Los Angeles Hockey: Jason Blake

Kings/Ducks: Stakes even higher this time around

March, 3, 2012
Kings (29-23-12, 70 points) vs. Ducks (28-27-10, 66 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Must-win game – Neither team can afford to lose this one, not with eighth-place Dallas trying to separate itself from the pack by earning 11 points in the last six games. The Kings have had more down time than usual since winning in Minnesota, 4-0, on Tuesday, and enter this game three points back of the Stars. The Ducks scored in the final minute Friday night to defeat visiting Calgary, 3-2, and stay within seven points of Dallas. The Ducks also passed Minnesota in the standings with the win, leaving one less team between them and eighth place.

2. Shooting their foot – Two of L.A.’s four shootout victories this season have come against the Ducks. Of course, that was before Anaheim started its 2012 tear. Shootouts have played a key role for the Kings the last two seasons. They went 10-2 in shootouts last season, including a perfect 10-0 for No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick. If they go 7-5 in shootouts last season, they don't make the playoffs. This season, well, they’re 4-7, including a 4-6 mark by Quick. The way these teams know each other like the curve in their sticks, don't be surprised if this game ventures past regulation too.

3. Super Slava – Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov continues to make the Jack Johnson-for-Jeff Carter trade look better and better for L.A. He’s plus-3 with an assist since getting the call last week to fill Johnson’s spot on the blue line. His plus-7 in 36 games overall is best among Kings' defensemen. Not bad for someone who just turned 22 six weeks ago. He’s already shown a knack for scoring against the Ducks too, getting two of his four goals this season against Anaheim.

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Ducks: 5 keys to the second half

January, 28, 2012
Ryan GetzlafDebora Robinson/Getty ImagesThe Ducks will need Ryan Getzlaf's scoring to pick up if they hope to sustain their recent momentum.

The Ducks were thought to be dead in the water a month ago, but now they've taken flight and enter the All-Star break as the second-hottest team in the NHL over their past 10 games. Here are some keys to getting the Ducks back in the playoff hunt.

1. Ducks in a row – Second-half surges at Honda Center have become as much part of the norm around town as Disney parades. For reasons unknown, the Ducks come out of the All Star/Olympic break like their skates are on fire, owning a combined 85-44-15 record in the second halves since their Stanley Cup season of 2006-07. That’s a lofty .642 winning percentage based on points earned and points available. Anaheim needed to start its annual run a little sooner this season, thanks to a late-October slump that extended into November, December and January. After a loss to San Jose on Jan 4, the Ducks were staring at a 10-22-6 mark. Soon after, Ducks general manager Bob Murray let it be known that anyone not named Teemu Selanne or Saku Koivu was available for trade. Suddenly, the Ducks began playing the type of hockey everyone envisioned coming into the season and won eight of nine games. Heading into play on Jan. 6, they were 20 points back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Coming out of the All-Star break, they’ll be 12 behind. It’s probably no coincidence that Jan. 6 marked the beginning of a 32-game stretch in which 23 of Anaheim’s opponents did not make the playoffs last season. Looks as if they might just be positioned for another second-half run.

2. Hope for Ryan? – Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf remains on pace to deliver his lowest goal-scoring campaign since his rookie season in 2005-06. Just as troubling, his minus-15 rating is 78 points lower than his career total. Getzlaf is the straw that stirs the drink for the Ducks, but too often plays like he'd rather be the umbrella. Even while the rest of the team is spreading its wings this month, the 26-year-old center has been quite bland. Outside of a four-assist effort against Edmonton, he has just two goals and three assists in the other nine games. History doesn’t suggest Getzlaf will catch fire after the All-Star break like the rest of the team has. For their sake, the Ducks might not be able to make up the early-season deficit unless he does get on a roll. And if they don’t, he might be one of the biggest names to change uniforms at next month’s trade deadline.

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Buffalo Sabres 4, Ducks 1

October, 7, 2011
Buffalo Sabres 4, Ducks 1

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Playing before a pro-Teemu Selanne crowd in his hometown of Helsinki, Finland, the Ducks continued their season-opening woes Friday night, losing for the 14th time in 18 openers since the team was established.

THE STAT: The Ducks out-shot the Sabres, 11-0, in the third period to tie a franchise record for fewest shots allowed in a period, but still couldn’t get anything past Buffalo goalkeeper Ryan Miller. They finished with an overall 30-25 advantage in shots on net.

TURNING POINT: The Ducks finally got on the board 4 minute into the second period. Maxime Macenauer won a face-off in his offensive zone and passed to defenseman Nate Guenin, who threw the puck at the net. Somehow, it got past Miller for his only miscue of the game, giving Guenin his first NHL goal and Macenauer his first NHL point on the assist. That burst of excitement lasted 73 seconds, as Jason Pominville sent a shot through traffic that Ducks goalkeeper Jonas Hiller apparently never saw as it slid through his legs for a 3-1 lead.

HOT: The busiest player on the ice was also one of the oldest. Jason Blake, 38, took a team-high five shots on goal and dished out three hits. Unfortunately, his linemates weren’t as active. Selanne, perhaps weary from his media tour throughout Helsinki during the last week, took one shot on goal and had three giveaways. Saku Koivu took one shot on goal and committed two minor penalties, one of which led to Buffalo’s first goal of the game at the 4:02 mark of the first period, putting the Ducks in the hole for good.

NOT: Whatever happened to the top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry? The trio, oh so important to the team’s success this season, must have left their games in one of the saunas. The RPG line combined for zero shots on goal in the first period, when the Ducks fell behind 2-0 and were essentially taken out of the game. They finished with a total of seven shots on goal but most of those came when the Sabres were sitting back protecting a three-goal lead in the third period. Hiller, coming off vertigo symptoms that sidelined him for most of the second half of last season, stopped 21 of 25 shots. The one that snuck through his pads to make it 3-1 was a biggie.

GOOD MOVE: Keeping Guenin on the roster is looking like a good idea. Not only did the 28-year-old journeyman from Swickley, Pennsylvania, who came in with just 17 previous NHL games under his belt, notch the only goal for Anaheim, he equaled a team-high with three hits and also had a takeaway in 13:02 of ice time. Guenin needs to take advantage of his opportunities, as the Ducks will need to trim a roster spot when Toni Lydman returns from offseason shoulder surgery.

BAD MOVE: What’s so frustrating about the lack of success on the RPG line is they had their chances. The Ducks went on the power play five times, including a brief 5-on-3 in the third period, but got nothing out of the extra attackers. Interestingly, the Ducks tried to save the legs of their superstars by inserting some of their youngest and least experienced players on the penalty kill. Instead the Sabres took advantage, scoring on two of their four power plays.

NOTABLE: The Ducks announced before the game they will wear a No. 24 patch on their jerseys beginning next week in honor of Ruslan Salei, who spent nine years with the team before he was killed in a plane crash last month in Russia with the rest of his KHL team. Salei still holds the franchise record for most games played by a defenseman (594)

UP NEXT: Saturday vs. New York Rangers in Stockholm, Sweden, 10 a.m. (PT).

Ducks: Season Preview (Act I)

September, 30, 2011
ESPNLosAngeles plans to take a closer look at the Kings and Ducks each day heading into their season openers Oct. 7 in Europe. Where are their strengths, their weaknesses? Which star player will continue to shine, and which might struggle to maintain their previous levels? We put the Ducks under the microscope beginning today.

What area will the Ducks likely show the most improvement? In goals-against average last season, the Ducks finished 20th out of 30 teams in the league at 2.84 a game. Only two teams with a higher GAA made the playoffs; Tampa Bay and Detroit. If goalkeeper Jonas Hiller continues show he has recovered from the vertigo-like symptoms that sidelined him for the second half of last season, this number should drop considerably. Couple that with a year of experience under the belt for second-year defenseman Cam Fowler and there’s no reason the Ducks shouldn’t be better in this department. Another area the Ducks have shown improvement the last few years is their tendency to commit a lot of penalties. They still have a long way to go, however. They were 26th in the league a year ago, which isn’t bad considering they were 28th in 2009-10, 29th the season before that and 30th the two years prior. Of course, the Ducks finished dead last in that category in 2006-07 and still won the Stanley Cup that season.

Where will they likely slide? It would be tough for any player to match what Teemu Selanne did last season. The 41-year-old right wing had 31 goals and 49 assists in 73 regular-season games, the third-highest point total for an NHL player age 40 or older. At some point, however, Father Time will catch up with the Finnish Flash, or at least slow him down. Selanne figures to get his share of points on the power play, but he might find his opportunities somewhat more limited on 5-on-5. He has been skating with Saku Koivu on the second line, and he’s no young buck either, turning 37 in November. His other linemate could very well be Jason Blake, who just turned 38.

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Ducks: Looking ahead to the offseason

April, 27, 2011
As the Ducks tie the bow on an entertaining but somewhat unfulfilled 2010-11 season, they face another summer of the unknown. One area of uncertainty has become an annual ritual in Anaheim’s front office, while the other is stumbling block they’ve never encountered before.

Here’s a closer look at the key areas that need to be addressed in the offseason, and the ones that seem fine the way they are.

Teemu SelanneJeff Gross/Getty ImagesWho knows, right? Teemu Selanne could retire and un-retire three times before the All-Star break.
I. Will he or won’t he?

Teemu Selanne heads off on his summer retreat with another heavy decision on his mind. Selanne will turn 41 on July 3, but was the spriest and most productive player on the Ducks during their six-game loss to Nashville in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

After an 80-point regular season, Selanne scored a career-best six goals during the Nashville series and delivered a flat-on-his back assist late in Game 5 that provided the final roar of the season at Honda Center. He showed plenty of durability during his 19th season in the NHL and, most importantly, said he particularly enjoyed the experience.

Selanne will be an unrestricted free agent July 1 but it’s very doubtful he’d return anywhere else but Anaheim, where he has spent the last six seasons and 11 overall. The Ducks have made it clear they want him back for another year as well.

But just like his play on the ice, oftentimes Selanne doesn’t really know his next move. He just lets his instincts take over.

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Ducks: Predators wrap up series with 4-2 victory

April, 24, 2011
Western Conference quarterfinals

Game 6

Nashville Predators 4, Ducks 2 (Nashville wins series, 4-2)

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: The Predators continued to receive production from a variety of sources Sunday afternoon and the role players were the difference in the series-clinching victory at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

THE STAT: In their sixth trip to the postseason, the Predators won their first playoff series in franchise history.

TURNING POINT: With the score tied, 2-2, early in the third period, Jordin Tootoo drove straight at Ducks goalie Ray Emery, who made the save on the close-range shot, but teammate Andreas Lilja crashed into Emery leaving him unable to defend Nick Spaling’s follow up shot with just over 15 minutes remaining in the game.

HOT: In what could be the final game of his Hall of Fame career,Teemu Selanne scored the first goal of the game and postseason-leading sixth of the playoffs. Ducks forward Saku Koivu won the face off and Selanne recovered, taking the puck behind Nashville’s net. He came out the other side and beat goalie Pekka Rinne between his legs. Selanne, who will turn 41 in July, just missed a chance to tie the score with about 10 minutes remaining when his shot from the slot hit the skate of Nashville defenseman Shea Weber and went off the inside of the left post.

NOT: Ducks rookie defenseman Cam Fowler was on ice for the first two Nashville goals and finished with a team-high three giveaways. The Predators tied the score, 1-1, after knocking Fowler off the puck behind his own net. Tootoo recovered and centered a pass to Spaling who scored the first of his two goals. Spaling had just eight goals during the regular season while playing mostly a third-line role.

GOOD MOVE: The Ducks came into the game with a 35% success rate on the power play during the postseason, best among any team in the playoffs. They didn’t get their first man advantage until late in the second period, but capitalized when Jason Blake tipped in a slap shot from Bobby Ryan to tie the score, 2-2, with 1:37 left in the period.

BAD MOVE: The Ducks pulled Emery with about 90 seconds left in the game to get an extra attacker on the ice, but that move was nullified with Koivu committed a tripping penalty on Sergei Kostitsyn with 37.5 seconds remaining. The Predators then scored an empty-net goal with 10 seconds left.

NOTABLE: Nashville forward J.P. Dumont, who was in the lineup because Martin Erat was still sidelined with an upper-body injury from Game 4, assisted on Steve Sullivan’s second-period goal, becoming the 18thdifferent Nashville player to get at least a point in series. Rinne even got on the score sheet, assisting on Spaling’s second goal to become the 19thplayer to earn a point in the series. Only defenseman Shane O’Brien failed to score at least a point for the Predators.

Ducks: Jason Blake's goal ties score, 1-1

April, 22, 2011
Western Conference quarterfinal

Game 5 (series tied, 2-2)

After the 2nd period:

Ducks 1, Nashville Predators 1

The good: The Ducks began pecking away at Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne in the second half of the period and finally got one by him on a power play with 6:21 left. Brandon McMillan, who set up the winning goal in Game 4, started things off by making a nice one-on-one move around Shane O’Brien and drawing a tripping penalty. The Ducks didn’t have much luck on the power play until Luca Sbisa sent a blast at Rinne from the point. Rinne made the stop but couldn’t control rebound and Ducks forward Jason Blake kept swatting away at it until it went through the legs of Rinne. Just as the puck was getting close to the goal line, Blake made one more stab through the legs of Rinne and pushed it by to tie the score, 1-1.

The bad: The Ducks spent a lot of energy killing back-to-back penalties early in the period. George Parros went to the box for high sticking and Nashville kept the puck in its offensive zone for the first 75 seconds. Patric Hornqvist missed a golden opportunity to give the Predators a 2-0 lead during the man advantage, missing the open side of the net on a perfect cross-pass from Sergei Kostitsyn. In between penalties, Corey Perry missed his own glorious scoring opportunity, but Rinne gloved his shot from the doorstep. With about 1:20 left in the period, he stopped a point-blank shot from Bobby Ryan, who took a pass from Perry from behind the net.

The in between: The Ducks had just eight shots on goal at the midway point of the period, compared to 16 for Nashville. But the Predators have just an 18-17 advantage heading into the third.

Ducks: Sharks rally to win, Visnovsky hurt

April, 2, 2011
San Jose Sharks 4, Ducks 2

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: The Ducks let a two-goal lead slip away Saturday night at HP Pavilion in San Jose, but can still clinch a playoff berth Sunday evening with a regulation win against the visiting Dallas Stars at Honda Center.

THE STAT: Lubomir Visnovsky scored his 17thgoal of the season in the first period to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead and set a franchise record for goals by a Ducks defenseman, but he later left with just over eight minutes left after absorbing a hard check by Douglas Murray of the Sharks. Visnovsky has emerged this season as a candidate for the Norris Trophy, which goes to the league's top defenseman.

TURNING POINT: Less than two minutes after Visnovsky headed to the locker room because of an unknown injury, the Sharks went on the power play when Jason Blake was whistled for holding Ryane Clowe. A minute later, Devin Setoguchi scored on a slap shot from 40 feet to give San Jose a 3-2 lead.

HOT: Corey Perry assisted on both goals by the Ducks, giving him 16 points in his eight-game point streak. He made a highlight-reel pass to Bobby Ryan for the first goal of the game, then helped set up Visnovsky for his power-play goal.

NOT: Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman came in leading the NHL with a plus-minus rating of plus-33, but he was minus-two against the Sharks, which will drop him behind Zdeno Chara of the Bruins (plus-32).

GOOD MOVE: Ryan was questionable before the game after taking a knee-to-knee hit from Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano in the Ducks’ victory Wednesday night, but he showed up to work Saturday night and scored his 34th goal of the season.

BAD MOVE: San Jose coach Todd McLellen matched Dan Boyle and Murray against the Teemu Selanne line early on and they were no match for their speed and creativity. Boyle and Murray did combine for three assists later in the game.

NOTABLE: The Ducks can not only clinch a playoff berth for themselves Sunday against the Stars, but for the Los Angeles Kings as well.

UP NEXT: Sunday vs. Dallas Stars at Honda Center, 5 p.m.

Ducks: Hat trick by Teemu Selanne is latest caper

March, 28, 2011

ANAHEIM—Teemu Selanne, the venerable 40-year-old right wing for the Ducks, was standing at his locker Monday night, still dripping sweat after recording the 22nd hat trick of his career in a 5-4 victory against the visiting Colorado Avalanche, when teammate Corey Perry wandered by and hollered, ‘One more year.’

The way Selanne is playing, that might not be enough.

In addition to the three goals, Selanne also notched two assists, becoming the first NHL player age 40 or over to record a hat trick and at least five points in the same game.

“A special athlete doing special things at a very remarkable age,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle.

The three-goal game was the 13thfor Selanne as a member of the Ducks and his first since Oct. 29, 2008. It was the 33rd hat trick in club history. As usual, Selanne handled the media's inquiries with a sense of humor.

“Our line did a lot of damage,” Selanne said. “We wanted to give the big line the night off.”

Perry, who came into the game with a league-leading 44 goals, is part of that big line, along with Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. Together, they combined for just one assist against the Avalanche.

“He’s ageless,” Ryan said. “It’s pretty incredible, he comes out every night and works hard and deserves everything he’s getting.”

Selanne came into the game with four goals and two assists in the previous two games. Two of the goals tied the score late in regulation and the Ducks went on to win in overtime, a big reason why they came into the game in seventh place in the Western Conference standings.

Selanne’s recent hot streak played a big part in Carlyle choosing him to take a second-period penalty shot after a Colorado player grabbed the puck while it laid in the crease.

Selanne was 1-for-5 for his career on penalty shots—his only successful attempt coming on his first try in 1993—but he buried the attempt in the top right corner to cut a 2-0 deficit in half.

He assisted on Jason Blake's goal about 3 minutes later that tied the score, then scored his second goal later in the second period to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead.

After the Avalanche tied the score early in the third period, Selanne assisted on Cam Fowler's power-play goal to give the Ducks the lead for good, 4-3.

“Sometimes, I just watch in awe in what he’s able to do,” said Fowler, who became the club’s all-time rookie assist leader on Selanne’ second goal. “He has been so consistent over his career and for him to be having the season that he’s having this year, and to be putting the big goals together like he is, goals that find ourselves right back in the game and the momentum kind of switches to our side.”

Selanne shied away from discussing his future career plans, as he regularly does. Perry isn't the only Anaheim player who would like to see Selanne back for at least another year.

“It’s not about his ability to play or his skill level or the skating, it’s just a matter of how long he wants to continue to play,” said linemate Saku Koivu, who had two assists. “When he’s on like he was tonight, usually the puck is finding him.”

And Selanne is finding the net.

Ducks: Pieces coming together?

March, 10, 2011

ANAHEIM–The Ducks squeezed in a short practice Thursday morning, spending their last bits of time shooting at the crossbar in a last-man-standing competition.

After second-line center Saku Koivu absorbed some barbs for being the only player (goalies included) who didn't strike metal, the team hustled off to LAX for a flight to Denver in preparation for Friday night’s game against the Avalanche.

The coaches and players appeared in good spirits after defeating the visiting New York Rangers, 5-2, the night before at Honda Center, keeping them within two points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Ducks are certainly in a better position than they were a year ago with 15 games remaining. They were riding a five-game losing streak coming out of the 2-week Olympic break that put them nine points back of the final playoff berth. Heading into the break, they were just three points out.

With a number of Ducks playing all the way through to the gold-medal game, the experience seemed to take a lot out of the players, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.

"Our Olympians were participating in a highly emotional and media frenzy environment," he said. "When you come back to your normal job, it was hard for us to develop that energy again."

That’s not to say the Ducks aren’t facing some distinct challenges during this stretch run.

Namely, All-Star goalie Jonas Hiller remains out indefinitely with vertigo-like symptoms that have affected his timing. Hiller has missed the last 10 games and has not reported any progress.

The good news is Dan Ellis had another strong game in his place Wednesday night, stopping 30 shots in the victory against New York for his fourth win in the last five starts.

After Hiller went on injured reserve and back-up goalie Curtis McElhinney gave up 23 goals over five games, the Ducks sent McElhinney to Tampa Bay for Ellis on Feb. 24. He lost his first start against Minnesota in overtime, but Carlyle said Ellis has since provided "a shot in the arm."

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Kings/Ducks: Where do we go from here?

January, 31, 2011

Getty Images
Anze Kopitar and Corey Perry try to lead their teams into the postseason.

The end of the All-Star break is the beginning of the stretch run for most NHL teams. The Kings and Ducks have never advanced to the playoffs in the same year, but now both are in the thick of the race with about one-third of the season remaining. Here’s a look at how these teams compare in four key areas that likely will determine their postseason fates.

The situation:
The Kings (27-22-1, 55 points) are in 11th place in the Western Conference, the caboose on a five-team train that’s separated by just a point. They made up ground by winning their last three games before the break, but it will be interesting to see how four days off the ice affects their momentum. The Kings can’t afford another tailspin like the one that occurred in November, when they lost seven of eight, or following Christmas, when they dropped 10 of 12. After 50 games last season, when the Kings went on to finish sixth in the Western Conference and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, they owned a 28-19-3 record, four points better than their current standing.

The Ducks (28-20-4, 60 points) have scored three fewer goals than the Kings this season and allowed 22 more but still are six spots ahead in the Western Conference standings. The past two seasons, when they finished eighth in 2008-09 and 10th in 2009-10, the Ducks had 55 points after 52 games. Unlike the Kings, they’ve surged since the Christmas break, winning 10 of 13. What’s especially impressive about the current run is the Ducks have been without center Ryan Getzlaf, who was struck in the forehead with a puck Dec. 28 in Phoenix and sustained fractures to his nasal passages. Getzlaf led the team in assists the past three seasons and in points in two of the past three.

Advantage: Ducks.

The offense:
The Kings are about midpack in the NHL in goals-per-game average (2.8) and don’t have a player among the top 20 in goal scoring. They continue to receive their money’s worth from the second line of Ryan Smyth, Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll, however. Thanks to good health and chemistry, each is on pace to have his best season in a Kings uniform. The trio seems to be gaining momentum as well. Stoll scored six of his 14 goals in January, and Smyth had five of his team-high 19. Heading the other direction are center Anze Kopitar and right wing Dustin Brown, the team’s leading goal scorers two of the past three seasons. Kopitar had more goals in Sunday’s All-Star Game (two) than during January (one). Brown also has just one goal this month after scoring seven in December. At least they’ve experienced some hot streaks. That hasn’t been the case for third-year defenseman Drew Doughty, who has spiraled from second on the team with 59 points last season to seventh with 26 this season. Wayne Simmonds and Michal Handzus also have failed to keep pace with last season’s scoring totals.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Teemu Selanne already has surpassed his assists total from each of the past three seasons.

The Ducks are 21st in the league in scoring (2.6 goals per game) but have averaged three goals a game since a 4-1 loss Dec. 26 against the Kings. Again, most of that stretch did not include Getzlaf, one of the best playmakers in the NHL. Corey Perry has a team-high 25 goals and is on pace for a career season scoring the puck. Even more remarkable, Perry hasn’t gone more than three consecutive games without scoring a goal this season. Seven months past his 40th birthday, Teemu Selanne continues to age with grace, putting up Kopitar-like numbers of 15 goals and 30 assists. Selanne already has surpassed his assists total from each of the past three seasons. On the back end, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky is giving Anaheim what Doughty provided the Kings last season, big-time production from the blue line. Visnovksy has eight goals and a team-high 35 assists, his best season since he played for the Kings in 2005-06. Bobby Ryan has filled in nicely for Getzlaf as the top-line center and is on cue for a third consecutive 30-goal season. Veteran forwards Saku Koivu and Jason Blake also have shown little signs of aging this season and have provided the type of secondary scoring Los Angeles currently lacks.

Advantage: Ducks.

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