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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

(Sports Network) - It's pretty simple how the 2006-07 Ducks were built. From the blueline out.

After signing Scott Niedermayer away from the Devils last summer, the Ducks added a second anchor with the acquisition of former Hart and Norris Trophy winner Chris Pronger. The club pulled the trigger on the deal shortly after Pronger's superman effort in the postseason for the upstart Oilers.

Now, instead of being a mid-level seed and surprising the world by a advancing to the West finals, it wouldn't be a far stretch to classify the Ducks as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

That's the power of having two former Norris winners in your bag of defensive tricks.

Pronger's addition did cost the club young goal producer Joffrey Lupul, defenseman Ladislav Smid and a few high draft picks. Plus, his salary didn't leave much room for other moves, keeping other additions to a minimum.

But the Ducks, now under second-year coach Randy Carlyle, bring back an offensive spearhead in Teemu Selanne, plus a boat full of young talent that will only get better. Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner are all in their early 20s, while clutch center Andy McDonald is just reaching his prime. Plus, former first-rounder Stanislav Chistov is back in the mix after spending a season overseas in Russia.

This club has a nice overall mix of vets and youngsters, and it's unlikely the Ducks will catch anyone by surprise this time around.

FORWARDS - Selanne's time as a premier offensive weapon was believed to be over, but the Finn roared back with 40 goals and 50 assists in 80 games last season. It was his most productive effort since his first stint with the Ducks when he was Paul Kariya's running mate.

McDonald, meanwhile, is the type of diminutive center who can flourish in the "new NHL." The 186-pounder broke out with 34 goals -- including a team-high seven game-winners -- and 51 assists. Not bad for a guy who hadn't managed more than 10 goals or 30 points in his previous three seasons. Was last season an aberration or a product of his skills fitting the higher-paced game?

One issue for the Ducks is that Selanne and McDonald are the only returning players who netted more than 20 goals in 2005-06, as Lupul's 28 left with him to Edmonton. Chris Kunitz, who played on the top line after coming over from Atlanta early in the season, netted 19 goals in his first full NHL effort.

So, who will help pick up the slack? Perry, Getzlaf and Penner were all rookies and all produced at one point or another last season. All three will be expected to take things up a notch. Especially keep an eye on Penner, who chipped in big time during the playoffs after being up-and-down from the AHL all season.

An x-factor is Chistov, who is running out of time to show he is a big-time point producer. Last season he tallied 11 goals and 21 assists in 47 games for Magnitogorsk in Russia.

The Ducks will also rely on character veterans like Rob Niedermayer and Todd Marchant for the odd goal and dirty work.

DEFENSE - Name me a better one-two defensive punch than Niedermayer and Pronger. With Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden now apart, you can't come close. Either player can shadow an opponent's top line and either can quarterback your power play. Both can log 30 minutes if need be, going out there in all situations.

After these two, it's about having depth and players who aren't going to make mistakes. Chances are Carlyle won't play the duo together all that much, so the chore is to give them each a viable partner and send out a responsible third pair.

Sean O'Donnell is a dependable veteran, while Vitaly Vishnevski has built a reputation as one of the league's fiercest checkers. Francois Beachemin, meanwhile, tallied eight goals and 26 assists in 61 games after being acquired from Columbus in the Sergei Fedorov deal.

GOALTENDING - Despite a strong regular season showing from Jean-Sebastien Giguere, an even stronger playoff run by Ilya Bryzgalov earned him a new contract and the inside track on this year's starting gig.

Bryzgalov is only three years younger than Giguere, but with the latter player in the final year of a hefty deal look for the Ducks to deal him. Having two capable netminders is a luxury many clubs would love to have, but sometimes it can create a negative situation. If Giguere isn't dealt early and Bryzgalov plays well, look for "Jiggy" to eventually be moved at the deadline.

http://146.145.120.3/default.asp?c=hockeynews&page=nhl/news/ADN4041568.htm
 
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