave at 8 and I ended up leaving at 8:40. It’s always tough to leave the first time you have [a child]. Of course, you want things to be perfect.

“They’re doing fine. There’s no problems.”

And apparently Caroline Marchant had no problem allowing her husband to get back into the playoff battle.

“Actually, if it were up to her, she would be at the game tonight,” Marchant said. “She may end up getting here. I don’t know. She probably would come and not tell me because she’d know I’d get mad at her.”

Of course, the two players got grief from coach Randy Carlyle for skipping a workout.

“Randy was joking yesterday,” Marchant said. “He said, ‘So I’ll see you at practice. Want me to move it back to 1 o’clock?’ I guess I should thank the nice guy, huh?”

Beauchemin joked that he would try to get in a workout at the hospital. “I told him I was going to try to find a bike,” he said. “Fortunately, I didn’t.”
 
-- Eric Stephens

Pass the past, open the present

04.21.2009  10:00 P.M. ET

The Ducks underwent a mini-makeover during the past season that made them younger, trading Chris Kunitz, Kent Huskins, Steve Montador and Travis Moen, while landing defenseman Ryan Whitney and peppering their lineup with younger acquisitions Erik Christensen, James Wisniewski, Petteri Nokelainen. Prospects Drew Miller and Andrew Ebbetts are also finding themselves in roles to start the playoffs (averaging 14:00 and 11:00 of ice time respectively). 

Meanwhile, the Sharks have boatloads of hungry veterans eager for their first Stanley Cup. You think Jeremy Roenick signed with them again to go 20-plus seasons without hoisting the holy grail of hockey? Or Mike Grier? Or even comeback kid Claude Lemieux? The pressurized Joe Thornton?

So why are the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sharks trailing the re-tooled -- but experienced -- eighth-seeded Ducks to open the playoffs?

To hear coach Todd McLellan tell it on the Sharks' official Web site, "I still feel that we’re two or three players short when it comes to battle-ability. [We need more players to play with] the need to get to ice that is hard to fight for." 

Not the words a coach would like to say about his team.

Some numbers to chew on: the Sharks are outshooting the Ducks, 79-43 for the series, but are 0-for-12 on the power play in the same span. The lack of a sweep-the-leg killer instinct in the first two games should not be indicative of a team like the Sharks, who are built to win now.

If anything, San Jose can try to continue the Ducks' less-than-optimum results at home this past season -- none of which matters to Anaheim's players, or Ducks Blog master Adam Brady.

-- Brian Schiazza

Carlyle's defensive musings

04.21.2009  1:11 A.M. ET

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle allowed himself to briefly reminisce about his 17-year NHL career killing penalties as a defenseman.

“When you first start, you’re an extra,” Carlyle said. “When I started, there were only four defensemen that played. The other two were guys that didn’t play very much, sat at the end of the bench with a towel around your neck.”

Killing penalties, he said, isn’t glamorous but essential to winning.

“The way we look at it and the way people perceive it is it’s a poor man’s job,” Carlyle said. “There’s not a lot of rewards given for penalty killing. But it’s a huge, huge part of your hockey club. And if you can kill penalties successfully, you can give yourself a chance in every game.

“We’ve talked about it before. It’s just as important to prevent a goal as it is to score one in the playoffs.”
 
--Eric Stephens

Missing Avians

04.21.2009  1:10 A.M. ET

A pair of Ducks weren’t at practice Monday, but they were busy away from the ice.

Center Todd Marchant and defenseman Francois Beauchemin welcomed newborns to their families. Marchant’s wife, Caroline, delivered the couple’s fourth child, Bradley David, at 11:51 a.m. and Beauchemin’s wife, Marie Claude, delivered their second child, Emily, early in the morning.
 
--Eric Stephens


Is Hiller the next Giguere?

04.20.2009 1:20 A.M. ET

I know that I've talked about Jonas Hiller for much of tonight, perhaps to the point that it's grown tiresome, but it bears repeating just how good he has been.

In two games against the Presidents' Trophy-winner, Hiller has stopped 77 of the 79 shots he has faced. Tonight he managed to avoid giving up a power-play goal despite Anaheim being on the penalty kill for a fifth of the game. He has made spectacular save after spectacular save.

And he has the old Mighty Ducks of Anaheim logo on the right side of his goalie mask. What other evidence could you need?

Yes, it has only been two games and engraving his name on the Conn Smythe Trophy might be just a tad presumptuous. But with only Vancouver's Roberto Luongo as a possible exception, Hiller has been far and away the best individual performer so far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Without his performance in the first two games, Anaheim could just as easily be looking at a two-game deficit against the top-seeded Sharks as opposed to a two-game lead.

His performance looks eerily reminiscent of J.S. Giguere's in 2003, when the upstart Mighty Ducks shocked the League by sweeping the defending-champion Red Wings. That ride didn't end until Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. I'm not going to jump on a limb and make any bold predictions just yet, but if Hiller keeps this up, the Ducks could be playing for several more weeks.

--David Kalan

The Sharks did not read NHL.com

04.20.2009 12:09 A.M. ET

It didn't take long for San Jose to get another opportunity with a man advantage, and while the Sharks managed to have a few scoring opportunities early in the third period, much of the two minutes looked disorganized or plagued by the same issue that has been a problem on San Jose's five other power plays -- Jonas Hiller.

Hiller has continued to be strong in net in the third, but the Sharks did not have the same offensive pressure on this power play they did at other points of the game, something that was recognized by the home fans, who booed after Anaheim managed a clear as the penalty was seconds away from expiring.

--David Kalan

Sharks beginning to circle

04.19.2009 11:53 P.M. ET

San Jose is beginning to wrest control away from Anaheim. The Sharks registered 17 more shots in the second period, while the Ducks only put the puck on net three times, but Jonas Hiller has been the great equalizer. Despite giving up a score to Ryane Clowe early in the second, Hiller has continued to put on a show, having already made 31 saves with the third period still to be played.

While Hiller is the single biggest reason San Jose hasn't taken over the game on the scoreboard, he isn't the only one. The Sharks are continuing to struggle on the power play, having gone 0-for-5 so far tonight. Their most recent opportunity has been among the most frustrating as San Jose has been moving the puck well and generating the kinds of chances a team needs to on the power play, but so far the special teams have been unable to make a difference. The Sharks are certainly biting, but they haven't been able to sink their teeth in.

--David Kalan

Hiller opens up
04.19.2009 11:18 P.M. ET

It only took 85 minutes and 53 shots, but San Jose has finally put itself on the board tonight at HP Pavilion, lighting up a crowd desperate to cheer for something.

Ryane Clowe put the puck past Jonas Hiller, who had looked superb up until this point, and the Sharks and Ducks are now knotted up at one goal apiece. With the fans coming alive at the Tank, and a chance to seize the momentum, this looks like San Jose's moment to strike and take over the series. A win tonight would still just have the League's top regular season team headed on the road with a series split, but the Sharks have shown the ability to coast once they get the wheels rolling. The Ducks are lucky they have experienced veterans like Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger to help them as they look to stem the tide.

--David Kalan

Garden Stater making the difference in California
04.19.2009 10:59 P.M. ET

Anaheim and San Jose have matched each other shot for shot for most of the first period, with the Sharks barely holding the edge at 15-14. Both teams have had quality chances, but Jonas Hiller has continued to make Randy Carlyle look smart by holding down the fort against the experienced Evgeni Nabokov.

To this point it's the pride of Cherry Hill, NJ, Bobby Ryan, who has provided the only scoring, netting a power-play goal early in the opening period to put the Ducks ahead 1-0. If the Sharks keep getting opportunities it may be a matter of if and not when Hiller finally lets one in, but as of now he's looking an awful lot like the man he supplanted between the pipes did when he first came on the scene with a run to the Final in 2003.

--David Kalan

McLellan mixes it up

04.19.2009 10:42 P.M. ET

Sharks coach Todd McLellan strongly hinted that he could make some changes for Game 2 and he followed through with that in order to jumpstart his team.

At least to start the game, McLellan broke up the top line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi. Checking winger Travis Moen moved up to play alongside Marleau and Setoguchi while Thornton started on the right side with Jeremy Roenick and Jonathan Cheechoo.

There was more line juggling in the first period. Ryane Clowe also skated with Thornton and Roenick after starting with his regular linemates, Joe Pavelski and Milan Michalek.

After being scratched for Game 1, 43-year-old Claude Lemieux played in his first postseason game since 2003 with Dallas. Lemieux, a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner, signed with San Jose after a five-year absence from the NHL.

Anaheim made no lineup changes. Veteran checker Todd Marchant did take a shift with Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan in the first period.
 
--Eric Stephens

Sticking to his guns

04.19.2009 10:10 P.M. ET

Not surprisingly, Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle has put Jonas Hiller back in net for Game 2. After splitting time for much of the season with Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has already backstopped the Ducks to two Cup Finals and a championship in the last six seasons, Carlyle put Hiller on the ice for Game 1 instead of the inconsistent Giguere.

Hiller responded by being only the 14th goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in his first playoff start. In the early going, Hiller has already made a few strong saves. Carlyle is banking he'll make a few more before the night is out.

--David Kalan

Letting their play do the talking

04.19.2009 7:55 P.M. ET

While every other playoff series has finished at least its first two games, and in several cases three, the Sharks and Ducks have waited nearly three days to drop the puck on Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal. Arena availability plays a large role in scheduling the Stanley Cup Playoffs and while Saturday night would have seemed the logical time to play Game 2, HP Pavilion had been booked months earlier for a show by ventriloquist comedian Jeff Dunham.

No word on whether Teemu Selanne had anything to say to Dunham or his skeleton puppet, who just played Selanne's hometown Helsinki Ice Hall last Sunday.

As for the Sharks, if they're to head to Anaheim with a split in this series they'll need to return to the brand of hockey that won them a franchise-first Presidents' Trophy in the regular season. San Jose had a great deal of difficulty creating scoring chances in Game 1, with its usual offensive suspects, such as Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, unable to deliver the type of performance that might silence the questions about their play in the postseason which have dogged them for years.

My guess is San Jose will come out with a renewed purpose in Game 2 and put on the type of pressure it couldn't generate Thursday night. If the Sharks deliver a strong performance and even the series up, they will have something to say about those questions. And they won't need someone else to speak for them.

--David Kalan

Beauchemin making presence felt

04.19.2009 5:42 P.M. ET

Francois Beauchemin's return to the blue line after tearing his ACL in November has given Anaheim a huge boost.

Beauchemin has played in three games since coming back to action and logged 22 minutes, 30 seconds of ice time in the Ducks' Game 1 victory. The defenseman was credited with two hits, seven blocked shots, and played a key role in their successful penalty killing against the Sharks.

Beauchemin's first game back was April 10 against Dallas, where he played over 15 minutes. He skated the next night against Phoenix and logged 22:03 in the regular-season finale.

"It was a big test," he said. "I feel really good and I feel strong. Hopefully it'll keep going the same way."
 
Beauchemin said the tenderness that come with recovering from ligament surgery has disappeared.
"The last time was probably two, three weeks ago," he said. "Since then, it's been feeling really good. I still have to do treatments every day. Just keep on top of it and working that tendon all the time. Keeping everything loose."
 
--Eric Stephens

Sharks still waiting on Mitchell

04.19.2009  5:25 P.M. ET

Sharks center Torrey Mitchell has not played a single game this season because of a broken leg suffered on the second day of training camp.

Mitchell has been working out with the team during the series and the Sharks would certainly love to get the young center's speed into the lineup. But while San Jose coach Todd McLellan said the 24-year-old was close on Saturday, he emphasized that Mitchell won't be available for Game 2.

"We talked about him 24 hours ago, so he's 24 hours closer," McLellan said. "There hasn't been much change. I guess he's 24 hours better than yesterday if that makes any sense."

Mitchell, a penalty-killing specialist with some offensive upside, had 10 goals and 10 assists in playing all 82 games last season. The original estimate for his surgically repaired left leg was two months but he re-injured it in January during a conditioning assignment at Worcester of the American Hockey League.

"Again, he's close," McLellan said. "It doesn't take a scientist to figure out. If Torrey Mitchell was good enough to play, Torrey Mitchell would be in that lineup. The way he skates and the energy he can contribute to our hockey club, we would be using him.

"I'm telling you he's close. I'm not lying. But he's not ready yet. It's as simple as that."
 
--Eric Stephens

Playing smarter

04.18.2009  10:36 P.M. ET

Rob Niedermayer got a hat trick in Game 1, though it's one he’ll never brag about.

Niedermayer, the Ducks’ defensive-minded right wing, picked up three minor penalties in the second period. All were for different violations -- high sticking, holding and hooking.

"That’s not one you definitely don’t want get again, for sure,” he said, sheepishly.

Not surprisingly, the rugged forward was lectured about his misdeeds. But this time, it wasn’t Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle delivering the sermon.

"There was a conversation that took place," Carlyle said. "It can’t always come from the head coach. I’m sure if you ask Rob Niedermayer, the first thing he’d say is, 'Yes, I can't take three penalties in a hockey game.’ But it’s kind of a moot point. Why would you beat on a guy? But yet you have to at least pull the chain and say, ‘Hey. We’re watching.'"

Niedermayer knows he has to be smarter.

"You’ve got to be aggressive," he said. "At the same time, you’ve got to know where your stick is. I think watching the first few games of the playoffs here, they’re definitely calling it a bit tighter. Everyone just has to be a bit smarter out there."

That includes him. It’s his fortune that none of the penalties came back to haunt his team.

"When you take penalties, for sure, no one remembers them when you kill it off," Niedermayer said. "When you take a penalty and they score, that’s when you remember."
 
-- Eric Stephens
 

Power outage
04.18.2009  10:16 P.M. ET

The Sharks went 0-for-6 on the power play Thursday and it was one of the chief topics of discussion ahead of their all-important Game 2.

San Jose coach Todd McLellan said his team played into the Ducks’ strength by taking too long to break out of their own zone.

"We very seldom got set up and had a chance to move it around," McLellan said. "We’ve going to have to be better in that area if we earn any power plays."

Center Joe Thornton said he doesn’t see the need for the Sharks to make dramatic chances.

"Just little tweaks here and there," Thornton said. "Getting more traffic, get some more shots. No major tweaks at all."

McLellan said Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle has used the same penalty-killing strategy dating back to when Carlyle coached the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and McLellan was behind the bench for the Houston Aeros.

"They want you in a certain area, they want to stand and make you give up possession,” McLellan said. "And then they’re committed to going back and getting loose pucks. They’ve done that. I think Randy’s been there for four years and the Manitoba Moose for six years prior, he did that.
 
“There’s a reason why he doesn’t have to change the way he does it. It’s because it works. And they’re effective. They did a great job.”

But McLellan sounded hopeful that the power play will deliver. San Jose finished third in the League during the regular season, converting 24.2 percent of its opportunities.

"I’d like to think that if we have 12 to 15 shots on their power play again, one of them is going to get through," McLellan said. "There are areas that we need to improve but there are some things that we did well also."
 
-- Eric Stephens
 

Tired of practice?
04.18.2009  10:06 P.M. ET

At times in their respective practices, McLellan and Carlyle snapped at their teams and implored them to pick up the tempo, using a profane word or two. Or several.

"I yell every day," Carlyle said, grinning. "Just the building got quiet. Same reason I yelled yesterday.  Our expectations every day we come out on the ice, we’ve got to accomplish something.

"The one thing that we weren’t very good at, we weren't in our routes and we weren't moving the puck effectively. You can’t have that in practice, and we won’t tolerate it. Our expectations for our group are higher than that."

McLellan said it’s not a surprise for teams to become weary at the thought of practice during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even the defending champion Detroit Red Wings, for which he spent three years as an assistant, had days when their minds drifted.

"Even my old team, for as good as they are, it's hard to practice at this time of the year.
Bu I really think our guys were as sharp as they have been in the specialty team practice and those kind of areas."
 
-- Eric Stephens

Looking for an edge
04.18.2009  01:56 P.M. ET

Every coach looks for any type of edge in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. San Jose's Todd McLellan and Anaheim's Randy Carlyle are no different.

Both coaches have been in consultation with Kay Whitmore, the NHL's supervisor of officials for the series. Are both coaches trying to curry favor with Whitmore, perhaps to gain a key call or two for Game 2 and beyond?

"He's available," Carlyle said of Whitmore, a former NHL goaltender. "I have his number. I had a meeting with him [Thursday]. Usually you’ll have an opportunity to speak with him if you so choose. You just call him up and pick a time and have a conversation."

McLellan said the meetings with Whitmore are merely to share information and discuss viewpoints.

"The supervisor sits down and lets us know where we're doing a good job and where we need to improve as far as penalty calls go,” the coach said. “That was the crux of that."

As for Carlyle: "We have some things we’d always like people to look at, and I’m sure San Jose has something they’d like him to look at. That’s all part of it."

Determining what is a penalty and what's not may not have been the only topic that Carlyle and Whitmore have discussed with Whitmore.

"He's from Sudbury (Ontario), so I know him," Carlyle said. “He grew up in livelier Creighton and I grew up in Azilda. You wouldn't know where those places are."
 
-- Eric Stephens

Brown brings more than energy

04.18.2009  01:29 P.M. ET

At the time, Anaheim’s acquisition of winger Mike Brown from Vancouver on Feb. 4 for defenseman Nathan McIver barely moved the needle as the grinding forward was largely brought on to provide a boost of energy to a languishing Ducks squad.

Brown has brought that and more. The 23-year-old native of Northbrook, Ill., has found a home on the penalty-killing unit. His efforts were key in Game 1, helping the Ducks negate all six San Jose power plays in their 2-0 victory Thursday night.

"He's a player that's been inserted into that position for the last 25, 30 games," center Todd Marchant said. “He’s done a great job for us. He’s got a lot of energy and he’s willing to sacrifice and block shots, get into lanes. That’s what it basically comes down to."

Brown logged 9:17 of ice time, including 5:48 spent in penalty-killing situations. He made his NHL debut with Vancouver last season, playing in 19 games and scoring his first goal on Dec. 2, 2007.

"I've always been a penalty-kill guy except for my time Vancouver,” Brown said. "They had a lot of good penalty killers there. But I've always played penalty kill and it's a big part of my game. I got the opportunity to play that here and show what I can do."
 
-- Eric Stephens
 
Former NHL coach Marc Crawford is serving as an analyst for CBC. Crawford has a career record of 470-361-100-52 with the Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings, winning the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 1996.
 
--Eric Stephens

Good Call Carlyle
04.17.2009  12:36 A.M. ET

Well, if any Ducks fans had doubts about coach Randy Carlyle starting Jonas Hiller over Jean-Sebastien Giguere, they are clearly satisfied now. Hiller is the only reason the Ducks are in this game right now, let alone leading. He has come up with big save after big save against the top-seeded Sharks.

Hiller was clearly the better goalie at the end of the regular season and he is proving again tonight that he should be between the pipes throughout the playoffs.

With 13 minutes to go in the third period, Hiller has stopped all 26 shots the Sharks have fired on goal. The Ducks finally rewarded Hiller by capitalizing on a power play opportunity 5:18 into the third period. Scott Niedermayer ripped a slap shot through a screen and past Evgeni Nabokov, giving the Ducks a 1-0 lead.

Don't get me wrong, Giguere has done plenty for the Anaheim organization, but the time might be now for Mr. Hiller.

-- Matthew Cubeta

Right with Ryan
04.17.2009  12:32 A.M. ET

A year ago, Bobby Ryan was barely a bit player in the Anaheim Ducks’ six-game loss to the Dallas Stars in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Still trying to find his way in the NHL, Ryan only played in two games and was sent down to the American Hockey League during the series in order to get on the ice and help the Portland Pirates in their quest for a Calder Cup title.

Ryan now has a much different role. The 22-year-old winger pushed his way onto Anaheim’s top line and made himself a legitimate candidate for the Calder Trophy by leading all rookies with 31 goals.            
  
"I know that last year, I was kind of a guy they asked to come in and bring energy, whether it was four to five minutes a game or something like that," Ryan said.

"But this time around, I think it’s different. I feel like I can contribute and be a power-play guy and a guy that puts points on the board.

"It’s a different feeling going in. You’ve got to be a lot more focused. You’ve got to be a little more prepared for what’s coming."

Now that he’s playing important minutes alongside leading scorers Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Ryan realizes that he will have to produce if the Ducks are to upset top-seeded San Jose.
One thing he won’t do is change his game.

"There’s enough pressure from outside influences," Ryan said. "What I’m going to try to do is put all of that in the background and just focus on the task at hand, one shift at a time. I’ve got so many guys in this room that I can listen to for advice or whatever that might be useful.

"For me, nothing’s changed. I think it’s just going to be for me to play the way that I have throughout the regular season."

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said he expects Ryan to respond to the heightened atmosphere.

"We’ve talked about it a lot,” Carlyle said. "We’ve talked on numerous occasions and brought those points up. We can talk all we want about what it’s going to be like. Until you experience it, it’s really up to the individual in how he reacts to it."
 
-- Eric Stephens

Things starting to heat up
04.17.2009  12:06 A.M. ET

A game I thought would have plenty of power plays started fairly quietly. Dan Boyle was called for a debatable tripping penalty late in the first period, but the Ducks were unable to capitalize.

The second period started with more of the same. However, Rob Niedermayer, one of Anaheim’s daily penalty killers, has taken two two-minute minors in the second stanza. The Ducks have stood strong though and killed both off surrendering just three shots to the Sharks while on the man advantage.

By the end of the second period, the Sharks were 0-3 on the power play while Anaheim was 0-1. Look for more penalties to come as things heat up.

The game saw its first scuffle midway through the second period following a Brad Lukowich slap shot that was covered by Jonas Hiller. Ryane Clowe went to the net hard and met up with Chris Pronger after the whistle. Both sizable, Pronger and Clowe had some words and perhaps things are starting to pick up in this California rivalry.

-- Matthew Cubeta

New faces, more experience for Sharks
04.16.2009  11:13 P.M. ET

One thing that clearly stands out to me at the start of this game is the completely different look to the Presidents' Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks this time around in the playoffs. After a disappointing second-round departure handed to them by the Stars in last year’s playoffs, the Sharks brought in plenty of Stanley Cup-winning players in the offseason and at the trade deadline.

Four defensemen have won the Cup in the past: Dan Boyle in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Rob Blake in 2001 with the Colorado Avalanche, Kent Huskins in 2007 with Anaheim, and Brad Lukowich has actually won two Cups, one in 2004 with the Lightning and one in 1999 with the Dallas Stars.

Two forwards have also hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup: Travis Moen in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks and Claude Lemieux -- who is actually a healthy scratch tonight -- has won four Stanley Cups (in 1986 with Montreal, in 1995 and 2000 with the Devils and in 1996 with the Avalanche).

Possibly the biggest change for San Jose, head coach Todd McLellan, who won last season as the assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings.

-- Matthew Cubeta


My Name is Jonas
04.16.2009  10:48 P.M. ET

As expected, Jones Hiller led his Anaheim Ducks teammates out onto the HP Pavilion ice for the warm-up and he’ll get the start in goal for Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks.

Despite attempts by reporters to get an idea of who he would choose to start, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle maintained his strict policy of not naming who his goaltender would be Thursday night. However, there was little doubt that Hiller would get the nod over veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Hiller went 23-15-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage this season. The 27-year-old native of Switzerland logged the bulk of the action during the Ducks' late push to make the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Giguere, 31, has struggled all season, particularly after the death of his father, Claude, in December. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner went 19-18-6 with a 3.10 GAA and a .900 save percentage — the latter two being his worst numbers since 1998-99 with Calgary, his second NHL season.

-- Eric Stephens

All-California series cuts travel
04.16.2009  9:19 P.M. ET

Both the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks are accustomed to a heavy travel schedule each NHL season because of their location on the West Coast.

Only a trip to Phoenix provides either team an airplane flight of less than two hours. It’s no wonder that the squads will appreciate the 70-minute commute between the Bay Area and Southern California in the first Golden State series in 40 years.

"I think it'll help out a lot," Sharks center Patrick Marleau said. "Not having to change a couple of different time zones. A couple-hour flight is a lot better than a four-hour flight to the East Coast.

"You take advantage of it here in the first round. Hopefully it’ll add up to something in the end."

Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer said he anticipates benefits from the reduced travel.

"You feel better," Niedermayer said. "You feel like you have a lot more energy. It’s good for both teams, ultimately, I guess. To have that one-hour flight in the same time zone is a good thing."

Said Marleau: "Mentally, you're not far away from home."

-- Eric Stephens

Plenty more to watch for in this series
04.16.2009  6:55 PM EST

Despite the seeds in this quarterfinal matchup, the Sharks and Ducks series will be a lot more intriguing than expected from your typical 1 vs. 8 seeds. Since their rivalry began in 1993-94, these teams have posted identical 41-41-8 records against one another.

The Sharks took two of four games during the regular season against the Ducks, but we all know Anaheim played its best hockey at the end of the season, finishing 10-2-1 in its final 13 games.

Interesting matchups to pay attention to:
Joe Thornton vs. Ryan Getzlaf - Two of the game's best playmakers. Both players scored 25 goals during the regular season, with Getzlaf adding 66 assists and Thornton posting 61. Look for both centers to set up plenty of goals this series. 

Dan Boyle vs. Scott Niedermayer These two blueliners quarterback the power play as well as any defenseman in the NHL. A lot of people might disagree and say Chris Pronger is Anaheim’s power-play leader, but Niedermayer runs the show; Pronger has the heavy shot. With the man advantage, Boyle recorded eight goals and 24 assists while Niedermayer tallied nine goals and 23 assists. If anyone scores on the power play this series, odds are Boyle and Niedermayer are setting the goals up.

Patrick Marleau vs. Corey Perry The teams' goal scorers. Marleau led San Jose with a career-high 38 goals this season while Perry also set a career-high scoring 32 goals to lead the Ducks. Both players also led their teams in game-winning goals; Marleau with 10 and Perry with eight. Each plays a hard-nosed game and brings plenty of speed and energy to the table.

Other notable players:
Sharks -- Travis Moen, acquired by San Jose from Anaheim at the trade deadline, and Claude Lemieux, who has been known for his playoff heroics in the past.

Ducks – Ryan Whitney, Anaheim's big trade deadline acquisition, and Rob Niedermayer, who's played in 91 career playoff games.

This will certainly be an interesting series -- the second all-California playoff series -- and I think the Ducks have the talent and experience to pull off a stunning upset, but the Sharks were the best team during the regular season for a reason.

-- Matthew Cubeta

Tough time for Huskins
04.16.2009  1:36 P.M. ET
 
     
A change in locale hasn’t changed the fortunes for Kent Huskins in what’s been a difficult season.

After spending the last four years in the Anaheim Ducks’ organization and the equivalent of two seasons at the NHL level, Huskins was traded to the San Jose Sharks, along with left winger Travis Moen, on March 4 for prospects Nick Bonino and Timo Pielmeier along with a conditional 2011 draft pick.

The Sharks went ahead with the deal even though Huskins, 29, had been sidelined for 27 games  because of problems related to a broken right foot he suffered on Dec. 19 when he blocked a shot in a game against Edmonton.

The original prognosis was two-to-three weeks, but the foot didn’t heal on its own and Huskins underwent surgery in January. The defenseman has yet to make his San Jose debut, even though the Sharks had hoped he would provide additional depth on their back end.

“It’s taken a long time to get back to where I was at,” said Huskins, who had two goals and six points in 33 games with Anaheim this season.

Huskins didn’t sound optimistic about being ready at some in the first-round series against his old team.

“It’s tough to say,” he said. “I don’t know. I’ve just got to keep working. We have seven other great defensemen who are healthy and have done a great job for us all year. Right now, I’m just going to kind of support those guys and get myself ready to go.”

Huskins has still followed the Ducks to some extent and noted the irony when they fell to the No. 8 playoff spot after St. Louis’ win over Colorado on Sunday.

“It was funny,” he said. “I was watching the games and seeing whose going to finish where. It went right up until the end of the season. This should be a great series. It should be really physical. Just a battle.”

 -- Eric Stephens

San Jose psyched
04.16.09  1:34 P.M. ET

In some circles, San Jose’s franchise-record 53 wins and 117 points this season won’t be enough unless there is an accompanying run to the Stanley Cup after several playoff disappointments.

But that hasn’t stopped those from displaying their civic pride upon the Sharks capturing their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy as the team with the most points in the regular season.

The message board outside the city’s convention center took note of that with a note of congratulations. A full-page advertisement from a home improvement store chain in the San Jose Mercury News also celebrated the Sharks’ impressive regular season.

Also, signs that spell out “THIS IS SHARKS TERRITORY” also appear in shops all along the downtown street that runs into HP Pavilion.
 
--Eric Stephens
Quote of the Day

I kept refreshing the page on the NHL website after the second round and I was shocked he lasted that long. I'm sure the Coyotes were pretty happy to get him. He's such a good player and he plays big in big games.

— Arizona Coyotes forward Henrik Samuelsson on prospect Edgars Kulda being draftedd