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Ducks Gameday—Optimism, thy name is Schneidermayer

Columbus Blue Jackets (7-3-1, t-3rd in west) at Anaheim Ducks (4-7-2, t-11th in west)

For those of you Duck fans who are not taking the time to read Ducks Wire, I’d highly encourage it. It’s a great way to keep tabs on the latest Duck headlines, sort of a Kukla’s Korner for Anaheim and Portland news (better than waiting for me to become a credible news source). Anyway, if we believe the latest reports from practice, the Ducks are likely to have Rob Niedermayer, Ryan Getzlaf, and finally Mathieu Schneider in the lineup tonight. If so, this really figures to be the most complete lineup the Ducks have dressed all season—really the only missing piece (under non-suspended contract) is the concussion-stricken Bertuzzi.

(By the way, I'm not really sure what I meant to do with that picture on the right. Something about Niedermayer being Schneider's internal voice, a la Obi Wan Kenobi with young Luke, but it's not the most self-evident graphic I've ever made.)

I know my Ducks writing of late has been pretty pessimistic in nature, so I thought today I'd talk about one positive about the Ducks' crummy start to the season: at least it didn't happen last year. To illustrate, here's the 5 Pacific teams and their start thus far, along with how they started last season in the same number of games:

1. San Jose Sharks 12 GP, 6-5-1 (.542), 13 pts. 29 GF, 28 GA. PP 17.5%, PK 88.1%
Start of Last Year 12 GP 8-4-0 (.667), 16 pts. 40 GF, 28 GA. PP 28.0%, PK 85.9%
Key Metrics: Pts down 19%, GF down 28%, GA even, PP down 11%, PK up 2%

2. Dallas Stars 12 GP, 5-5-2 (.500), 12 pts. 33 GF, 33 GA. PP 19.2%, PK 87.0%
Start of Last Year 12 GP, 10-2-0 (.833), 20 pts. 38 GF, 22 GA. PP 15.7%, PK 89.5%
Key Metrics: Pts down 40%, GF up 15%, GA up 50%, PP down 4%, PK up 3%

3. Los Angeles Kings 13 GP, 6-7-0 (.462), 12 pts. 39 GF, 42 GA. PP 21.4%, PK 81.7%
Start of Last Year: 13 GP, 3-8-2 (.308), 8 pts. 25 GF, 36 GA. PP 10.1%, PK 85.3%
Key Metrics: Pts up 50%, GF up 56%, GA up 17%, PP up 11%, PK down 4%

4. Anaheim Ducks 13 GP, 4-7-2 (.385), 10 pts. 27 GF, 33 GA. PP 10.5%, PK 80.9%
Start of Last Year: 13 GP, 9-0-4 (.846), 22 pts. 42 GF, 28 GA. PP 20.6%, PK 87.5%
Key Metrics: Pts down 55%, GF down 36%, GA up 18%, PP down 10%, PK down 7%

5. Phoenix Coyotes, 10 GP, 4-6-0 (.400), 8 pts. 22 GF, 29 GA. PP 8.7%, PK 81.4%
Start of Last Year: 10 GP, 2-8-0 (.200), 4 pts. 19 GF, 44 GA. PP 9.2%, PK 76.5%
Key Metrics: Pts up 100%, GF up 16%, GA down 34%, PP down 1%, PK up 5%

Last year by this time in the season, there were already 18 points separating the top seed in the Pacific from the bottom seed; this year the spread is down to 5 points. And while the Ducks have the worst winning percentage of the bunch, it's better to be trailing the Sharks by 3 points and the Stars by 2 than if those teams had started with last year's start; then the deficit would be 6 points to the Sharks and 10 points to the Stars, and my panic would be much more severe.

At any rate, the Blue Jackets come in after beating out the Kings last night in what seems to be a typical Columbus effort: limiting goals against. In case you're not up to speed with the western standings, you may be surprised to note that Columbus leads the league in goals-allowed-per-game (1.82) and in penalty killing (93.0%). You may also be surprised to note that the Calgary Flames lead the west in goals-scored-per-game (3.50). It wasn't that long ago (2002-03) when the Flames were 14th in the west in team offense and the Blue Jackets were 15th in the west in team defense; talk about changing identity.

Prediction: The Ducks and Blue Jackets met up in Columbus early last month (part of the Ducks' whirlwind post-London fatigue tour) and the game was an Anaheim disaster. Fatigued and jet-lagged, the Ducks took 16 minutes to get a shot on goal, ended up being shorthanded for more than 20 minutes of gameclock, and surrendered 3 PP goals en route to a 4-0 loss. I'm optimistic that those trends won't be repeated. Let's say Ducks 4, Blue Jackets 2. Goals by Moen, Miller, Pahlsson, and the man I call Schneidermayer.

Go Ducks.