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Pacific: Ducks haven't found any smooth sailing so far

by Doug Ward

Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle has had to deal with the lack of star power in his lineup during the team's 4-7-2 start to the season.

The Anaheim Ducks will never admit to the presence of a Stanley Cup hangover. But the team will readily attest to the fact that a lot of breaks haven't gone their way early on this season.

In addition to dealing with the absenses of defenseman Scott Niedermayer and forward Teemu Selanne, the Ducks, in the midst of a four-game losing streak, also havebeen chomped on by the injury bug.

The Ducks have been without Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi for much of the season, while goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere has played in just five of Anaheim’s first 13 games after off-season surgery for a sports hernia. Both Rob Niedermayer (groin) and Ryan Getzlaf (forearm) currently are listed as day-to-day with injuries.

“The biggest thing is for us,” Ducks captain Chris Pronger said, “is not to panic and not to start pointing fingers. We’re all making mistakes out there. We can all be a lot better, and certainly we have to learn from this little stretch here what it’s going to take for us to win and understand that it’s a fine line between winning and losing.”

Anaheim continues to have trouble scoring, averaging just 2.08 goals per game, 29th in the NHL.

Sunday, the Ducks dropped a 3-2 decision to Edmonton in a shootout after Oiler rookie Andrew Cogliano scored a shorthanded goal at 18:33 of the third to force overtime.

“We seem to be snake-bit,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “If something can go wrong for us, it goes wrong right now.” Carlyle’s prescription for the losing streak is rest; he gave his team Monday and Tuesday off. "It’s been a very, very taxing month on our group,” Carlyle said.


In addition to the spate of injuries, the Ducks have had to deal with a season-opening trip to London. But the team they played during the two-game season opening series in London seems to have gotten over the jet lag. The Los Angeles Kings have been the division’s hottest team of late, winning four-straight games and five of six to find themselves tied with Dallas for second in the Pacific. It has been a remarkable turnaround for a team that began the season at 1-5. The Kings now have climbed back to .500 at 6-6-0 overall.

When 19-year-old goaltender Jonathan Bernier was returned to his junior team Oct. 15, it appeared the move was made because the Kings weren’t ready for the young prospect, as opposed to Bernier not being ready for the Kings. But a lot has changed in two weeks, starting with Jason LaBarbera stepping up his game in the Kings’ net. LaBarbera, who has stopped 123 of the last 127 shots he’s faced, has allowed just two goals in his last three starts.

After going 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average and .976 save percentage, LaBarbera was named the NHL’s first star for the week for the period ending Oct. 28.

“We seem to be clicking as a team right now,” LaBarbera said. “We’re doing all the little things we’re supposed to be doing.”

Tough times for Modano -- Mike Modano is just two points shy of passing Phil Housley to become the highest scoring U.S.-born player in NHL history. But Modano’s status as an American icon did not stop Dallas coach Dave Tippett from demoting him to his team’s fourth line after Modano began the season with just one goal and one assist in nine games.


Saturday at Phoenix, Modano’s wingers were Todd Fedoruk and Brad Winchester, but he still managed to show signs of stirring from his slump, picking up a goal and an assist in Dallas’s 5-3 win over the Coyotes. Modano said his early season doldrums were “more between the ears than anything.”

Another American, San Jose’s Boston-born Jeremy Roenick, is two goals away from becoming the third American-born player to join the 500-goal club; he’ll join Modano and Joey Mullen.

Meanwhile, Jack Johnson, the Kings’ 20-year-old, Indianapolis-born defenseman scored his first NHL goal Oct. 19 at Vancouver. But it was Johnson’s teammate, Ithaca, N.Y. native Dustin Brown, who had the best week among Pacific Division Americans. Brown, 22, signed a contract extension with the Kings that will pay him $19 million over six years.

A 'Great' return -- Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky liquidated much of his memorabilia at an estate sale in Westlake Village, Calif., Sunday that raised $200,000.

Proceeds from the sale will go toward building a new baseball stadium at Oaks Christian School. Gretzky’s son, Ty, plays baseball at Oaks Christian, the same school that sent quarterback Jimmy Clausen to Notre Dame.

In addition to hockey equipment, furniture, clothing, bicycles, an off-road vehicle, and a jukebox were sold.


Who's hot -- Mike Ribeiro of the Stars has seven points (threeo goals, four assists) in his last four games. Teammate Brendan Morrow has five assists in his last three games ... Kings defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky has six points (one goal, five assists) in his last five games.

Not hot -- Michal Handzus of the Kings is scoreless in seven games. ... Mike York of Phoenix has not found his way onto the score sheet in seven games. ... Jeff Halpern of Dallas has not scored in six games. ... Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin has not scored in five games. ... Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere is 0-2-1 with an .879 save percentage in his last three starts. ... Phoenix goalie Mikael Tellqvist has lost his last two starts while registering a bloated 4.03 goals-against average and .879 save percentage.

The week ahead -- The Kings look to wrap up a perfect 4-0 homestand when they host Columbus Wednesday. Anaheim will be playing to avoid a winless homestand when they host the Blue Jackets Thursday. The Ducks have lost the first two games of their three game homestand, and four in a row, overall. San Jose plays a home-and-home with the Kings, Friday at home and Saturday at Los Angeles.

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