Few teams can lose one Norris Trophy winner to injury and replace him with another. The Anaheim Ducks are fortunate to be in that exclusive group.
The Ducks look to continue their dominance over the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night when the Pacific Division rivals meet for the fifth time this season.
Although goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere refused to blame his team’s recent four-game losing streak on injuries, there is no doubt the Ducks (31-12-8) aren’t nearly as formidable without him and defensemen Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin.
Pronger returned to the lineup Sunday after missing nine games with a broken left foot and Giguere made 30 saves after missing more than a month with a strained groin, helping Anaheim end its skid with a 4-1 victory over visiting Dallas.
“We all know that injuries are part of this game, but it’s not an excuse whether we’re going to win or lose. It’s about 20 guys working hard,” Giguere said. “The fact that the three of us were injured had nothing to do with us losing some games. It had everything to do with guys not bearing down in our zone and not doing the little things we were doing at the beginning of the season.”
While Pronger, who won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman with St. Louis in 1999-00, returned to the lineup, Scott Niedermayer, the Norris Trophy winner in 2003-04 with New Jersey, missed his first game this season because of a stress fracture in his right foot.
Niedermayer, the league leader among defensemen with 44 points, is questionable for Wednesday.
“We don’t really have an exact timetable on how this thing might work out,” said Niedermayer, who sat out the All-Star game to give his foot time to heal. “I’m under the impression that it’s not going to be too long.”
Anaheim’s slump coincided with the injury to Giguere, who is 12-2-0 in his last 14 starts.
“It was frustrating being out, but you can’t put your emotion on how the team is going because that’s putting your energy in the wrong place,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do at that point except come back healthy and strong for yourself.”
The Ducks have won three of the first four meetings of the season with the Coyotes (23-25-2) and had taken eight straight in the series before a 2-0 road loss Dec. 23.
Anaheim has won eight in a row at home against Phoenix since a 2-0 defeat on Oct. 12, 2003. The Ducks have scored 23 goals in their last four home matchups with the Coyotes.
Phoenix failed in a bid for its third straight win Saturday, allowing five unanswered goals in a 7-2 loss to Pittsburgh. It was the fifth loss in eight games for the Coyotes since they won a season-best seven straight from Dec. 28-Jan. 9.
“When you tie the game up at 2-2 you feel you’re right in the game,” captain Shane Doan said. “Then they just beat us. They beat us all night.”
Mikael Tellqvist surrendered a career-worst seven goals, and has yielded 22 in his past five starts.
Doan has 10 goals and nine assists in his last 15 games overall, but has been limited to one point in his last four meetings with Anaheim.