NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With Saku Koivu expected to miss the game Saturday against the Predators with a lower-body injury, Bobby Ryan is going to move to center for Anaheim from his customary left wing for the first time this season.
Ryan, who will center a line with Teemu Selanne on his right and Andrew Cogliano on his left, played a few games at center last season when Ryan Getzlaf was injured, but the Ducks decided in the end that he was better off at wing.
“I like the fact that I get to move my feet through the neutral zone a little bit,” Ryan said. “I’ll be counted on the break-out side of things a little more. Other than that, I have to make sure whoever I’m playing against doesn’t beat me too bad on the draws.”
Because of the Ducks’ struggles – they entered Saturday 14th in the Western Conference – Ryan was the subject of intense trade rumors in recent weeks – put to rest by general manager Bob Murray following the firing of former coach Randy Carlyle. Ryan’s name surfaced in those rumors as a result of his relative lack of production.
The former 30-goal scorer has 10 goals and six assists in 28 games, but since Bruce Boudreau has taken over as coach Nov. 29, Ryan has three goals and two assists in five games. The move also represents a bit of tinkering by Boudreau, as he continues to get to know his new team.
“You know, I hope he gets to handle the puck a lot,” Boudreau said. “That’s what he’s so good at. The other advice is take shorter shifts because when you’re at center, you’re skating an awful lot more. You don’t realize it when you don’t play that position.
“It’s like a defenseman. You put him up to forward for a few shifts. He comes back and can’t wait to play defense because he’s exhausted. But center, again, you’ve got to go not only side to side, but you’re down low, you’re up top, you’re doing an awful lot of yeoman’s work, which is why it’s really difficult for a winger to step and be a center, but it’s an awful lot easier for a center to become a winger, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Ryan understands those challenges.
“I will (take shorter shifts), yeah, my workload is essentially going to be higher,” he said. “So I’m going to spend more time in the defensive zone and more time moving my feet, so I think it is something that will come with it.”
Ryan said he likes the idea of handling the puck more.
“It gets you more involved in the game,” he said.
With Ryan on a different line, Kyle Palmieri, in his first game of the season, will get an opportunity to skate with Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Ryan’s usual spot on the line which was League’s best last season.
Palmieri, a first-round pick in 2009, has played in 10 career games with one goal and no assists. He led the AHL in goals with 17 when he was recalled on Friday. He played in one playoff game last season against Nashville and failed to record a point.
Boudreau, the one-time high-scoring minor-leaguer, offered his advice to Palmieri and his reasoning on the move. At times, players called up from the minors might be a scorer, but they are thrust into a fourth-line role. Boudreau said that by playing Palmieri with Getzlaf and Perry, the Ducks are putting the rookie in a position to succeed. The coach admitted that when a player doesn’t get much ice time, “it’s difficult to throw them in from the bench.”
“I said (to Palmieri), I got called up 18 times, and the one thing if you want to stay, you have to do something other than ordinary,” Boudreau said. “If you just do ordinary things, when the injured player comes back, you’re always the one who gets sent down. So you’ve got to do something to show for yourself …
“Score a goal. Open peoples’ eyes. That’s how you stay in the NHL. Or, you’ve seen it a hundred times, guys come up, they do an OK job and then they get sent down. But you’ve got to do something extraordinary to open those guys’ eyes.”
Dan Ellis, the former Predator, was expected to start in goal … Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who has missed the last 12 games with a broken finger, could return in a week to 10 days and could return to practice next week.
Predators right wing Jordin Tootoo was expected to return to the lineup after sitting out two games with a suspension. Defenseman Jon Blum was a healthy scratch for the first time on Thursday in a 4-3 win against Columbus. Predators coach Barry Trotz did not indicate whether Blum would return to the lineup …
Nashville center Blake Geoffrion, who has missed the last five games with an upper-body injury, participated in the morning skate for the first time since getting hurt Nov. 28. Trotz said he thought Geoffrion might return to the lineup early next week.
Kyle Palmieri - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Bobby Ryan - Teemu Selanne
Niklas Hagman - Brandon McMillan - Andrew Gordon
Matt Beleskey - Maxime Macenauer - George Parros
Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Sheldon Brookbank
Toni Lydman - Nate Guenin
Martin Erat - Mike Fisher - Craig Smith
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Matt Halischuk
Brian McGrattan - Jerred Smithson - Jordin Tootoo
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
Jack Hillen - Roman Josi