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Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Need to know: Adversity coming for Ducks

By Pierre LeBrun


The Anaheim Ducks have been able to do no wrong this season, a 19-3-3 record worthy of more national attention had it not been for Chicago’s historic start.

Now, though, we’ll find out more about these surprising and impressive Ducks.

Goalie Viktor Fasth, injured during a morning skate Tuesday, is out with an upper-body injury and it’s not clear for how long.

He has been a big part of Anaheim’s start.

The Ducks also will have to live without star winger Corey Perry for a bit as well.

The big news from Tuesday night’s 2-1 win in Minnesota was the ejection from the game of the former Hart Trophy winner after his five-minute major for interference on Wild winger Jason Zucker.

I love the way Perry plays: he combines all-world offensive talent with a nasty edge, plays the game hard and doesn’t take shortcuts.

But that hit on Zucker had some red flags when it comes to the NHL’s desire to curb head hits: the principal point of contact was the head, and to me the hit was late.

Perry has a phone hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Wednesday afternoon, which suggests he can’t get any more than five games as per CBA rules.

Perry explained his viewpoint on the hit with Ducks beat writer Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register in this postgame video.

The key point I thought Perry tried to make is that he didn’t change his trajectory looking for that hit and that’s certainly something Shanahan looks for.

But to me, anyway, it’s a hit that’s worth three or four games.

Perry’s only other NHL suspension was in January 2009, when Colin Campbell gave him four games for an elbow to the head of Flyers star Claude Giroux.

All of this comes at a time when there’s tremendous pressure on Perry off the ice to make a decision on his future. After the Ducks signed linemate Ryan Getzlaf to an eight-year, $66 million extension Friday, the spotlight fell solely and squarely on Perry now to see if he’ll sign over the next few weeks with the Ducks or decide he wants to go to market this summer. All of which will put Anaheim in a tough, tough position in terms of whether it trades him before April 3 or deals with his situation after the season.

A GM from another team suggested to me recently that perhaps the Ducks should keep Perry, even if he doesn’t sign before April 3 and then try to do a sign-and-trade in the offseason in order to recoup value from the asset.

The lure for Perry and his agents at Newport, the GM said, is that under terms of the new CBA, you can get eight years maximum on a deal with your own team but only seven years if you leave to sign elsewhere; hence the appeal of the sign-and-trade. The idea being that the Ducks would allow Newport to talk to any team it wants, in effect advancing its own free agency.

Food for thought.

For now, though, this is the first real bit of adversity this season for a Ducks team that probably will have to play the next week without both Perry and Fasth.

At least it appears Jonas Hiller has found his game. Anaheim’s No. 1 netminder from the past few years, who saw Fasth challenge him for the top job this season, was outstanding Tuesday night in stopping 30 shots in Minnesota. He’s now 6-0-1 in his past seven starts with a .931 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average.

So, the silver lining here appears to be that Hiller is ready to assume No. 1 duties again.