And here's why: Anaheim finally got its first win of the preseason (after an 0-3-0 start) the next night in Vancouver -- granted, against a Canucks team that was missing a lot of its big names. Whether it was Vancouver's A-team or B+ team, it didn't matter, because that game had one shining light that had to be encouraging to Ducks fans. Jonas Hiller
, playing his first game since March 24 and just his third since February 2, saved all 21 shots he saw in two periods between the pipes.
“He’s been seeing the puck,” Randy Carlyle said to the CBC after the game. ”There’s been a lot made and there should be about his ailments that happened at the All-Star break last year. It really took him a long time to get back. What we did was just try to monitor it. He worked hard during the summer. He attended goaltending clinics in Switzerland, he was on the ice for over a month and a half there. He came back to Anaheim and he looked sharp and he has had no ill effects.”
Carlyle made it a point to ice a veteran-laden lineup, despite the fact Vancouver hadn't done the same. “We needed a win and we dressed a lineup accordingly,” he said. “We thought we hadn’t played very well in the three previous preseason games. We were doing some analysis of our younger kids. In reality, we were putting them probably in situations that they couldn’t have success at.”
Last night in LA, it was a reversal of that scenario, as the Ducks rested most of their low-numbered guys (if you will) and fielded a lineup of mostly youngsters. No RPG line, no Selanne, no Koivu, no Fowler, no Hiller, no Ellis. Among the notables were Luca Sbisa
, Lubomir Visnovsky
, Andrew Cogliano
, Jason Blake
, Dan Sexton
and Brandon McMillan
.The Kings, meanwhile, had a group that strongly resembled their opening night lineup, including the likes of Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and goalie Jonathan Quick.
So it was a recipe for a Kings victory, but the Ducks thoroughly outplayed them in their building, scoring three in the second period on the way to a 3-1 victory.
"The effort and the tenacity that we showed tonight was a huge upgrade from where we've been the first three games of the year," said Carlyle. "We were pretty good last night in Vancouver, but we couldn't really judge because we didn't play against the same quality of lineup we played tonight.
"You've got to give our guys credit. They went out and worked hard. It wasn't pretty but they did a lot of the little things it takes to win in the NHL."
Ironically, the guy who drew some of the most attention last night was one who was playing in his third straight game -- one Andrew Gordon
-- who was all over the rink, scored his team-leading third goal of the preseason and continued to make a strong push to make this team out of camp.
"My game is simple, it's based on work ethic," said the 25-year-old Gordon, who played on a line with Cogliano and youngster Devante Smith-Pelly
(also playing his third straight). "A lot of times, you play with a couple guys who work hard and you get rewarded. As a line we played well and you get opportunities offensively. They've been able to squeeze through for me."
Of playing three games in three nights (and four of the five so far), the likeable Gordon told Eric Stephens of the OC Register, "Minor leagues, my friend. Every weekend I play like that. Four years I've been doing this ..."
Indeed, Gordon (as mentioned in this space previously) has spent most of the last four seasons in Hershey, the AHL affiliate for the Capitals. If he's not careful, his minor league days may be over.
"I want to play every game," Gordon said. "I've played four of the five so far, and I'll play as hard as I possibly can. Every time you put your skates on here, it's an opportunity to impress, and that's what I'm trying to do."
Gordon's goal last night came with 39.9 seconds left in the second period, when he jumped on a puck in the slot and backhanded it just an eyelash inside the left post. Patrick Maroon
jammed in a third goal just 11 seconds later, and behind 32 saves from Jeff Deslauriers
, that was all the Ducks would need.
“Gordo, you know he can play all the situations and we’ve played him three in three nights,” Carlyle said. ”I think [Devante] Smith-Pelly was another guy, [it] was his third night. Those are great signs for young players. But, still, the step to the NHL is a big one.”
But the Ducks' faith in those two guys was reinforced this morning, when the Ducks cut seven more players from their training camp roster
. The list of those being sent to Syracuse included fellow right wingers Dan Sexton
and Kyle Palmieri
(who had Anaheim's first goal last night).
Here is the updated training camp roster
for the Ducks, who are down to 30 players and will have 24 on the active roster when they they leave for Europe this weekend. The Ducks didn't practice today, but will be back at it tomorrow in preparation for their preseason rematch with the Canucks on Wednesday night here at Honda Center.