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Chicago Hope

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

Trying to render Kane unable.

Ducks fans have gotten a close-up view of how Ray Emery can take the reins of a starting goaltender gig and ride it to glory.

Last spring, after the Ducks picked up Emery and Dan Ellis -- and needed them in the wake of Jonas Hiller's vertigo issues -- Emery went 7-2-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average and helped the Ducks springboard to a fourth-place finish in the West. In the offseason, with Hiller fully recovered and Ellis a sturdy backup, Emery was not re-signed by Anaheim, ultimately opting for a training camp tryout with the Blackhawks.

He not only made the roster, but after getting spot work behind starter Corey Crawford, Emery has earned the No. 1 netminder tag lately and has won his last four starts. Tonight, the Ducks will look to break that streak -- and start one of their own -- as they kick off a five-game road trip at the United Center.

Anaheim, which had an emphatic win over Phoenix last Sunday at Honda Center, will look for its first two-game winning streak since October, when it won four in a row. They'll have to do it without Saku Koivu, whose lower-body injury has now been revealed to be a groin strain, and he is "questionable" for the next three games. He did not accompany the team to Chicago.

The Blackhawks have won three straight, the last of which came in Minnesota the same night the Ducks took down the Coyotes, clinched on a terrific Patrick Kane shootout goal. If you weren't watching SportsCenter that night, Kane skated in on Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, slowed to a crawl, deked about 127 times and forecfully whipped the puck into wide open net while Backstrom looked helpless. Take a look:



 
“I tried it a few times in practice. We were in a good position to win so I thought I’d try it,” Kane said. “It’s always nice to change it up, try some new moves. You see guys slow down and go real slow before; I probably took it to another level there with slow.”

The Ducks have already been bitten once this year on Kane's prowess in the shootout, as he and Jonathan Toews converted in a 3-2 win in Chicago on October 25. Anaheim fell 6-5 in the annual day-after-Thanksgiving matinee with the Hawks at Honda Center on Nov. 25.

Just to violate the "one game at a time" mantra for a second, after tonight the Ducks move to Winnipeg for Teemu Selanne's highly anticipated return to that city tomorrow night. The love for Selanne in that city, where he played for the old Jets from 1992 through 1996, is incalculable. And Selanne acknowledged his excitement about returning there in this story from Eric Stephens in the OC Register. Selanne said he "never got the chance to say goodbye" after being traded by the Jets to the Ducks in Feburary 1996, not long before the franchise moved to Phoenix.
 
"The atmosphere I hear is just unbelievable," Selanne said. "I can't wait to go."

Ducks fans can only hope he leaves town with a victory, and if it's a third straight for Anaheim, that wouldn't be so bad either.


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Tonight in New Jersey, Scott Niedermayer will have his number retired at Prudential Center (although he only played there twice, both with the Ducks), just before the Devils take on the Dallas Stars. Niedermayer's 27 will join Scott Stevens' No. 4 and Ken Daneyko's No. 3, both of whom were Niedermayer teammates in his 13 years with the Devils.

Dan Rosen of NHL.com has a nice story on Niedermayer getting honored, which includes this amusing story from early in Niedermayer's career, when coach Jacques Lemaire put the team through a rigorous skate:

"I'll never forget in the third year of his career, we were going through a bad stretch and Jacques put us through one of those so-called bag skates," Daneyko said. "Everybody was coming off and just falling in the room. All our undergear was totally soaked, like we took a shower in our equipment. And then Nieder comes in, and he's got maybe a tear-drop of sweat in the middle of his chest and everything else is dry. I'm thinking to myself, 'Was it that effortless for him?' Everybody's skates were going a half-inch into the ice and it was like he was floating above it.

"Boy, that (ticked) me off," Daneyko added while laughing. "It looked like he went for a Sunday walk in the park."

I happened to run into Scotty at the opening of the Anaheim Ducks Breakaway Bar & Grill at John Wayne Airport on Tuesday. I (sort of) kiddingly asked him if he might be willing to come back. He said with a laugh, "You don't want me right now."

The 38-year-old Niedermayer, despite some grey sneaking into his dark hair, looks to be in tremendous shape. I told him I figured it would only take him two weeks to get back to hockey condition. "Maybe 10 years ago," he said. 

"Well, I'd kick myself if I didn't at least ask," I said as we parted ways.

"Hey," he said with a laugh. "It's nice to be wanted."


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