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Not Much Better for the Ducks at Home

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

The first indication that it might not be their night unfortunately came very early for the Anaheim Ducks. A team that has given up an early first goal too many times during the swoon did it again to the Predators last night, and in ugly fashion.

Just 1:20 after the opening faceoff, before many in Honda Center had even found their seats, Nashville rookie Craig Smith made a seemingly innocuous toss on net from below the extended goal line. Ninety times out of 100 (heck 999 times out of 1,000) that puck remains harmless, but this time it kicked off Jonas Hiller's right skate blade and creeped over the stripe behind him, with Hiller looking back in disbelief.

“That’s something that can really take the wind out of your sails, especially when it happens to you early in a game,” Cam Fowler said later. “It’s up to us to battle through that adversity. You can tell on the bench that when those goals go in it kind of deflates us. But it’s up to us to rally around each other.”

As if one fluky goal wasn't enough, a few minutes later a Colin Wilson centering pass went off the stick blade of Saku Koivu and got past an outstretched Hiller, making it 2-0 very early. And you couldn't help but think of a Teemu Selanne quote earlier in the week, in which he said, “When they score one goal, all the heads go down and the body language goes, ‘Here we go again’. We have to change that.”

Things did get better for the Ducks this time, as they got within a goal of the Predators, but never tied it. They did get a big goal in the final minute of the first when a Cam Fowler shot from the point nicked a screening Devante Smith-Pelly and darted over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne. It was an awkward way for Smith-Pelly to get his first NHL goal, since the score was credited to Fowler for most of the game until replay reviews determined Smith-Pelly got a piece of it, which we didn't even find out until much later.

Either way, Anaheim was within a goal and on a power play in the second, offering hope that was tarnished when Martin Erat got on a breakaway, was pestered with a couple of stick slaps from behind by Lubomir Visnovsky and was stoned by Hiller. The official behind the net immediately awarded a penalty shot, a call that was questioned by many and became even more painful when Erat whistled a perfect wrist shot into the top corner.

Francois Beauchemin's got the Ducks within one again when he jabbed at a loose puck and got it behind Rinne. But one more time our hearts were broken by Smith, who beat Toni Lydman and one-timed a Wilson feed to make it 4-2 Nashville. Thanks in part to another strong night by Rinne, that ended up being the final.

The numbers are hard to look at: a sixth straight loss, nine of the last 10 and a loss to the budding rival Predators at home, where Anaheim had owned an 18-3-2 record against them. The more uplifting number: 10 of the next 12 games are at home, a critical time for the Ducks to turn things around. That starts today at practice, and tomorrow night against the Canucks at Honda Center.

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The Ducks made a move this morning, claiming former Winnipeg Jet (still feels weird to say that) center Ben Maxwell off waivers. The 23-year-old Maxwell played in four games with the Jets this season (no points) and is a former second-round pick by Montreal in '06. He played 20 games in two seasons there, and was traded to Atlanta (now the Jets) in a deal that brought defenseman Brent Sopel to the Canadiens. Maxwell played 12 games for the Thrashers last season. 

Maxwell is expected to join the team ASAP and be available for tomorrow night's game.

We don't know much about him yet, but we do know he has met Justin Bieber.
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