Ducks aren't picking up where they left off
It's early in the season, but it's not too early for Mike Babcock to be concerned about his team's indentity.
On paper, it all looked so good.
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim have been building a solid team for a couple of years and rode that progress to the Stanley Cup finals last year. Not to be complacent, the team swapped out a key few parts over the summer, adding center Sergei Fedorov and winger Vaclav Prospal. They also signed goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to a four-year, $19.5 million contract to make sure that part of their team was taken care of.
After two games it's become clear, what's on paper hasn't worked. The Ducks lost their season opener Wednesday to Dallas, 4-1, and then traveled to Nashville Thursday and lost 3-1. And through it all, the team looked like one that might have a few issues in October.
"We're supposed to know what we're doing," coach Mike Babcock said after the loss to Dallas. "But when you look at our team, you don't come out saying, 'Geez that's a quick team,' 'Geez that's a skill team,' or 'Geez that's a hard working team'. All you can say is, 'What's the identity there?'''
One of the biggest concerns right now is that Fedorov doesn't look very comfortable. He struggled during the preseason. He has found little chemistry with Petr Sykora or Prospal, and he hasn't been showing signs of on-ice leadership.
"The depth is not there as in past years. If we have injuries, I think we'll be in trouble. If we stay away from injuries, we have guys who can do the job."
-- Sharks center Vincent Damphousse
|Dallas Stars winger/center Stu Barnes, who had two goals in his first game of the season. The former Sabres captain has earned the respect of everyone in Dallas and should see plenty of ice time this season on the top two lines.|
|Calgary goalie Roman Turek posted a 0.43 GAA and a .980 save percentage in 140 minutes of preseason play, then allowed four goals in the season opener at Vancouver. Is it any wonder this guy drives Flames fans crazy?|
THIS WEEK'S SIGN ...|
|It's going to be a long season in L.A. ... Captain Mattias Norstrom, who has missed just seven games in the last five years, suffered some sort of upper body injury that caused numbness in his arm Thursday against Detroit and will be out at least two games. In case you didn't know, Los Angeles is still missing Jason Allison (concussion), Adam Deadmarsh (concussion) and Aaron Miller (wrist).|
But something has to change. Giguere has an .818 save percentage and the Ducks need to have him up and running. Fedorov is a minus-2, and the Ducks have to rely on him to be the lead horse in Babcock's hustling defensive system.
"It's not like we have 20 games to go through this stuff,'' Babcock said. "There is urgency."
The talk all throughout the Blackhawks is just what can rookie Tuomo Ruutu can bring to every game? While he has made his name as a scorer, he's a lot more than just that, coach Brian Sutter said.
"What you like about him is that he can change any game when he's out there," Sutter said. "It doesn't have to be a goal or an assist, he just has a presence on the ice."
Ruutu, a Finn, said he likes the North American game so far.
"It's a lot closer and more physical, and that's fine with me,'' he said. "In battles for the puck or in front of the net, that's where I like to go anyway."
Nashville Predators forward Jordin Tootoo became the first Inuit to play in an NHL game Thursday. And while he was a long way from home, he had plenty of supporters to share the moment. A large contingent of fans from Tootoo's home town of Rankin Inlet, just south of the Arctic Circle in Nunavut, Canada, traveled 40 hours to watch him play in Nashville.
Predators fans are quickly catching on to why Tootoo draws such support.
"He's a wolverine on the ice ... I mean a real one, one that will bite you, one that will hit you,'' Nashville coach Barry Trotz told reporters. "He's able to finish his check cleanly, but he drives through you. I mean he drives two feet past your spine.''
• Vancouver winger Todd Bertuzzi had a self-imposed deadline of opening night to get a contract extension done, but he has now extended that deadline. That's great news for Canucks fans. Bertuzzi can become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. However, at age 29 and with a new CBA coming, that restricted could turn to unrestricted by next September. It would be best for Vancouver to get him signed now.
• Stars forward Bill Guerin blasted around two Anaheim defenders in the season opener and then roofed a shot for his first goal of the season. The move showed, as Guerin has contended, that he is fully recovered from last season's thigh injury.
• What do you think the fans in Philly are thinking after the performance of Kings goalie Roman Cechmanek on Thursday in the season opener? Cechmanek was spectacular all the way until he let in the game-winning goal from Steve Yzerman with 1.7 second remaining in regulation. Sure seems like the old Cechmanek.
• Colorado tough guy Peter Worrell is sidelined by a knee injury. He's on the day-to-day list, but not expected to play this weekend. The Avalanche might not miss Worrell now that Jim Cummins has made the final roster.
• It'll be interesting to watch the Wild this season. After another season of sellouts, the players have returned to see that their two leading scorers Marian Gaborik and Pascal Dupuis can't be signed. In addition, the Wild placed popular veteran Jason Marshall on waivers and could lose him this week. You wonder how long the players will keep buying in at this pace.Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
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