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Ducks GM Bob Murray puts blame for team’s lousy start on players, not coach Randy Carlyle

Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray can often be outspoken with the media. It’s great for generating headlines and juicy stories considering the fact that general managers usually speak as if they’re reading off of cliche-laden cue cards, but you wonder if the team might benefit from him staying out of the papers.

Regardless, Murray provided some rather interesting comments to Eric Stephens of the OC Register. In a nutshell, the occasionally fiery front office man exonerated Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle while throwing the roster he constructed under the bus.

Of course, this is usually the time when I point how the dreaded “vote of confidence” is usually a kiss of death for head coaches, but let’s at least give the Ducks GM the benefit of the doubt and take a look at his revealing statements.

“I’ve got total faith in Randy,” Murray said. “He’s won a Stanley Cup. That’s not an issue here. It’s up to the players. Enough excuses. Talking about coaches and things gives them an excuse when they have no excuses in my eye.”

In fact, Murray went as far as to say that the team might make a major change via a trade or other transaction.

Murray was also quite clear that he isn’t averse to making a major personnel shake-up if the Ducks don’t start winning soon as he pointed to an upcoming stretch where they play three straight at home and five of the next six at Honda Center.

In other words, the thought breaking off one part of the young core of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan in order to bring in a major piece and shake a team out of its slumber may be entertained.

“Fair question,” he said. “Eventually, that’s going to have to be in front of this group if they don’t get their act together. It’s going to be right in front of them. If they don’t know that then, well, I feel sorry for them.”

Murray might be talking tough about getting rid of Getzlaf, Perry or Ryan but here’s the bottom line: the trio might be flawed in some areas, but they are the strength of this team along with goalie Jonas Hiller.

The Ducks simply need to surround them with quality role players, a depth scorer or two and (the hardest part) a defense that can help clean up their messes (especially on the penalty kill). Anaheim allows a league-high 38.8 shots per game, a startling number that is three shots worse than the second worst team in the NHL (Atlanta at 35.6). You cannot blame effort or preparedness alone for those kind of numbers; it’s clear that the Ducks are just a mess in their own zone.

That’s the kind of thing that falls to the coach and general manager most of all, not subjective concepts such as effort or elbow grease. Perhaps you could question the decision to make Getzlaf their captain – yes, he’s their best player, but he’s not always the kind of guy that sets a good example with his penchant take bad penalties and turn the puck over – but that also is as much about front office decision as it is about the character of guys on the roster.

The Ducks lost three of their lost four games and their 4-7-1 record parks them deep in the Western Conference cellar. It’s early in the season, but they need to make good on their four game homestand. The problem is that each of those four contests are tough; they already suffered a 5-2 loss to San Jose and host resurgent Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and pesky old Nashville. Losing all four of those games is not outside the realm of possibility.

If they fall apart during that stretch, the Quest to Find Who is Truly to Blame will progress from “dreaded vote of confidence” to “heads begin to roll.” I can’t help but guess that the team’s talented young trio enjoys better job security than their addled head coach as well as the general manager who wasn’t the boss until the team started missing the playoffs.

Either way, it could get ugly in Anaheim before things get better.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.