While it’s difficult to find a silver lining in the wake of Jason Blake
’s injury that will keep him out three months, there has been an opportunity created for one young Duck. Brandon McMillan
is getting the first crack at filling that void on the second line’s left wing.
The 21-year-old began this season on Anaheim’s fourth line and earned an assist on the lone goal in a 1-0 home victory over the Sharks. It was during the third period of that game when Blake’s left wrist was inadvertently cut by the skate of San Jose defenseman Brent Burns, causing a deep laceration and tendon damage.
In the two games since, both Ducks victories, McMillan has seen his ice time double as he has skated alongside Teemu Selanne
and Saku Koivu
. He earned his second assist of the season (on Selanne’s second goal of the game) in Monday’s 3-2 road win over the Sharks.McMillan talks about his new role
“There is a progression in that he feels more comfortable and is getting into a groove with what Selanne and Koivu are doing,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “He played there periodically last year at times too. It’s not like it’s something totally out of left field. It is an opportunity. I had a conversation with him and told him just don’t accept that you’re playing there. We need production.”
McMillan, a 2008 third round pick, is taking nothing for granted. While he had a nice rookie campaign in 2010-11 with 11 goals and 21 points in 60 games played, he strives to get better each day he is with the Ducks.
“I’m coming to the rink every day, having fun and trying to work as hard as I can on and off the ice to get better,” McMillan said. “It’s one of those things where I’ll keep working. You never know what can happen. I’m not going to sit back and watch other people get better.”
Currently entrusted with a bigger role with the club, he is learning all he can from his two veteran linemates and wants to develop the chemistry needed in order for the line to flourish. “We’ve been talking a lot,” McMillan said. “It’s a little different because those guys are so skilled and they make some plays you don’t expect.
“It’s a totally different game playing out there those guys. You have to read off them and learn. I’m just trying to watch them and see the tendencies in what they’re doing during practices and games. I’m enjoying every day. Hopefully, we keep getting better as a group. I think we’ll be a good line.”
Next up for the newly-formed second line and the Ducks is a home date tomorrow night with Dallas. The game will pit the current top two teams in the Pacific Division (Dallas – 10 points; Anaheim – 8 points), with both also having won each of their last four contests.
“It will be a true test for us,” Carlyle said. “Their hockey club is playing very well. The important thing for us is to play our style of hockey. Any time we play Dallas we know the games are intense. That physical aspect will be there. There have been some real tough games played in both rinks.
“It’s a divisional game. These are four-point hockey games and big games within your conference. These are difference makers at the end of the year.”