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Pittsburgh vs. Anaheim Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins


 THE FUNDAMENTALS
Pittsburgh Penguins (21-20-4-46) vs. Anaheim Ducks (22-18-5-49)

Where
: Mellon Arena
When: Friday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428 and DirecTV 659.
*View FSN's HD Broadcast Schedule here
Season Series: It will be the first meeting between the two teams this season.
 
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES RELATED CONTENT
Forward
*With all the injuries and jumbled lines at
morning skate, this is anybody's guess

Defense
Orpik-Whitney
Gill-Goligoski
Boucher-Eaton

Netminder
Fleury


 Pens vs. Ducks 10/6/07
Trib Total Media Minute 1/16
Therrien 1/16
Dupuis 1/16
Crosby 1/16
  Fleury 1/16
 
KEYS TO VICTORY
Rattle Giguere: Jean-Sebastian Giguere has not been himself this season. A banged up defensive unit hasn’t helped his cause, but regardless the Stanley Cup champion netminder has been shaky in goal. He’s won only one game in the past month - partly due to a decrease in playing time. Giguere’s psyche is a little fragile right now. The Penguins need to bring the pressure and test Giguere early and often.

All for One: Sidney Crosby will not play in this contest. The team knows that they all have to step up in their captain’s absence. Instead of relying on Crosby or Evgeni Malkin to carry the team, the Penguins need to collectively carry themselves. 
 
LOWDOWN ON THE DUCKS
The Anaheim Ducks were flying high heading into last season after raising the Stanley Cup. They began that year on the European continent in London, England, with back-to-back games against Los Angeles. The Ducks jet lagged after that with a 3-6-2 mark in October. Anaheim managed to eventually right the ship, earning a playoff berth before a first-round exit at the hands of the Dallas Stars.

Head coach Randy Carlyle and his squad didn’t partake in any European excursions to start this season, but Anaheim did lose its first four games of the season, and five of its opening six games. The Ducks rebounded with a nine-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1). Anaheim has coasted around the .500 mark since that time. Anaheim still has many of the key components from that Championship team and is trying to reclaim the magic from that season.
 
NEW FACES
The Anaheim Ducks lost three players from last year’s squad when they bought out Todd Bertuzzi’s contract and let Doug Weight walk in free agency. Brian Burke, who has since stepped down as Ducks general manager, used the extra cash to sign center Brendan Morrison - who played under Burke in Vancouver - and defenseman Steve Montador. On the eve of the season, Anaheim traded defenseman Mathieu Schneider to Atlanta for Ken Klee, Brad Larsen and Chad Painchaud.
 
FORWARDS
Part of the reason the Ducks couldn’t successful defended their crown last season was due to an unexpected dropped in goal production. Anaheim scored 205 goals, third fewest in the entire NHL. They have improved on that number this season with an average of 2.80 goals per game to rank 15th in the league.

Anaheim’s jump in scoring is partly because of Ryan Getzlaf’s emergence as top-tier scorer. The All-Star starter currently is fourth in the NHL with 53 points (16G-37A) behind Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin as of Thursday afternoon. Getzlaf has been a one-man show and is 15 points ahead of the next best scorer on the team - linemate Corey Perry (38). Perry is off to the best start of his career and already tied a career high with 27 assists. The 6-foot-3, 209-pound forward has benefited from playing wing with the dynamic Getzlaf. Chris Kunitz worked his way from an undrafted free agent to Anaheim’s top unit. He’s posted 27 points (11G-16A) so far this season.

The offense took a blow Dec. 20 when veteran Teemu Selanne suffered a thigh laceration. The 38-year old has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons - playing in only 26 contests last season. Selanne proved he can still play despite his age when he put up 94 points (48G-46A) two years ago. He had 27 points and 14 goals through 33 games on the current campaign. Free agent signee Morrison hasn’t provided the offensive punch the team hoped for, tallyingh only 17 points. But forward Bobby Ryan appears to be blossoming into a star since being called up in mid-November. Ryan, who was selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft behind Sidney Crosby, tallied 26 points (12G-14A) in 27 games.
 
DEFENSEMEN
The Ducks biggest strength is their backend. Despite scoring the third fewest goals last year, Anaheim finished fourth in the Western Conference because they allowed the second fewest goals against. They’ve been in the middle of the pack this season, allowing 2.80 goals per game, ranking 15th - the same number and ranking as their goals scored.

Anaheim’s defense starts with its two stud defenders - Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. Niedermayer will start in the All-Star Game after notching 26 points (5G-21A) in his 16th NHL season. Pronger is a freak specimen. The 6-foot-6, 213-pound defenseman has a rare blend of size, power, speed and skill. Pronger has a mean shot and is solid at shutting down opponents in the Ducks zone. He’s the third leading scoring on the team with eight goals and 21 assists for 29 points. The defensive corps suffered a blow when Francois Beauchemin tore the ACL in his left knee in mid-November. The reconstructive surgery likely ended his season. Veterans Steve Montador and Bret Hedican and youngsters Brett Festerling and Brendan Mikkelson round out the crew. Festerling took a shot on the inside of his left knee. The Orange County Register reported that he cleared an MRI and could play against Pittsburgh.
 
GOALTENDING
The Ducks goaltending carried them into the playoffs with All-Star Jean-Sebastian Giguere and rookie sensation Jonas Hiller. Giguere, who has backstopped the Ducks to two Stanley Cup Finals with one championship, went 35-17-6 with a 2.12 goals against average and .922 save percentage. Hiller proved he could play at the NHL level after posting a 10-7-1 mark, 2.06 GAA and .927 save percentage.

Hiller’s emergence appeared to give the Ducks a quality backup who could make sure that Giguere didn’t burn out at the end of the season. However, Giguere is struggling during the first half of the season - 12-10-4 record, 3.04 GAA, .906 save percentage - and as a result Hiller has seen his playing time increase immensely. Hiller, who started 14 of the team’s past 24 games, has posted an impressive 2.20 GAA and .926 save percentage. Giguere was the go-to guy early in the year but now Carlyle is sticking whichever netminder has the hot hand.
 
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: RYAN GETZLAF
Penguins fans don’t get a chance to see many Western Conference teams. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye on Ryan Getzlaf. The former Calgary Hitman was part of the stacked 2003 draft class - possibly the most talented pool of prospects in NHL history. The Ducks grabbed the talented center with the 19th-overall selection. The Regina, Saskatchewan native scored 14 goals and 25 assists for 39 points as a rookie in 2005-06. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound center has increased his point total every season he’s been in the league: 39 to 58 to 82.

Getzlaf is a rare blend of size and skill. He’s has great lower-body strength - meaning he’s difficult to knock off the puck. Getzlaf uses his strong legs to drive to the net and he’s got great hands to finish plays. Getzlaf also has instinctive vision on the ice, evidenced by his 37 setups this year - fifth most in the NHL. He even tallied five assists in one game against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 29.

In just his four years, Getzlaf is staking his claim as the best player in the world not named Crosby, Malkin or Ovechkin. After all, he is the NHL’s fourth leading scorer behind those three with 53 points (16G-37A) and he’s quietly closing the gap. Getzlaf is riding a seven-game point streak - netting two goals and nine assists for 11 points in that span. He’s tallied at least one point in 12 of his last 13 games. Getzlaf also had streaks of eight- and nine-straight contests with a point. Not bad for a guy that watched 18 players get picked before him in the draft.
 
"THEY SAID IT"
“We found a way to lose. That’s the difference between us and them. They know how to win, and we’re a team trying to figure out how to win.”
 - Goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere to Yahoo! Sports following the
team’s 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings
 
STAT PACK
1: The number of wins goalie Jean-Sebastion Giguere has earned in over a month. He's lost six of his last seven starts.
 

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