Anaheim Ducks

Goalie nods: Andersen likely for Ducks, who’ve yet to name playoff starter

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Andersen first off for Anaheim

Looks as though Frederik Andersen will be in goal tonight when the Ducks host the Stars on NBCSN.

Andersen was the first goalie off at this morning’s skate, suggesting he’ll take over the net after John Gibson allowed three goals on 22 shots in Friday’s 4-2 loss to Colorado. The Danish netminder will make his first start since last Wednesday, when he made 22 saves in an easy 5-1 win over Edmonton.

The bigger story for the Ducks, of course, is which goalie will get the start come playoff time. Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau continues to play coy with his choice, suggesting that he knows who he thinks will start Game 1 but won’t share that info with the media.

“I think we know who we’re going to play and what we’re going to be doing as a group,” Boudreau said, per the O.C. Register. “So let’s just leave it at that.”

Elsewhere…

Leafs at Jackets: James Reimer vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Bruins at Caps: Tuukka Rask vs. Braden Holtby

Linden on returning the Canucks to the playoffs: ‘It’s been a good year’

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The goal for the Vancouver Canucks was to return to the playoffs.

Last night, that goal was achieved. The Canucks clinched their spot when the Kings lost in Edmonton.

It begs the question — after all that went wrong last season — how did they do it?

“It started with just trying to have a plan going into it,” said Trevor Linden, the club’s first-year president of hockey operations, on TSN 1040 radio (audio).

Linden, hired a year ago tomorrow, went on to hire Jim Benning as the team’s new general manager, who went on to hire Willie Desjardins as the new head coach.

“Bringing Jim in really shaped the vision for this organization,” said Linden, referencing the numerous roster decisions that were made in the wake of last season’s disastrous campaign, from trading Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison, to bringing in Ryan Miller, Nick Bonino, and Derek Dorsett.

“And then of course, Willie has done an amazing job,” Linden added, noting the bounce-back seasons being enjoyed by the Sedins, Alex Edler, Alex Burrows, and Jannik Hansen, “these guys that were kind of lost last year.”

“It’s been a good year,” said Linden. “We’ve accomplished the goal we set out. Now it’s about making some noise here in the playoffs, and we look forward to that.

“Having said all that, we also recognize it’s one year. We’ve got a lot of work to do, we know that, and we’re prepared for that.”

That last remark is key. Because the Canucks, despite making the playoffs, remain long shots to win the Stanley Cup. They still need to keep restocking for the future — in particular, their blue line, which has looked old and slow at times. Currently, there’s no blue-chip defensive prospect in the system.

But that’s a topic for the offseason.

“It’s so satisfying to set a goal for this team to get us back to the playoffs,” said Linden.

“The easy way out is to just strip it down and blow it up and start over and draft in the top five every year. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to continue to build this team and be a playoff contender every year.”

NHL on NBCSN: Ducks aim to play postseason-style hockey against Stars

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The second of the two contests will feature the Anaheim Ducks hosting the Dallas Stars, with the puck scheduled to drop at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Stars have been a very good team lately and had they found a way to put it all together earlier in the season, they probably would have secured a postseason spot. The fact that they’re instead mathematically eliminated has caught some off guard, including Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano.

“Dallas – it’s pretty surprising they’re not in the playoffs because they’re so good,” Cogliano told the Orange County Register.

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For a while now Anaheim has been essentially — and now officially — locked into the first seed in the Pacific Division. Whether or not they finish with the top seed overall in the conference remains to be seen, but regardless they’re in a very comfortable position. That can be dangerous though. Teams that have to claw their way into the playoffs won’t have any trouble adjusting to the postseason atmosphere because they’ve been playing in it already. Meanwhile, Anaheim has to fight to stay sharp.

“You want to win the games, but I think you just got to play the game the right way and how you’re going to be playing once playoffs starts,” Cogliano said. “You just can’t turn it on. Those teams have been turned on for the last month or so.”

In that regard playing against Dallas should be a good test for the Ducks, because the Stars are a good team regardless of what their position in the standings might suggest. Although Dallas is also a squad with little left to play for, the Stars should still put forward a strong effort with an eye towards 2015-16.

“When you don’t make the playoffs playing in these games are tough,” Stars forward Tyler Seguin said, per the Dallas Morning News. “It’s frustrating. You try not to create bad habits. We have a mini training camp here, so we’ll work on our systematic stuff and try to get better.”

All of Dallas’ core players are under contract for the 2015-16 campaign, so the Stars will have another chance to show that this team can do great things. In the meantime, they have an opportunity to make a statement against one of the best squads in the league.

Head coaches overwhelming support Price for Hart Trophy

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The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association gets to select the winner of the Hart Trophy, but before they cast their ballot, 20 NHL head coaches — 10 in the East and 10 in the West — were asked who their choice for the award would be and the results weren’t even close.

All 20 bench bosses said Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price would be their top pick for the Hart Trophy, per the survey conducted by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Alexander Ovechkin, who leads the league with 52 goals, finished second on the ballot 19 times with the lone exception going to Ryan Getzlaf. John Tavares had six third-place votes to Sidney Crosby’s five.

Price would be the first goaltender since Jose Theodore in 2002 to take the Hart Trophy, but he’s been regarded as a favorite for the award for a while now. His dominant play is one of the big reasons the Montreal Canadiens might win the Presidents’ Trophy, but this is likely also a reflection of the relatively muted Art Ross Trophy race we’re witnessing.

While Ovechkin is far ahead of the pack in terms of goals, the points race is relatively open and no forward is likely to finish with 90 or more points. Not including lockout shortened seasons, that hasn’t happened since Stan Mikita won the scoring race with 87 points in 1967–68. It’s easy to assume that the lack of 90-plus point players is a byproduct of reduced scoring, but that’s not the case. The league has been averaging 2.74 goals per team per game this season, which is on par with what we’ve seen over the last four seasons, per hockey reference.

So scoring hasn’t gone down, it’s just become more spread out and that lack of dominance at the top might be playing into Price’s hands. At the same time, he wouldn’t be a contender either way if he wasn’t having an amazing season.

Goalie nods: Gibson goes for Ducks, whose playoff starter is still uncertain

John Gibson will get another chance to show he should be the Anaheim Ducks’ playoff starter when he goes up against Colorado tonight at Honda Center.

Gibson’s last start was a good one; the 21-year-old stopped all but one of the Devils’ 27 shots last Sunday in a 2-1 victory, after which he was named the game’s first star.

Still, neither Gibson nor Andersen has made it an easy decision for coach Bruce Boudreau. Both young goalies have had excellent performances, and both have had their hiccups.

“I think they both want the starting role,” Boudreau said recently, per NHL.com “We had a tough game in New York and Columbus [last month] and when [Andersen] played two really good games, it was like [Gibson] said, ‘Oh, yeah? OK,’ and he came in and played great. I think they both would like to have it.

“If we go far they’re both going to play, and if we don’t go far, they’re both going to play, because if we’re losing, we’re going to make switches. That’s the way I think of it right now. We’re not married to thinking one is better than the other. When they’re on top of their game, they’re as good as there is.”

Reto Berra will start for Colorado.

Elsewhere…

Scott Darling likely for Chicago versus Anders Lindback for Buffalo.

Dustin Tokarski for Montreal versus Keith Kinkaid for New Jersey.

Brian Elliott for St. Louis versus Kari Lehtonen (likely) for Dallas.

Louis Domingue for Arizona versus Antti Niemi for San Jose.