There's no Duck-ing Anaheim

Last winter, most Saturday nights meant one thing along the southern coast of Maine: Hockey Night in Portland. We'd take part, too, driving up from the Granite State to watch the Pirates, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks.

One of our favorite players was Shane O'Brien, a rock'em, sock'em defenseman who brings a little pop to his play. Part of his appeal to Pirates' fans was his enjoyment of the game. This season, O'Brien, who started his professional career with the mothballed Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, is in the NHL.

Last night, against Vancouver, his first-period goal (actually, a pass that went in off a player's skate) provided all the offense the Ducks needed in a 6-0 victory. What made O'Brien's goal so special? It meant the Ducks set an NHL record by going 16 games (12-0-1-3) without a loss in regulation, surpassing the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers (12-0-3).

While I'm at it:

~ Nice to see Carolina's Cam Ward rebound with a 5-0 whitewash of Washington last night. On Tuesday, facing his idol Martin Brodeur, Ward look the loss Tuesday in New Jersey's hard-fought 3-2 shootout victory over the Hurricanes.

~ Columbus' Rick Nash scored his first goal in a month (and only his fourth of the year) in the Blue Jackets' 4-2 win over St. Louis. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Nash suppose to become one of the league's top scorers? For comparison purposes, Toronto's Alexei Ponikarovsky scored his seventh of the year last night in the Leafs' 6-4 win over Boston.

~ How bad is it in the City of Bothersome Flubs? The Flyers have scored just twice in their past 74 shots on goal. Also, in their 3-1 loss to the Islanders last night, dawdling Philly players missed a power-play faceoff deep in the New York zone. How in the world does that happen?

~ Hopefully, future Hall of Famer defenseman Al MacInnis will help the St. Louis Blues, one of the worst teams in the NHL, in their rebuilding efforts. For too long now, that team has been an underachiever, living up to its downcast nickname.

Top 5: Anaheim Ducks, 28 points; Atlanta Thrashers, 27 points (12-3-1-2); Buffalo Sabres, 25 points (12-1-0-1); Dallas Stars, 24 points (12-4-0-0); and the San Jose Sharks, 24 points (12-5-0-0).

Bottom 5: Philadelphia Flyers, 7 points (3-11-0-1); Phoenix Coyotes, 8 points (4-11-0-0); Chicago Blackhawks, 9 points (4-9-0-1); Boston Bruins, 10 points (4-7-0-2); and the St. Louis Blues, 11 points (4-7-2-1).


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