Anaheim Ducks v San Jose Sharks

Ducks hand coach Randy Carlyle a three-year contract extension

There are plenty of teams that seem unpredictable heading into the 2011-12 season, but the Anaheim Ducks might be the toughest to gauge.

On one hand, they have the best trio of power forwards in the league: 2011 Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, outstanding center Ryan Getzlaf and still-improving American winger Bobby Ryan. The Ducks also have explosive offensive defensemen in Lubomir Visnovsky and Cam Fowler (who just completed an impressive rookie season).

The problem is that the Ducks’ question marks are just as big as their burly, high-scoring forwards. Their defense ranged from mediocre to awful last season and it didn’t get much better during the summer. (In fact, hard-shooting defenseman Kurtis Foster might be a downgrade from Andy Sutton – at least in the Ducks’ end.) Of course, the biggest problem is that goalie Jonas Hiller’s vertigo issues seem unresolved. If you ask me, Hiller deserves consideration among the NHL’s most valuable goalies because of all the leaks he plugs with his leg pads. The Ducks might also have even more trouble providing secondary scoring if Teemu Selanne retires.

In other words, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle has his hands full. On the bright side, contract worries won’t be at the top of his mind, though; the team handed him a contract extension that runs through the 2013-14 season today. It’s technically a three-year extension, although the 2011-12 season will be part of the deal. Financial terms haven’t been disclosed.

Carlyle has enjoyed a great run behind the Ducks’ bench, which you can see from this summary from the team.

Carlyle, 55 (4/19/56), was named the seventh head coach in team history on Aug. 1, 2005 and has since led the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup championship (2007), Pacific Division championship (2007) and five playoff appearances in six seasons (2005-09, 2011). Only one NHL coach has won more postseason games than Carlyle’s 36 since 2005-06 (Mike Babcock). Carlyle has the most wins and highest winning percentage in Ducks history, compiling a 266-169-57 record in 492 regular season contests (.599 winning percentage).

There were some who were calling for Carlyle’s head early last season when the team got off to a very slow start, but the Ducks stood by him and it paid off with a breathtaking run to the playoffs. The Ducks have provided him with some nice talent over the years, but his track record is still very impressive considering the rigors of the Pacific Division and Western Conference.

That being said, the 2011-12 season could be his toughest test yet. If he can get this talented but deeply flawed Ducks team to the playoffs again, then he deserves every undisclosed penny he’ll receive.

Personal reasons: No Ovechkin for Caps tonight

Alex Ovechkin
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Alex Ovechkin won’t play for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday because of personal reasons, the team confirmed.

He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.

Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).

That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out

This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:

No, the Capitals have not shared details regarding what his “personal reasons” might be, by the way.

Bruins put Morrow on IR, bring up Cross

Brady Skjei, Joe Morrow
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Lower-level defense is not the biggest of many worries for the Boston Bruins, yet it might be another in a series of headaches.’s Joe Haggerty points out that Joe Morrow has been placed on IR while AHL stalwart Tommy Cross was called up.

With a -3 rating and negligible offensive impact so far, few will really be missing Morrow (pictured). From the way Haggerty describes Cross, it’s a pretty cool story if he gets into the lineup:

Cross was named captain of the Providence Bruins this season, and actually had a strong training camp as the hard-hitting, tough stay-at-home defenseman he’s developed into during his five years in the B’s minor league system. The 2007 second round pick was a highly regarded potential puck-moving defenseman when he was drafted prior to his Boston College career, but a series of knee injuries negated some of his speed and puck-moving capabilities.

Granted, the Bruins would prefer a sure-thing improvement over a feel-good story right now, as this 0-3-0 start marks their worst beginning in some time.

Injuries have been an issue in general, too, with Zdeno Chara‘s slow start mixed with Dennis Seidenberg on the mend and Brad Marchand in limbo.

The Bruins’ next game comes against the Avalanche in Colorado. Maybe they’ll start to mend things on the ice?