By Kyle Shohara
Fans will get their first look at some of Anaheim’s newest players tonight, as the Ducks host the visiting Los Angeles Kings in their preseason home opener at Honda Center.
Rugged forward Chris Stewart took line rushes this morning with Ryan Getzlaf and Jiri Sekac, while defenseman Kevin Bieksa skated with Jaycob Megna during the team’s 30-minute on-ice session.
Stewart, 27, signed a one-year contract this past summer in hopes of winning a Stanley Cup, and tonight he’ll get a chance to skate alongside a former Cup champion.
“We’re both big guys who can hold onto the puck down low, use our bodies to our advantage and really grind defensemen down,” said Stewart, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 231 pounds. Getzlaf, by comparison, stands 6-4 and weighs 221.
“You want to get involved in the systems and put what we learned over the last week into play,” said Stewart, on the objectives in the game. “You always look forward to the first game of the year. It’s nice because you get tired of hitting your own teammates. This is a chance to get out there and play against another jersey.”
Flanking the big boys will be 23-year-old Jiri Sekac, who has had an outstanding training camp and scored two goals in Anaheim’s preseason opener at Colorado. On his decision to place Sekac on the top line with Getzlaf and Stewart, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau says it’s about putting the speedy winger in a “position of offense.”
“Last year, sometimes he was on the third or fourth line,” said Boudreau. “We want to see what he can do. He was our best player last game, and he deserves to play tonight. Let’s not forget, we had a small sample size of him last year with 19 regular season games and seven playoff games. The more we can see of him, another year of growth, the more we can evaluate him.”
As for Bieksa, facing the Kings is nothing new. The punishing defenseman spent his entire 10-year NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks, and has battled the Kings twice in the postseason (2010, 2012).
“I’m anxious to get started and to see what this team has,” Bieksa said. “It’s an exciting start of the season. Looking around at this team, and all the players we have, and how much everybody wants to make last year right, I’m anxious to get going.”
Tonight marks the debut of Honda Center’s new state-of-the-art scoreboard, one that measures nearly 20 feet tall and over 30 feet wide. The venue teamed with Daktronics on the installation of the new scoreboard, which features a display area more than four times the square footage of what the arena previously operated. The scoreboard is the clearest and highest definition picture available in any North American venue.