Friedman: Ducks felt their success was a ‘bit of a mirage’


The Anaheim Ducks are an interesting team, to say the least.

Sixty-six games into the season and the Ducks sit atop the NHL standings with a 42-17-7 record.

Yet compared to the other teams in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, Anaheim’s statistics are remarkably, um, unremarkable:

— Ninth in goals per game
— 18th in goals-against
— 22nd-ranked power play, with the 13th-ranked PK
— 16th in shots per game, 15th in shots against
— 15th in score-adjusted Fenwick

As we’ve noted before on PHT, the one thing the Ducks have done really well is win one-goal games, in which they’re a rather implausible 26-0-7.

Where are we going with all this?

Well, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Ducks themselves had doubts that they were as good as their record suggested. Hence, all the trades they made leading up to the deadline, acquiring the likes of James Wisniewski, Simon Despres, and Korbinian Holzer for the blue line, as well as forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Jiri Sekac.

“It’s interesting. They really like what they did,” Friedman told Sportsnet 960 yesterday, per Nichols on Hockey. “And it’s pretty clear – and I didn’t really realize it until I spoke to them – they think that their success was a little bit of a mirage. That they felt that [goalies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson] were absolutely saving them and they didn’t think they were very good.

“They felt very strongly that they could handle themselves against the heavier teams. The Kings, they felt okay with. The Blues, they felt okay with. But the really good-skating teams – the Blackhawks and some of the Eastern teams that saw them recently like Tampa – they thought they were just terrible against them. They couldn’t get the puck and they had nothing they could do.”

The Ducks, by the way, have won seven of their last eight heading into tonight’s game versus Pittsburgh.

Stars’ Seguin could return within a week

There could be some good news on the injury front for the Dallas Stars.

Tyler Seguin began skating with his teammates on Thursday and could return to the Stars’ lineup within a week.

Seguin has been out of the Dallas lineup with a knee injury following a low hit from Panthers’ defenseman Dmitry Kulikov on Feb. 13.

“Tyler really is closing in on day-to-day for us,” said Lindy Ruff following the team’s morning skate on Thursday. “I would say probably within a week or sooner. Depends how he responds to some heavy workouts here today, tomorrow.”

Seguin, who was expected to miss 3-6 weeks with the injury, missed his 10th game on Thursday night.

“My goal was to get on this trip,” Seguin said. “I had targeted it because it was early enough where it could be a goal because technically I shouldn’t be ready for another 1 1⁄2 to two weeks. This was the goal I set and I reached it, so I was happy about that.

“It felt good to be back out there, be around bodies. It’s (been) kind of me and two guys the last five or six times on the ice. Today was nice to be around the guys.”

The 23-year-old had 29 goals and 59 points in 55 games prior to the injury.

The Stars are 3-5-2 in Seguin’s absence.

Dallas continues its five-game road trip Saturday night in Tampa Bay.

Related: (Video) Stars get after Kulikov in first rematch since Seguin injury

Video: Stars get after Kulikov in first rematch since Seguin injury


Panthers d-man Dmitry Kulikov served a four-game suspension for clipping — and injuring — Dallas forward Tyler Seguin last month, but that didn’t stop the Stars from exacting further revenge in their first meeting since the incident on Thursday night in Florida.

Dallas’ Curtis McKenzie challenged Kulikov midway through the first period:

(GIF courtesy’s Stephanie Vail)

The Stars were asked about potential retribution prior to the game, per the Dallas Morning-News:

Vern Fiddler said after the last game, “I think it’s a gutless play for their D to do that. (Seguin)’s released the puck, and comes across and takes his knee out. There’s no room in the game, and it’s not a good play. It’s a gutless play on his part, and we’ll have to deal with that at a later time.”

However, the league suspended Kulikov four games for the hit, and Fiddler said on Thursday morning the Stars have to be focused on the game.

“The league took care of it, and I’m glad they took care of it, because it takes it out of our hands,” Fiddler said. “We want to play a fair game, that’s the way we play.”

Ruff said he too expects his team to focus on play.

“I’m not even going to talk about that situation,” Ruff said. “To me, it’s behind us, the league dealt with it. Both teams are desperate to win a hockey game, that has to be our focus. The biggest damage we can now is on the scoresheet.”

Kulikov said he wasn’t sure if anything would happen, but would be prepared to answer the bell if need be.

“I’m not really thinking about it, but whatever happens, happens,” he explained. “We’re not going to back off and let them retaliate and do nothing.

“If something happens, we’ll deal with it.”

Panthers clear captain Mitchell, put Montoya on IR

The Florida Panthers could get a key piece back for their playoff push tonight versus Dallas, as captain Willie Mitchell has been cleared to play for the first time in over a month.

In goal — which is the team’s biggest area of concern right now — backup Al Montoya (groin) has been placed on injured reserve, while No. 1 Roberto Luongo hopes to return from his upper-body ailment next week (but will miss the club’s next two games at a minimum.)

Mitchell, 37, would go a long way in making life easier for tonight’s starting goalie, Dan Ellis. The veteran rearguard has been a stabilizing force this season — averaging over 22 minutes a night — while helping tutor Calder candidate Aaron Ekblad.

The Panthers head into tonight’s action two points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston hosts Calgary this evening.

NHL GMs to address emergency goalie rule following Florida incident


Turns out the NHL already has discussed the hypothetical goalie nightmare Florida suffered against Toronto and, in wake of what transpired last night, plans to address it more thoroughly at the next round of GMs meetings.

From Sportsnet:

[NHL deputy commissioner Bill] Daly said there’s “no doubt” the topic will be revisited when the GMs gather again in Boca Raton, Fla., later this month.

“(In November) we floated a number of ideas on how to kind of deal with that issue because we knew what happened last night was going to ultimately happen,” said Daly. “And it’s likely to happen again. It’s definitely an issue that needs a collective focus from our managers and the league in terms of how to deal with it.

“It’s an interesting situation and it’s one that has gotten some discussion at the GM level as being a concern. We’ve had more and more situations where a single goalie goes down and then everybody asks: ‘What’s the next step? What if we lose our second goalie and who’s going to play and what kind of issues are related to that?”

Tuesday’s incident began when Roberto Luongo got hurt, turning the net over to backup Al Montoya. Later — with Luongo having already changed into street clothes and reportedly left the building — Montoya got injured his groin, which led to a wild scene in which Panthers forward Derek McKenzie was briefly summoned to go change into goalie gear, only for officials to rule he wasn’t eligible to play in net.

Florida then signed (and dressed) 41-year-old goalie coach Rob Tallas as an emergency backup, followed by Luongo returning to the arena, re-dressing and finishing the contest.