Though they got into town (after a six-hour flight from Florida) in the early morning, more than half of the Ducks roster was on the Honda Center ice Tuesday afternoon in an optional practice.
|“This is well-needed,” Blake said. “I was thrilled when I heard the news. How can you beat this, playing hockey in Southern California? It feels great.” |
After blanking the Panthers in a 3-0 win last night to cap of its road trip with a 3-3 record, Anaheim flew back home to Southern California, touching down at LAX at approximately 2:30 a.m. The club turned around and came back together at their home arena before the clock struck noon.
Head coach Randy Carlyle gave his players the option of either working out in the team gym or taking to the ice. Fourteen decided to throw on the skates, including Teemu Selanne
, Bobby Ryan
and the newest Duck, Jason Blake
“We felt that was the best way in our preparation for tomorrow,” Carlyle said. “If you lie around all day and do nothing, then you’ll feel lethargic. Come tomorrow, we’ll get right back into our pregame ritual.”
In his first day in Orange County as a member of the club, Blake was still more than eager for the opportunity given to him after being traded from Toronto with goalie Vesa Toskala for longtime Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
“This is well-needed,” said Blake, who has 184 goals and 427 points in his 11-year career. “I was thrilled when I heard the news. How can you beat this, playing hockey in Southern California? It feels great.”
While Toskala still has not joined the Ducks as he deals with immigration paperwork, Blake already has one game with the club under his belt. He skated on a line with Selanne and Saku Koivu
in the win at Florida.
“Hopefully, we can get some chemistry together and get the line going,” Blake said. “It’s all about using my speed and going to the net. I embrace the opportunity, whether I play with Teemu and Saku or anybody else. The No. 1 thing for me is to bring my best every single day and night. That is all you can ask for.”
|"I’m definitely happy that management showed confidence in me by giving me that extension," Hiller said. "I also know there is a little more pressure on me and I have to prove it. But I’m excited for that new challenge.” |
It has been a whirlwind 48 hours for the left winger. After getting word of the trade on Sunday, he took a late-night flight from Toronto down to Florida to join his new team. One night later, he was back on a plane for a cross-country voyage to Southern California.
“I was overwhelmed, really was,” Blake said. “I never expected it. But when I got the phone call, I was very excited. By the time you get settled, get to bed and get all the nerves out of you, it’s hard to fall asleep. I skated this morning and got the kinks out hopefully. You don’t waste a lot of time. We have a tough game tomorrow night against Detroit and we’ll go from there.”
Along with Blake donning Ducks gear, another rare sight in the locker room was the noticeable absence of Giguere, a fixture on the club since 2000. The decision to deal him to Toronto was made one day after Jonas Hiller
was given a four-year contract extension with the intention of him being the No. 1 netminder for years to come.
“I wasn’t thinking it would happen in Anaheim when I got here,” said Hiller of becoming the team’s top goalie. “The way it worked out the last couple of months and the end of last year, it was going that way. I’m definitely happy that management showed confidence in me by giving me that extension. I also know there is a little more pressure on me and I have to prove it. But I’m excited for that new challenge.”
If last night was any indication, he’ll do just fine. Hiller promptly went out and threw a shutout (his second of the season and sixth in his NHL career) in his first game after the big transactions.
|“I’m very happy to be back,” said Selanne, seen here scoring in Monday's win at Florida. “We have a lot of important games coming up. We want to finish strong before the Olympic break, so that when we come back, we are in a good situation." |
“It’s a good feeling,” said the Swiss product, whose 28th birthday is 10 days away. “It was a good road trip for us, especially with the last two wins. I’m definitely happy to get home after 13 days on the road. We all know there are really important games coming up. We play conference rivals. If we get as many points as possible before that break, we could be right in that playoff picture again.”
The Ducks (26-23-7) sit just three points back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and they square off against the team that occupies that position, the Detroit Red Wings, tomorrow night at Honda Center. The teams last met Jan. 5 at Honda Center, with Anaheim claiming a 4-1 victory (its fourth in a current streak of eight straight wins at home).
Selanne did not play in that contest, as he was rehabbing a broken bone in his left hand (an injury that kept him out of the lineup for 17 games). He came back Jan. 9 at Nashville and scored a goal. He found the net again in his second game at Chicago. But he suffered another setback when he fractured his jaw in three places in his third game on Jan. 13 against the Bruins at home.
He missed eight more games before returning to the ice last night. Wearing a protective mask, the Finnish Flash once again seized the moment, lighting the lamp for a big power play goal with half a second left in the second stanza.
“I’m very happy to be back,” said Selanne. “I’m only looking forward. Every day is going to be better. We have a lot of important games coming up. We want to finish strong before the Olympic break, so that when we come back, we are in a good situation.’