|“It started to get pretty boring,” said Nokelainen of the 10-day break. “In the middle of the season, you don’t want to take too much time off. It’s good to get back and be skating.” |
While several of their key players are readying for semifinal games tomorrow at the Olympics, the Ducks returned to practice on Thursday at The Rinks – Anaheim Ice.
It had been 10 days since the team last functioned as a unit, during a 7-3 victory at Edmonton on Feb. 14. The break was a time to unwind and heal up for the players, but it was also beginning to be too long for some.
“It started to get pretty boring,” Petteri Nokelainen said. “In the middle of the season, you don’t want to take too much time off. It’s good to get back and be skating.”
Eight players were noticeably absent from the locker room during the afternoon. Ryan Getzlaf
, Corey Perry
and Scott Niedermayer of Canada; Bobby Ryan
and Ryan Whitney of USA; Teemu Selanne
and Saku Koivu
of Finland are all still taking part in the Olympics for their countries. Jonas Hiller
is on his way back to the Ducks after he and Switzerland were eliminated by USA yesterday.
Untouched hockey gear hung from their respective stalls instead at the practice facility. Yet, the Olympians were still very much on the minds of their teammates following the more than one hour practice.
“It’s awesome seeing those guys play for their country,” said rookie Dan Sexton
, who was recalled by the Ducks, along with three others on Thursday. “They are all such good guys and deserve it so much. They are playing big roles on their teams. To see them do so well, it’s awesome. These next two games are going to be great to watch. The championship and bronze medal game, no matter what happens in those, those guys had a good run.”
|“When I got sent back down, I wanted to do well," said Sexton, who was recalled on Thursday. "I didn’t want to struggle there or have any lapse in concentration. I wanted to do the same things that made me successful here. When I did those, I was really pleased.” |
With those players currently absent from the Ducks, the team has brought up Sexton, defensemen Brett Festerling and Brendan Mikkelson and goaltender Timo Pielmeier. Some will be given the opportunity to stay even when that group returns from the Olympics.
For Sexton, it was a return he had looked forward to since being sent down to Manitoba of the AHL on Jan. 31, the day the Ducks acquired Jason Blake
and Vesa Toskala in a trade from Toronto. With the rookie playing well (nine goals, 18 points in 28 games), Executive VP and GM Bob Murray acknowledged the difficultly of having to send him down at the time.
“It’s a tough one,” Murray said then. “We have a few too many forwards. Dan Sexton
will be back and I told him so. He’s going to be in the minors at this point, but he will return.”
That indeed held true, as Sexton has been brought back up to the big-league club more than three weeks later. He was pleased with his progress in the time away. “When I got sent back down, I wanted to do well. I didn’t want to struggle there or have any lapse in concentration. I wanted to do the same things that made me successful here. When I did those, I was really pleased.”
| “It’s been good, entertaining hockey," said the Minnesota-born Carter of the Olympics “I have teammates and friends on three teams. At the end of the day, I have to root for the red, white…and blue.” |
The practice was the first step forward in getting the team assembled again for the stretch run, 20 games which the Ducks hope ends with another postseason berth. When everyone does come back to the team, they face a playoff picture that has them two points out of the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
But for now, while the non-Olympians start to get their legs back, they will also put plenty of attention on Vancouver and Canada Hockey Place. That is where the semifinals – pitting USA vs. Finland and Canada vs. Slovakia get underway tomorrow.
“I’m cheering for them and hopefully those guys can bring it home,” said Nokelainen, a Finland native. “They don’t have an Olympic gold medal. They have pretty much everything else. A guy like Teemu has a Stanley Cup and every personal trophy there pretty much is. That is one of the biggest reasons he came back from retirement.”
Said Minnesota-born Ryan Carter, “It’s been good, entertaining hockey. “I have teammates and friends on three teams. At the end of the day, I have to root for the red, white…and blue.”