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Around the West: Ducks confident despite tough trip

by Dan Rosen
The mini-slump the Anaheim Ducks are going through hasn't driven away the confidence they gained during their six-game winning streak in early November.

The Ducks picked up only two points and scored just four goals during their three-game road trip this week, but they wake up Friday to find themselves only one point behind the first-place Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division race. The fact that they have four games in hand on the Kings hammers home how important it is for them to get back on the winning track during their upcoming three-game homestand, which starts Friday against Columbus.

"I wouldn't say content, but we're happy with the way we've been battling back," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf told "We're aware that we have quite a few games in hand on a lot of teams, so we have to win and get points in all of these games. It's going to mean a lot when you get to that February run and you're not having to make up points, teams are having to make them up on you."

Getzlaf says that the Ducks ability to stay out of the penalty box has resulted in the team's turnaround.

Anaheim was shorthanded 22 times in the first three games of the season -- and, not surprisingly, lost all three games in regulation. The Ducks are 10-5-3 since largely because they've been shorthanded less than four times per game.

The Ducks' penalty kill is 29-for-34 during the past nine games.

"We kind of woke up," Getzlaf said. "Our penalty-killers aren't having to kill 10 a night.

"You know we've always been a team that played on the edge," he added. "The refs know that and the League knows that, but we get overextended ourselves at times and guys were trying too hard to make plays and forcing the issue."

It hasn't been all rosy. The Ducks went 0-1-2 this week in Chicago, Dallas and Minnesota because their offense ran dry.

Bobby Ryan has scored only 3 goals in the past 11 games. Getzlaf has just 1 in the past seven and Teemu Selanne snapped a five-game goalless drought by scoring Anaheim's lone goal in Wednesday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Wild.

The Ducks have yielded only 19 goals in their past nine games, but they've scored just 23.

"We've kind of been scoring in bunches and that's the issue," Getzlaf said. "If you have certain guys scoring at certain times then you can stay alive but if everyone is scoring in bunches it doesn't help. We still have three guys in the top (20) in scoring in the League, so guys are getting the job done, but if you have a bunch of guys scoring in three games and nobody scores for the next five you're in trouble."

Now let's go around the rest of the West to see what's happening. The teams are listed in current order of standings:

 Detroit Red Wings (12-3-1, 25 points)

The Red Wings' 7-3 win against St. Louis on Wednesday night launched them into the top spot in the conference. They've won four straight and six of seven, and Dan Cleary is on an absolute tear. Cleary, who struggled in the offensive zone through October, has goals in six-straight games, including a pair of two-goal games. He leads the team with 9 goals, 8 of which have come during his current tear. Cleary went nine-straight games without a goal before he got hot.

 Los Angeles Kings (12-5-0, 24 points)

On Wednesday, Columbus became the first team other than the Kings to win a game at Staples Center this season. The Blue Jackets scored twice in the third period for a 5-3 win. The Kings' home winning streak was snapped at eight games, and they've lost back-to-back games for the first time this season -- their six-game winning streak came to an end Monday in San Jose. The Kings have allowed 11 goals in the past two games after giving up only nine goals during their previous eight games.

 Vancouver Canucks (10-5-3, 23 points)

The Canucks picked up five out of a possible 10 points on their recently completed East Coast trip. It ended with a dud Wednesday in Pittsburgh, a 3-1 loss. However, they remain in first place in the Northwest Division as they head home for four in a row, starting Saturday against playoff rival Chicago. Daniel Sedin has 8 points in his past four games and his 12 goals and 24 points are the most among all Western Conference players.

 Anaheim Ducks (10-8-3, 23 points)

Until recently the Ducks had a lot to rave about, but they bring a three-game losing streak into Honda Center for Friday's game against Columbus. It's the first of three in a row at home. Anaheim's offense ran dry during its three-game road trip to Chicago, Dallas and Minnesota. It scored only four times and lost each game by a single goal, including two in overtime. The Ducks, though, are 7-1-1 at home.

 San Jose Sharks (9-5-4, 22 points)

The Sharks picked up a point Thursday night in Dallas, but in a brutal way. They blew a 4-2 lead in the third period and lost 5-4 in overtime. San Jose gave up the lead by allowing James Neal and Mike Ribeiro to score back-to-back goals in the 57th minute of the game. Ribeiro scored again in overtime to hand the Sharks their second overtime loss in two nights -- both of which saw them blow two-goal leads in the third period. The Sharks do have points in their past seven games (4-0-3).

 Chicago Blackhawks (10-9-2, 22 points)

The Hawks have won back-to-back games for the first time in a month. They beat Anaheim in overtime and Edmonton in a 5-0 rout this week. It's a good time for the Blackhawks to start feeling good about themselves because they still have five more games left on their annual circus trip. They'll play Friday in Calgary and Saturday in Vancouver before going to California next week for games in San Jose, Anaheim and L.A.

 St. Louis Blues (9-5-3, 21 points)

Rocky times have hit the Blues and goalie Jaroslav Halak, who even scored on himself in Wednesday's 7-3 loss at Detroit. The Blues have lost five in a row (0-4-1) since a seven-game winning streak. Halak has allowed 13 goals during the past two games. The struggles coincide with injuries -- the Blues are wearing thin without T.J. Oshie, David Perron, Barret Jackman and Roman Polak. Carlo Colaiacovo returned Monday after missing seven games.

 Colorado Avalanche (10-7-1, 21 points)

The Avs have won two straight and three of four. The lone blemish came in a 3-1 loss at first-place Detroit this past Saturday. Wednesday's 4-3 overtime win against San Jose was a thriller. Colorado trailed 3-1 after two periods but rallied on goals by Chris Stewart and Paul Stastny to force overtime before Kevin Porter won it 2:07 into the extra session. There's also encouraging news on the injury front as goalie Craig Anderson (out 10 games with knee injury) is skating with the club and close to returning.

 Phoenix Coyotes (8-5-5, 21 points)

No surprise here -- Dave Tippett has found a way to get the Coyotes motoring on the right track. They've won four straight in regulation, allowing only nine goals in the process, to jump up the standings. Ilya Bryzgalov made 39 saves in Wednesday's 3-1 win at Calgary. Shane Doan, who has missed six-straight games, could be back Sunday in Vancouver. The Coyotes go for their fifth-straight win Friday in Edmonton.

 Columbus Blue Jackets (10-6-0, 20 points)

The Jackets played arguably their best third period of the season Wednesday when they rallied by scoring three times to stop Los Angeles' home winning streak at eight games. Rick Nash scored two of those goals, the go-ahead tally with 3:12 left and an empty-netter. After a slow start, Nash has heated up with five goals in the past five games.

 Dallas Stars (10-7-0, 20 points)

The Stars picked up a momentum-building 5-4 overtime win at home against San Jose on Thursday. Mike Ribeiro finally scored his first goal of the season with 2:06 to play in regulation and then promptly got his second 2:52 into overtime. Ribeiro had 14 assists through 16 games, but no goals on 30 shots. Now he is off the schneid and the Stars went 3-0 on their just completed homestand. James Neal made it 5-4 just 29 seconds before Ribeiro scored his first goal.

 Minnesota Wild (9-6-2, 20 points)

The Wild have won two straight and five of seven this month, but they made an interesting move Thursday by sending young defenseman Justin Falk to the AHL. Falk has appeared in 16 of the Wild's 17 games, but with Brent Burns returning from suspension and Marco Scandella impressing in his absence, the Wild decided carrying eight defensemen would be too many and they want to continue to give Scandella his opportunity. Falk had 2 assists and led the Wild blue-liners with a plus-2 rating.

 Nashville Predators (8-6-3, 19 points)

The Predators' 3-0 win Thursday in Montreal was their third win in the last four games. They previously lost five in a row, so confidence is rising in Nashville again. However, this was their first regulation win since Oct. 24. The previous two wins during this four-game stretch came in a shootout. Pekka Rinne made 30 saves and Marcel Goc scored is fourth and fifth goals of the season in the win against the Habs. The Predators continue a four-game road trip Saturday in Carolina.

 Calgary Flames (7-10-0, 14 points)

Wednesday's trade couldn't spark the Flames against Phoenix, but maybe the additions of Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos, acquired in exchange for Ian White and Brett Sutter, will make a difference Friday when they host Chicago. The Flames have lost seven of the last eight games, and there are rumors that captain Jarome Iginla could be traded. He addressed them Wednesday by saying, "It's part of sports. It's part of hockey. It happens all over. It's my turn now."

 Edmonton Oilers (4-10-3, 11 points)

The Oilers have lost five-straight games and allowed 30 goals in the process, which math majors will tell you is 6 goals per game. They've scored only eight goals during that span. Worse yet, goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has a pulled groin and has been placed on injured reserve. Martin Gerber was recalled Thursday.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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