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Winning at their own game

November 03, 2008|HELENE ELLIOTT

This was what the Ducks must be at their core if they're going to win another Stanley Cup championship.

They must have the character of defenseman Kent Huskins, who rose above his personal struggles and a nasty face-plant into the boards to play 16 gutsy shifts with a stitched-up goose-egg above his left eye.

They must have the leadership of Ryan Getzlaf, who had one point in his first six games but dominated the last half-dozen with four goals and 13 points, including a goal and an assist in their 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames at the Honda Center.

And they must realize that the run-and-gun style that thrilled fans and brought them a 5-4 overtime victory over Detroit on Wednesday and a 7-6 shootout loss to Vancouver on Friday can't become their signature.

"It's nice to score some goals and be offensive, but we still need to play a good game defensively," goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere said after stopping 34 shots and helping end the Flames' winning streak at six games.

"That's more our type of game. A 3-2 win -- this is our team. These are the types of games that we need to play consistently. It's what it's going to take for us to win until the end of the season."

It's also going to take some stability after their roster was shaken, stirred, sliced and diced too much the last year.

Several Canadian news outlets reported Sunday that the Ducks are interested in 37-year-old free agent Mats Sundin, whose salary -- even prorated -- would put them well above the salary cap and force them to move some bodies.

There's no sense disrupting a team that's riding a 6-0-1 surge, has developed a good fourth line -- defenseman Steve Montador moved up there Sunday to replace Brad May (sprained knee) and George Parros (swollen eye) -- and, despite some lapses in discipline, is capable of playing with the grit that was so vital to the 2007 team's Cup triumph.

The revolving door that admitted Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi only to usher both out after one season and sent Sean O'Donnell and Andy McDonald packing for salary cap reasons has to stop sometime. Now is that time.

General Manager Brian Burke wouldn't comment on the reports. Tempted though he might be to sign Sundin to center the second line if Brendan Morrison doesn't regain the step he lost to knee surgery, Burke would be better off bringing Bobby Ryan back into the mix and working with what he has instead of moving kids or draft choices.

The youth and the picks would be missed after Burke leaves, whether after this season or later, and there's no guarantee a rusty Sundin would be worth the cost.

On Sunday, the Ducks (7-5-1) were tested by the Flames (7-4-1) in a matchup of two fast, physical teams. The Ducks passed despite almost losing the 3-0 lead they had built early in the second period.

"From a defenseman's standpoint, I kind of prefer the lower-scoring games because that means the defensemen are doing their jobs," said Huskins, who counted himself lucky he wasn't more severely injured when he fell into the boards.

"Tonight was a little more controlled on both sides."

Coach Randy Carlyle's blood pressure was better controlled too, though it spiked a few times.

"The most important thing is the result," Carlyle said. "For us the most important thing is we found a way to gut it out and we won the hockey game."

The Ducks scored early in the first period. Getzlaf skated in on the right side and threw the puck in front of the net, where Corey Perry jabbed at it unsuccessfully. Getzlaf had better luck on the rebound, at 1:46.

Chris Pronger scored the Ducks' second goal at 1:23 of the second period, two seconds after the expiration of a penalty that had carried over from the first period. Teemu Selanne and Getzlaf were credited with assists after Pronger's 40-foot shot skipped over goalie Miikka Kiprusoff's right leg.

Forty-five seconds later, fourth-liners Ryan Carter and Brian Sutherby combined for a goal that appeared to go in off a Calgary player. It was credited to Carter, his first in the nine games he has played since Oct. 12.

The Flames didn't score until 10:28 of the second period. Jarome Iginla beat Morrison on a faceoff in the circle to Giguere's right and slipped the puck back to the blue line to defenseman Adrian Aucoin, whose shot bounded back into the slot. Curtis Glencross was able to swat it in from the left side.

Bertuzzi, bought out by the Ducks after a poor season, gained some revenge by getting behind the defense and slicing a backhander past Giguere during a power play, at 1:40 of the third period. That was his seventh goal, half as many as he scored in 68 games with the Ducks.

"It might be that he found a place where he's comfortable, and it's good for him," Giguere said.

The Ducks must find their comfort zone now, and it's not in 7-6 games. Or in a radically reconfigured roster.


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