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New Ducks Pave the Way

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

Hagman, Pelley, Palmieri and Boudreau lead Ducks to victory. All guys who were somewhere else as recently as a month ago.

Imagine your typical Ducks fan's reaction if you told them this back on October: On December 14, the Anaheim Ducks would win their second game under Bruce Boudreau on goals from Niklas Hagman, Rod Pelley and Kyle Palmieri.

(Think about that one for a moment.)

But such has been the way of the 2011-12 season so far for the Ducks, where so much has not gone as could have been expected in the fall. That was never more on display than last night at Honda Center, where the Ducks cruised to a rather satisfying 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes to snap a two-game losing skid and a four-game streak vs. Phoenix.

Hagman (claimed off waivers a month ago today) had two goals, Pelley (acquired via trade with New Jersey two days ago) scored one and Palmieri (recalled from Syracuse last week) added another in the third. In fact, of the 20 guys in the lineup last lineup, the three with the fewest games played as a Duck -- just 25 combined between the trio -- scored all the team's goals.

But while those guys may have been the ones to find the net, it was the work of the entire Ducks team -- both new and old -- that contributed to that victory. Said Boudreau after the game, "This was the hardest I’ve seen a team work this year that I’ve been coaching, and that includes the Capitals.”

That intensity was evident from start to finish in a game the Ducks never trailed. They went up 2-0, something they've now done in all four home games of the Boudreau era. But unlike in those games, there was little looking back for Anaheim last night. When the Coyotes did get close (a Martin Hanzal goal in the second that belied a monster power play drought for Phoenix), the Ducks countered with more offense and a lockdown D that only allowed 20 Phoenix shots the entire evening.

One of the highlights of that defensive effort came from a not-so-new Duck, Lubomir Visnovsky. But heck, Lubo had only played 16 of the 29 games this year after missing a month with a broken finger. In the third period, he saved a sure goal when he slipped in behind Jonas Hiller and batted away a mid-air puck that had fluttered past Hiller and was heading for the twine. The play deservedly made Sportscenter's Top 10 of the night.

How's this for a quote from Visnovsky? "I don't play for month and it's like pressure because everybody, 'Lubo's back. Lubo's back.'"

On the offensive end, where Visnovsky is at his best, he had a team-leading seven shots on net, and several more attempted shots. That alone made his presence noticeable on a Ducks power play that scored once (Hagman) and got another in the third (Palmieri's tip of a Ryan shot) just as the man advantage expired.

That goal was more than the Ducks needed on this night, as Pelley led off the scoring with a hustle and muscle play that quickly endeared himself to Ducks fans. After Maxime Macenauer banked the puck off the left wing wall, Pelley rudely nudged his way past Adrian Aucoin, giving himself a mini breakaway that he finished off with a wrister under goalie Mike Smith.

After that, Hagman sandwiched that lone Hanzal goal (five this season, three vs. Anaheim) with his two. He looked poised to pull off the hat trick on a couple occasions in the third, as Corey Perry (clearing looking to make the hattie happen) gave Hagman a couple of nice feeds for one-timers that Smith robbed with big saves.

"It’s nice to see. If we can get him back to scoring the way he used to," Boudreau said. "Then it sure adds a dynamic that we haven’t had for awhile. He could have had four or five. Corey was putting them on his tape in the third period. But two is good."

Good indeed, and as this was our last chance to see the Ducks at home before they embark today on a five-game road trip that starts tomorrow night in Chicago, it was a nice way to send them off.

And after that game, as usual, Visnovsky said so much with so little.

"We played a full 60 minutes tonight," he said with that enthusiastic, baby-faced expression we've missed the last month. "Let's play the rest of the season like this."

Sounds good to me.

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