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Ducks aim to gain ground in West

by Mike G. Morreale
While the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings continue to be the talk of the Western Conference, don't discount several other clubs perfectly capable of instituting a second-half surge.

Take the 2007 Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, for instance. The team that sat eighth in the conference at the All-Star break with 23 wins and 51 points is certainly hoping to gain a little steam after closing out the first half of the season with just two wins in their previous eight games.

No better time to right the ship than this week when Anaheim faces fifth-seeded Phoenix Tuesday and fourth-seeded Chicago Wednesday.

"I think if our team gets healthy and can stay healthy and get into some kind of rhythm, we could definitely be dangerous," Ducks defenseman Bret Hedican told "I don't think I'd want to play us in the playoffs, and it's good to see San Jose get the recognition because they've got a great hockey team. For me, it would be a great challenge to hopefully play them in the playoffs if we do get to play them."

Ducks enforcer George Parros agrees.

"I wish we were in the spotlight and deserving of all that, but those two teams have obviously been very dominant," Parros said. "We'll wait in the weeds and if that's what we have to do, then hopefully we'll come on late."

The NHL returns to action on Tuesday following a five-day layoff for the All-Star break and there's plenty to get excited about.

Boudreau enters Hall -- Bruce Boudreau, who played and starred in the American Hockey League before becoming coach for the Washington Capitals, will be inducted into the American Hockey League's Hall of Fame on Monday during the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic Luncheon in Worcester, Mass.

"It's an absolute honor that I can't describe," Boudreau said. "The American League, with its history, it's overwhelming that this could happen to me. When they phoned me (in November) and told me, I couldn't hide my exuberance. I told them I would be there if I had to come from Alaska.

"To me, individually, it's as high an honor as you can get. The NHL is the NHL. But to be thought of like that by my peers, in a league that's been in existence for more than 70 years, that's pretty darn cool. If wasn't for that league, I'm nothing -- both as a coach and as a player."

Back in action -- The 11-game slate on Tuesday includes two division contests.

Central Division

Detroit at Columbus -- The defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings have picked up the second most road points in the NHL this season with 34 in 25 road games (15-6-4). The Bruins lead the League with 17 road wins and 37 points. Columbus rookie goalie Steve Mason has gone 17-11-2 with a .926 save percentage and League-leading 2.05 goals-against average and six shutouts in 30 games. He is 0-1 against the Wings in one career start against Detroit -- on Jan. 6 -- with a .949 save percentage.

Pacific Division

Anaheim at Phoenix -- Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf enters the game with 4 goals and 20 points in the last 17 games. Getzlaf is the only player in the NHL who has recorded points in eight-or-more consecutive games on three separate occasions this season. Getzlaf, who centered for Chicago's Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at the 57th NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, leads the Ducks with 56 points this season. Phoenix right wing Peter Mueller enters the contest riding a four-game point-scoring streak. The second-year forward has collected 3 goals and five points in the last four games and ranks third on the team in goals (12) and points (30).

Air time -- The NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman and co-host Bill Clement will again air Thursday from 4-5 p.m. ET on NHL Home Ice (XM Channel 204 and Sirius Channel 208).

NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman provides the latest news and events from the highest levels of the NHL. The show encourages fans to submit questions via phone and email. To submit questions to NHL Hour call 1-877-645-6696 or email The archived shows of The NHL Hour, a production of NHL Radio, are available for download on via a podcast. NHL Hour is a production of NHL Radio.

Contact Mike Morreale at

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