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Pacific: Ducks well-represented for All-Star Game

by John Kreiser
When the NHL All-Star Game faces off in Montreal on Jan. 25, half of the Western Conference starting lineup will be Anaheim Ducks.

Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, defenseman Scott Niedermayer and center Ryan Getzlaf were elected to the starting lineup in fan balloting. It's the first time in team history the Ducks have had three players elected to the starting lineup, and only the second time since the NHL came to Southern California in 1967. The 1988-89 Los Angeles Kings had forwards Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille and defenseman Steve Duchesne in the starting lineup.

The Ducks had two starters, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, voted into the lineup in 2001.

"That's one of the things that shows the passion your fans do have in your market," coach Randy Carlyle said of having three Ducks in the starting six. "People wouldn't traditionally call Anaheim a hockey market, but we have passionate fans and fans that get involved."

Having three All-Star starters is an indication of the way the hockey market in Southern California has grown.

"That's huge for our market," said Getzlaf, who earned the most votes of the three -- 716,569. "Over the past few years, the market's grown and grown. People have been better and better. It's a huge thanks to the fans."

Niedermayer, now a five-time All-Star, collected 637,316 votes and Giguere, a Montreal native who may have gotten some help from his home city, got the first All-Star starting gig in his 11-year career with 617,241 votes.

Ironically, Giguere was elected to start during a season in which he's struggled at times -- but he said the selection helps make up for other seasons in which he played well enough to make the All-Star team but didn't.

"I've had better seasons, for sure," he said. "There's other seasons I thought maybe I should get a chance to go, but I didn't get to go. I'm just going to go, and I'm not going to go with my head between my legs. It's kind of a reward that, like little candy, you get for things you've done in the past. That's what it is."

Home, sweet desert -- The Phoenix Coyotes have never enjoyed much of a home-ice advantage at what's now called Arena. They were next-to-last at home in 2007-08 with 38 points in 41 games, 28th among the NHL's 30 teams in 2006-07 and 26th in 2005-06. Several visiting teams, especially Detroit and Chicago, are greeted by large numbers of fans wearing their jerseys.

But the Coyotes seem to be getting the hang of winning at home this season.

Phoenix entered the week with a home mark of 13-5-2, tied for second place in the Western Conference in home victories. Win No. 13 was a 5-4 triumph against the New York Islanders last Friday.

"It seems like we just have a better mindset at home this season," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said after the win. "Players are obviously much more comfortable at home and playing really strong in this building. The atmosphere is really solid. It's enjoyable to come to the rink here and watch these kids play as hard as they're playing. They play hard."

The Coyotes haven't won 20 games at home since 2001-02, when they went a franchise-best 27-8-3-3 while playing at America West Arena (now US Airways Arena). They moved into their current home in December 2003, but have never finished more than one game over .500 while based there.

Gretzky is optimistic that this year's home success will continue.

"We've had a nice run here through the first half-season," he said. "Hopefully we can become even stronger and better in the second half."

Road warriors -- The San Jose Sharks have been even better than the Coyotes at home. In fact, they're nearly perfect -- at 19-0-2, San Jose is the only team that hasn't lost a home game in regulation.
"Over the past few years, the market's grown and grown. People have been better and better. It's a huge thanks to the fans." -- Ryan Getzlaf

Now they want to get better on the road, too.

Not that the Sharks have been bad away from HP Pavilion. They take a 10-4-3 record into this week's trip to Western Canada. Still, that's nowhere near as good as their home mark, and they've also benefitted from playing most of the first half at home -- 20 of their first 34 games were at the Shark Tank.

"The schedule was kind to us," coach Todd McLellan said. "We played a lot at home. Now we've got to go and make up those games. A trip to Canada isn't easy, but maybe that's what we need right now.

"Going into Calgary, they're going to be a very hungry team. They're going to want to show us what they're about. They've been a very successful team lately. You follow that up with a trip to Edmonton and Vancouver and not a single night's easy. If we put together a so-so effort, we won't come away with what we want to do."

The Sharks have had some clunkers on the road in the last few weeks -- a 6-0 loss at Detroit and overtime losses at Columbus and Minnesota.

"We can play better and we're using every day to improve how we play," defenseman Brad Lukowich said. "If you become content just being good on the road, that can sneak into your home game. We feel we've left some points out on the road and let teams like Boston and Detroit hang with us."

According to McLellan, the real goal is consistency. Just as he has all season, he's consistently preached the need for "complete games" -- and the fact that his team has only rarely met that goal.

"We have to consistently push for a full 60 minutes and not wait to be pushed or to fall behind," he said.

A sweet win -- There are a number of former Philadelphia players and staff -- including coach Terry Murray and General Manager Dean Lombardi and Assistant GM Ron Hextall -- currently with the Los Angeles Kings. They renewed acquaintances with their former team when the Flyers came to town last weekend. But perhaps none was more eager to beat his ex-teammates than defenseman Denis Gauthier

Gauthier was acquired by the Flyers from Phoenix at the trade deadline in 2006 and played 60 games with Philadelphia through 2006-07. But he was the odd man out in training camp before the 2007-08 season and wound up spending the season with the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms before coming to the Kings in a trade last summer.

He was eager to show his former team that he could have played in the NHL.

"I wanted that game bad. I have been counting the days till that game," Gauthier said. "I was pretty happy with the results. There is no animosity with the guys, it was just about where I was and what I went through that made that win that much more enjoyable."

The trade to Los Angeles gave him a new opportunity. Getting to play against Philadelphia on Saturday was just a bonus.

"I was nervous and excited and had to calm myself down. Sometimes when you are in a situation like that, you try and do too much and get out of your game."

Gauthier saw 13:51 of ice time; he had no points, was even and was credited with three hits in the Kings' 2-1 shootout win over the Flyers -- their first victory against Philadelphia since Oct. 21, 2003.

Sutherby settling in -- He has yet to put up a point in Dallas, but center Brian Sutherby appears to be a good fit with the Stars.

Dallas is 4-2-0 since the veteran center joined the lineup Dec. 22, eight days after being acquired from Anaheim. His ice time jumped sharply in the Stars' last three games, including a season-best 14:41 in Sunday's 3-2 shootout win at Phoenix. Sutherby started out on the fourth line, but has earned some time playing on an offensive-minded trio with Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson.

"We decided we were going to try a little bit of size up there on Richy's line," coach Dave Tippett said of moving Sutherby up. "He's a big guy, a versatile player and he's got good skill. He plays with a little bit of recklessness and he's not scared to mix it up with the other team. I thought he played a good game against New Jersey on that wing with Richards."

Being traded to a team in the same division can make for a difficult adjustment, but Sutherby appears to be adapting without much trouble.

"This trade shocked me a bit," he said. "But from a hockey standpoint and a career standpoint, I'm excited about the change and I came to a great organization, so I was really excited about that."

One good thing for Sutherby was that he got to play against his old team not long after the deal. He was in the lineup for Dallas' 4-3 shootout win against Anaheim on Dec. 28.

"I think it would have been more weird if it had been longer," he said of the gap between the deal and playing against the Ducks. "Everything is so new right now, that was the last thing from my mind. If it was a couple months down the road it might've been a little different, but right now I'm just focused on trying to learn the systems and think about where I'm supposed to be on the ice and feeling comfortable."

Ice chips -- Southern California hockey fans stormed the turnstiles last weekend for a rare visit by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Anaheim Ducks set a Honda Center record when 17,597 fans turned out for Philadelphia's 5-4 shootout win, and the Los Angeles Kings drew their fifth sellout crowd (18,118) a night later for their 2-1 shootout win. The victory ended the Kings' streak of seven consecutive losses when playing before a full house. ... Los Angeles forward Patrick O'Sullivan is one of the NHL's shootout stars. He scored the deciding goal against Philadelphia, making him 2-for-4 in shootouts this season and 6-for-9 in the past two seasons. ... Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick had never faced a penalty shot or been involved in a shootout in the NHL, but did both flawlessly against the Flyers. He stopped Scott Hartnell's first-period penalty shot, then went 2-for-2 in the shootout for the win. ... Anaheim backup goaltender Jonas Hiller is going to earn more playing time if he continues to play the way he has. Hiller made 29 saves to shut out Phoenix 2-0 on Sunday, his third shutout of the season. Hiller is just 3-3-0 in his last six starts, but has a 2.16 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in those games. ... Visiting players rarely are honored, but the Coyotes made it a point to salute New York Islanders center Doug Weight when he earned his 1,000th NHL point during the Isles' 5-4 loss at Phoenix on Jan. 2. Weight's wife is a Phoenix native, and the crowd gave him a warm hand when he assisted on Richard Park's third-period goal. ... The Coyotes had one of hockey's true oddities in Sunday's 2-0 loss at Anaheim. The Ducks scored both their goals on power plays -- with both advantages coming when Phoenix was called for having too many men on the ice. ... Sharks forward Mike Grier had two goals in San Jose's 5-3 victory against the Islanders on Jan. 3. It was his first two-goal game in just under two years -- the last one came on Jan. 4, 2007, against Detroit. ... The Worcester-to-San Jose pipeline continues to be busy -- amazingly so for a team with the NHL's best record. The latest arrival was 21-year-old defenseman Derek Joslin, the Sharks' fifth-round pick in 2005, who played 12:33 against the Islanders. Joslin said he noted a very big difference between the NHL and AHL: "It is played a lot smarter. The players know where to be and the passes are tape-to-tape." Joslin replaced Jamie McGinn, who had made his NHL debut with San Jose earlier in the season. ... Adding insult to injury department: After a poor effort in a 4-1 loss to the Oilers on Saturday, the Dallas Stars wound up having to stay in Edmonton because their plane was grounded by sub-zero temperatures. They arrived in Vancouver on Sunday afternoon and overcame a slow start for a 3-2 shootout win. ... Dallas' Loui Eriksson is a much better finisher than setup man. His assist in Sunday's win at Vancouver was his first in 15 games. However, he scored nine times during that span and leads the team with a career-high 20 goals. His shorthanded goal in a 4-1 win against New Jersey on New Year's Eve was the Stars' first of the season.

Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report.

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