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Ducks Start on the Right Foot

        Webbed foot, that is. The Anaheim Ducks decided to break the pattern set by the past couple of seasons and are now sitting with a 4-1-0 record. While some were wary about what was to come after a disappointing 4-1 loss to Buffalo, seeing as it was a little reminiscent of the Ducks past few starts, they turned it around and are now on a four-game winning streak. Right now, they are enjoying a small, but well-deserved, breather as they wait to face Dallas at home on Friday.

        There are a few things to consider just five games into the season, the first of which being the defense.  Team defense has been very good so far, which is evident in the fact that the Ducks sit fourth overall in goals against, allowing 9 so far.  The defensive corps has been solid.  Francois Beauchemin, in particular, has been looking good alongside the ever-poised sophomore, Cam Fowler.  It was wonderful to see Toni Lydman get back in the lineup this past weekend and take up his position paired with Lubomir Visnovsky.

        The penalty kill has been in top form, and Anaheim is ranked eighth overall in the league up to this point with an 88%.   Anaheim's penalty kill unit has a new look to it, as well for a couple of reasons.  Todd Marchant was a great PK'er, but is now retired, and Coach Carlyle has been keeping his top six on the bench while shorthanded much more than he did last year. He now has a few formidable options in his bottom six to turn to for killing off penalties.  Maxime Macenauer is currently the best face off man the Ducks have, winning 58.1% of his draws, a key skill to have when on the PK.  Andrew Gordon, Devante Smith-Pelley, and Andrew Cogliano are three other newcomers who have done well on the PK unit, joining Brandon McMillan, one of the few returning penalty killing forwards who is still on the PK.  While we still sometimes see Saku Koivu out there taking a defensive zone draw, or Corey Perry killing off the last few seconds, Carlyle is definitely going with some new forwards the majority of the time, and they have impressed.

        Something else of note is the fact that the Ducks' big guns have not really been hitting the mark much lately.  However, while this seems like bad news, it is not the worst.  The top line has still looked dangerous, and everyone knows that once they get hot (and they will), RPG will once again be one of the best lines in the NHL.  We saw a spark of it in San Jose when they got on the board, including a beauty of a goal from Corey Perry, who nailed the top corner for the go ahead goal, not to mention Teemu Selanne's two goals.  Another positive to take is if you turn the focus AWAY from the lack of goals onto the fact that the Ducks have been winning in spite of minimal contribution from the top six, it is very encouraging when considering team depth.

        Finally, the Ducks' goaltending tandem.  Yes, we are now aware that Jonas Hiller is back and ready to go after a nasty bout of vertigo last season.  But what about backup Dan Ellis?  That question was answered on Monday in San Jose when the Ducks beat the Sharks 3-2 in a hard fought battle, thanks in no small part to Dan Ellis' 41 saves.  Goaltending depth is important, and is something the Ducks have.  The top two guys have shown that they are capable of giving the team a chance to win and the number three guy in the minors, Jeff Deslauriers, had an impressive camp and should be capable of filling in should Hiller or Ellis have to sit out at any point.

        The Ducks now look towards Friday night, when they will battle with division rival, the Dallas Stars, at home.  The Stars are currently leading the Pacific Division and are 5-1-0 so far, so this game promises to be a good one!  Should the Ducks come out on top, they will claim top spot in the division.

By Jenna Janadi

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