Anaheim Ducks need to break penalty-taking habits to snap out of slump

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The Anaheim Ducks are no strangers to taking a lot of penalties and starting their seasons a little bit slow.

Just take a look at the last three seasons and you’ll notice that only the Philadelphia Flyers can compare to the Ducks when it comes to making trips to the penalty box:

Most penalties taken 2009-10
1. Flyers – 496
2. Lightning – 492
3. Ducks – 482

Most penalties taken 08-09
1. Flyers and Ducks tied for first place – 535
2. Canucks – 504

Most penalties taken 07-08
1. Ducks – 564
2. Flyers – 546

Of course, there’s one major difference between the 07-08 and 08-09 Ducks and the most recent additions of the team: they no longer employ the kind of elite defensemen who can off-set their own self-inflicted gaffes. Chris Pronger took his feisty but dominant defensive style to Philadelphia in a trade during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft while Scott Niedermayer won’t be able to patch up any more mistakes after retiring this summer. The team also lost somewhat solid support defensemen including Francis Beachemin and James Wisniewski over the years.

Without that elite defense, the mental errors of their best forwards (Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry) and the rough-and-tumble reputation of the team partially explaisn just how much trouble the Ducks cause for themselves. Coach Randy Carlyle wants his team to play smart hockey after years of borderline-meat-head behavior, especially when it comes to the team’s penalty minute logging stars.

Part of the reason is that wingers Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan are leading the team in penalty minutes — each has 23 — instead of in scoring. Ryan Getzlaf, recently appointed the captain, has allowed his frustration to outweigh the need to lead by example. That must stop too. Carlyle said he talked to his top forwards about holding their tempers and not avenging hits that might be hard but aren’t dirty.

“I don’t know where it’s gotten in the league now where a clean body check or a heavy body check is delivered in the game, it seems like there’s an automatic response. And we’ve been guilty of responding too many times to clean body checks,” Carlyle said. “Our message is that we don’t want … Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan dropping their gloves in consecutive games.

“You do it to defend your honor and if somebody challenges you in doing so, but to be out there and playing in a 3-1 hockey game with a chance to get back into it with one power play or if one bounce goes your way, it’s not the right thing to do, to take yourself off the ice because somebody says something to you. And the opposition is doing a good job of goading them into those things too. That’s something that we’ve talked about and has to be corrected right now.”

The Ducks haven’t just lost their first games, they’ve been absolutely bludgeoned. While it’s incredibly foolish to lay all the blame at the feet of Carlyle, you wonder if there might be a few murmurs that old dogs cannot learn new tricks. After multiple seasons in which team captain Getzlaf and premier pest Perry have been able to lose their cool in more than a handful of games, will the same coach who looked the other way be able to impress upon them the need to change?

Anaheim begins their home schedule tonight against the Vancouver Canucks and Carlyle is known for being a little better when he’s allowed to dictate matchups when he gets the final change at home. Few would doubt that the Stanley Cup winning coach’s head is approaching the chopping block, so this is about as big as the fourth game of an 82-game regular season can be.

One thing’s for certain: Carlyle’s outlook will improve considerably if he can keep his best players out of the box.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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