Los Angeles Hockey: Kyle Chipchura

Kings: Feeling the heat in Phoenix

February, 21, 2012
Kings (27-21-11, 65 points) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (29-21-9, 67 points) at Jobing.com Arena, 6 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Shuffling the deck – After the Kings were shut out, 1-0, for the second straight game Saturday night, coach Darryl Sutter called out his top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams, citing their lack of contributions. He questioned whether he could break the trio up, however, seeing as there weren’t much better options. Well, he came up with a few during practice Monday, dropping Brown back to right wing on the second line with Mike Richards and rookie Dwight King, and moving another rookie, Jordan Nolan, to left wing on the top line.

2. Uncharted territory – In their 44-year franchise history, the Kings have never experienced three consecutive shutout losses. They've been shut out three straight times, way back in the 1968-69 season, but two of those were 0-0 ties. The Coyotes were the team that blanked the Kings on Thursday at Staples Center, and Mike Smith will likely be back in goal for Phoenix. Smith has been red-hot, allowing one goal or less in his last six starts. Interestingly, Smith was in goal during the middle game of three straight shutouts by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick back in October, which was also a first for the franchise.

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Ducks: Pieces in place for Game 2

April, 15, 2011
Western Conference quarterfinals

Game 2

Ducks (0-1) vs. Nashville Predators (1-0) at Honda Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Emery is the manRay Emery got the nod to start in goal following the morning skate.'He missed the final two regular season games and did not start the playoff opener due to a lower-body injury. He replaced Dan Ellis early in the third period Wednesday night after Ellis allowed four goals on 24 shots in the 4-1 loss. The last time Emery replaced Ellis and went on to start the next game, he won six in a row. The Ducks could sure use another streak like that.

2. Rush hour – Leading up to Game 1, the Ducks talked a lot about getting traffic in front of the net to screen Pekka Rinne's view as pucks sailed toward him at 120 mph. Turns out, the only goalie they screened was Ellis. Rinne, second in the league during the regular season in save percentage and third in goals-against average, said after the game he had no problem seeing the pucks. Ellis, on the other hand, said three of the goals by Nashville were the result of screens or deflections.

3. Depth decisions – Ducks coach Randy Carlyle might think twice when he pencils in his lineup tonight. He stayed with left wing Matt Beleskey for the opener but Beleskey was whistled for two penalties in the opening eight minutes. The first led to a power play goal by Nashville and a 1-0 lead, which turned out to be the winner. Carlyle could try scrapper Kyle Chipchura, or a more-skilled option in Nick Bonino, who played 26 games for the Ducks this season before he was assigned to the AHL and recalled for the playoffs.

4. Ground Hog’s DayCorey Perry may want to request that the Ducks not host Nashville on a Wednesday night next season. The team’s leading scorer produced similar numbers to a Wednesday night in early January, when Anaheim lost to the visiting Predators by the same 4-1 score. Perry, who led the league with 50 goals this season, finished with no points in Game 1 for just the second time in the last 13 games, four shots on goal and a minus-three rating. In the loss in January, he finished with no points, five shots on goal and a minus-three rating.

5. More injury news– Along with Emery, it appears defenseman Francois Beauchemin is good to go after missing Thursday’s practice with a lower-body ailment that has been nagging him a while, Carlyle said. Beauchemin played his usual minutes in Game 1 but, like most of his teammates, didn’t have an impact. Though he hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations he set as a member of the Ducks during their Stanley Cup championship run in 2006-07, his experience in playoff games is a big plus. It was pretty obvious during Wednesday’s game that Anaheim rookie defenseman Cam Fowler was struggling with puck management, which could be the result of the postseason nerves.

Ducks trying to establish uniformity in their play

November, 24, 2010
The Ducks will don their third different jersey in franchise history Friday afternoon against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks. Seems like a good time for a change, considering they’ve played like two different teams through the first quarter of the season.

Are the Ducks the same group that won six consecutive games earlier this month? Or the team that’s currently riding a five-game losing streak?

The disparities aren’t difficult to identify.

"There’s another level that we’ve been playing to," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said of the team’s recent slide. "It’s very simple, we just have to play harder."

Carlyle pointed out some flaws that have arisen during the current losing streak, such as players allowing themselves to get boxed out rather easily in front of the opponent’s net, or not fighting hard enough for the puck during one-on-one battles. Carlyle said he planned to show video to his players after practice Wednesday to point out their deficiencies.

"Our urgency needs to go up," he said. "Those are areas that are going to be improved upon."

The players recognize that they’ve lost some of their win-at-all-cost attitude.

"We need that swagger back," said forward Corey Perry, the team’s leading scorer with 23 points. "One good period, one good game, one good shift, it can all turn the momentum...we just need that spark."

After losing four of their first five games and then trading wins and losses the remainder of October, the Ducks got the push they needed in a 3-2 overtime victory against visiting Tampa Bay on Nov. 3. That set off a string of six straight victories, one shy of a franchise record.

"We played some good hockey to get us back in a good situation," said Ryan Getzlaf, third on the team with 21 points but goal-less in the last five games.

The Ducks (10-10-3) went on the road following a 4-2 victory against Dallas on Nov. 13, then saw their winning streak halted two days later against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, who scored the winning goal with 28 seconds remaining in overtime.

They’ve since lost at Dallas and Minnesota, and at home against Columbus and Edmonton, despite out-shooting the visitors, 90-54.

"We’ve been putting up a lot of shots but we’re not scoring any goals," Perry said. "We’ve got to find a way to score goals."

Three years after winning the Stanley Cup, the Ducks seem caught between rebuilding and contending. They have a core group of young players to build around. Getzlaf and Perry, the team’s leading scorers the last three seasons, are each just 25 years old, and Bobby Ryan, third among forwards in scoring the last two seasons, is 23.

Cam Fowlermade the team this season as an 18-year-old defenseman and is already drawing comparisons to a young Scott Niedermayer, who anchored the Ducks’ blue line for 4 seasons before retiring this summer.

However, the Ducks also have seven players age 34 or older. Teemu Selanne re-signed a one-year deal this summer, shortly after turning 40. He hasn't played a full season since 2006-07 and is currently sidelined with a groin injury.

Trying to rebuild while retaining veterans for another playoff run can be a difficult tightrope to walk.

"With Scottie [Niedermayer] gone, it was a big turnover for our back end," Getzlaf said. "Filling those shoes, you’re not going to do it with one guy, so we’re in between a little bit, but we’re still pushing, we’re still contending."

The good news is more help is on the way.

Joffrey Lupul, who scored 53 points as a member of the Ducks in 2005-06, is close to returning from back surgery that sidelined him since last December. Lupul was traded away for defenseman Chris Pronger in July 2006, then traded back to the Ducks in June 2009 for Pronger, defenseman Luca Sbisa and two first-round draft picks.

"I’m just going to keep taking it day by day, but had no real setbacks," he said. "I feel good, I feel strong, I’m definitely confident that I can jump back in whenever we decide that date is."

Kyle Chipchura, a former first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, is expected to return to his fourth-line centering duties Friday. Chipchura has been sidelined since Oct. 30 with concussion symptoms.

A slight break in the schedule might also do Anaheim some good. For the first time this season, the Ducks are getting four days off between games. Carlyle didn’t have the team practice on Monday and Tuesday "just to kind of get away from this rink a little bit and kind of refreshen everybody."

Now, it’s just a matter of which team will show up against the Blackhawks.