Playing without All-Star goaltender Jonas Hiller is starting to
take its toll on the Anaheim Ducks.
Coming off another disappointing defensive effort, the suddenly
struggling Ducks look to avoid losing three straight games for the
first time in nearly three months Saturday night when they visit
the St. Louis Blues.
Hiller had appeared in two games for Anaheim (32-23-4) after
being hit in the mask twice in the All-Star game, but was finally
placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a recurrence of fatigue
Backup Curtis McElhinney posted a 2.28 goals-against average and
one shutout in winning his first three starts as Hiller’s
replacement, but has surrendered 12 goals in losing the last two.
The Ducks, who were an NHL-best 14-4-0 in their previous 14 games,
haven’t lost three in a row since dropping a season-worst six
straight from Nov. 14-26.
McElhinney called his performance “disheartening” in Wednesday’s
7-6 loss to Washington, and said that word was again appropriate
after he made 21 saves in Friday’s 5-1 loss to Minnesota.
“There need to be some saves made at critical points in the
game, and they aren’t happening right now,” McElhinney said. “I
need to find a way to get it done.”
The Ducks remain in a three-way tie for third place in the
Pacific Division, three points behind first-place Phoenix. Coach
Randy Carlyle was noncommittal about who will start between the
pipes Saturday, saying “You’ll have to be at warmup.”
Timo Pielmeier, who has been recalled from the ECHL to serve as
McElhinney’s backup, has yet to play in an NHL game. Veteran Ray
Emery, who signed a one-year deal with Anaheim last week, is on a
conditioning stint with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in Syracuse.
McElhinney has recorded a 4.06 GAA in losing all three career
starts against the Blues, all in St. Louis.
The Ducks beat the Blues 7-4 at home on Jan. 12, thanks to Bobby
Ryan’s hat trick, but suffered a 5-1 loss in St. Louis on Oct.
Like Anaheim, the Blues (26-21-9) also recently placed their
starting goalie on IR, but they’ve responded much better.
Ty Conklin stopped 25 shots in Friday’s 3-0 win over Buffalo in
his first start since Jaroslav Halak went on IR with a right hand
ailment. T.J. Oshie led the offense with a goal and assist for St.
Louis, which won its second straight and improved to 4-1-2 in its
last seven games after going 2-8-2 in its previous 12.
Friday’s victory was an encouraging one for a Blues team that
traded captain Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay hours before the game.
“To be honest, we had a lot of distractions today. Seeing Brew
go right before the game, our captain,” Conklin said. “He’s a hell
of a good teammate, so it’s pretty impressive how the team
The wheeling and dealing continued Saturday when the Blues sent
former 2006 No. 1 overall pick and defenseman Erik Johnson, Jay
McClement and a first-round pick in either 2011 or 2012 to the
Colorado Avalanche for forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Kevin
”We’re very excited to acquire a young emerging power forward
in Chris Stewart and a top young NHL defenseman in Kevin
Shattenkirk,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said on the
team’s website. ”These are two solid young players which will help
us now and continue to grow and improve our team.”
Although Conklin played well against the Sabres, he struggled
mightily in Anaheim last month, yielding all seven goals. He had
posted a 1.25 GAA and a shutout in winning his first four starts
against the Ducks.
While Ryan got the best of Conklin in January, Corey Perry could
be poised for a big game this time.
Perry, who is tied for fourth in the NHL with 30 goals, has five
goals and 10 assists during a seven-game points streak. He had a
goal and an assist against the Blues last month.