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Ducks are all talked out after loss

March 09, 2009|Billy Witz

If the Ducks don't seem to have any answers on the ice, it's hard to expect them to find any when they leave it. And so, as they spent another night watching their season head toward extinction with a 3-2 loss Sunday to Minnesota, they weren't much for self-examination.

"We've talked about it until we're blue in the face," said center Todd Marchant. "We all know where we are and what situation we're in."

With 15 games remaining, the Ducks have to pass three teams to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Given that the Ducks have spent five months searching for the right mix of effort, execution and chemistry, they may be frustrated, but they are not in disbelief.

"I think we're past that," said captain Scott Niedermayer.

Coach Randy Carlyle spoke to the team earlier in the day about being first at everything: winning the first faceoff, making the first hit, drawing the first penalty, taking the first shot. And, apparently, allowing the first goal.

The Ducks managed to do that, goaltender Jonas Hiller leaving a rebound of a shot from the corner in front of the net. An unmarked Stephane Veilleux happily knocked it into the goal 1:08 into the game. It was the third consecutive game the Ducks fell behind before two minutes had elapsed.

"It's something we talked about, talked about, talked about," Marchant said.

The question, then, is whether the talk is doing any good.

"I don't know if our messages are getting through," Carlyle said. "We've practiced them and practiced them. When you ask the question if there's any confusion, at some point people have to look themselves in the mirror. It's easy to point fingers."

The Ducks hardly resemble the team they were in Carlyle's first three seasons. Those Ducks won 28, 26 and 26 games at home. This team is 15-15-3 at the Honda Center, worst in the Western Conference.

"There's no explanation," said Teemu Selanne, who along with linemates Andrew Ebbett and Bobby Ryan created several good chances but no goals. "The last three, four years, this has been our barn."

The Ducks also haven't been able to gather momentum late in the season. They finished with a franchise-record 110 points on the way to winning the Stanley Cup two years ago, then had the NHL's best record last season after Feb. 1.

Sunday's loss left them stuck on 68 points, 11th in the conference after Minnesota passed them.

In an attempt to generate a spark, Carlyle turned to Hiller, who had started once in the previous five weeks. Hiller made two outstanding glove saves, but was mostly betrayed by his defense. Defenseman James Wisniewski's pass up center ice turned into a breakaway the other way for Veilleux, whose slap shot beat Hiller and put the Wild ahead, 2-1, with 3:22 left in the second period.

Then, with 8:11 left in the third, Andrew Brunette strolled unaccompanied into the slot and put James Sheppard's pass into the net for a 3-1 lead before Niedermayer's goal with 21.6 seconds left added a cosmetic finish.

The Ducks have managed 38 shots in each of the last two games, yet have only four goals. One was Marchant's wraparound into an unoccupied net that tied the score in the second. But rather than turn the tide, it only seemed to delay the inevitable.

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billywitz@yahoo.com

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