THE DUCK WATCH: Could there be a more disappointing NHL team this year than Anaheim, where the Ducks have just 10 wins in 36 games and appear to be getting worse, not better, since the coaching change from Randy Carlyle to Bruce Boudreau. Under Boudreau, the Ducks are 3-7-2; and goaltender Jonas Hiller looks as if he has zero confidence now. Anaheim is leaky defensively and everyone can share the blame for that - its inexperienced defence corps and forwards that in Thursday night’s loss to the Vancouver Canucks back-checked with all the urgency of a Sunday driver, out for a leisurely ride. The Big Three (Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry) is underperforming; there is limited support from the supporting cast and maybe the saddest thing of all is that they are wasting Teemu Selanne’s final NHL season; he is the one bright spot on a team that looks as if it is going nowhere in a hurry; and has little of hope of making a second-half surge to the playoffs.
COLUMBUS WATCH: And speaking of underperforming teams stuck at 10 wins, here are the Columbus Blue Jackets, coming off a victory over the Dallas Stars, but forced to play the next four-to-six weeks without James Wisnewski, who fractured an ankle in that victory and will be out until February. Wisnewski has been a good addition when he’s played - and that eight-game suspension he served off the top of the season, along with Steve Mason’s struggles in goal, put the Blue Jackets behind the eight-ball early. As of today, Anaheim has 16 points to make up to get a playoff and Columbus 17. It is safe to say that both will be open for business, when the trade market starts to heat up soon.
GETTING ALL JIGGY ABOUT IT: Colorado has made a surge of late and the Avs’ Saturday date with the Ducks is a big one, if only because it is J.S. Giguere’s first game back in Anaheim (a team he led to the Stanley Cup in 2007) since he was traded to Toronto back on Jan. 31, 2010, almost exactly 23 months ago. Giguere has been part of Colorado’s recent revival; his strong play seemed to pick up Semyon Varlamov the past week or so. You would think Giguere will get the call against the Ducks; on Friday morning, he was reminiscing on a conference call with reporters about his time in Anaheim, which represented the best days of his hockey-playing life. The Ducks essentially revived and maybe even saved his career when they acquired his rights from the Calgary Flames for a second-round pick in June of 2000. The Flames made Giguere available because they’d determined not to protect him in that year’s NHL expansion draft. According to Giguere, he’d lost something like 17 games in a row in the minors for Calgary and acknowledged: “My career wasn’t going anywhere.” But the Ducks had goaltending guru Francois Allaire on their staff; and Giguere met with Allaire that summer; and started the long process of rebuilding his game into the shot blocker that he became. He started the 2000-01 season playing for AHL Cincinnati, was promoted to the big club later that year; and hasn’t played in the minors since. “From there, I never looked back,” said Giguere.
AND FINALLY: Jason Blake, who was traded to the Ducks by Toronto in the Giguere deal, has missed most of the season with an injury - a nasty skate cut - but is skating again and could play within the week ... Returns are also on the horizon for a couple of defencemen who were big stars two years ago, Washington’s Mike Green and Buffalo’s Tyler Myers. Green has missed 21 games with a groin injury and may be a week away. Myers is recovering from wrist surgery and his estimated return is about two weeks out ... Colorado will be monitoring the health of its young star, Matt Duchene, who injured his right leg when his skate got caught in a rut Thursday night and limped off in noticeable discomfort. Some sort of update should be available later Friday.