Streaming toward the weekend and the final slate of regular season games, the Ducks know they will be getting one and possible two boosts to their lineup before embarking on playoff action for the third year in a row.
One player the team knows for sure will return is captain Chris Pronger. The 6-foot-6 defenseman is eligible to return from his eight-game suspension Sunday against Phoenix
in the season finale at Honda Center. The Ducks may also be getting the added bonus of rookie forward Ryan Carter either against the Coyotes or in Saturday’s game against Los Angeles
Carter has been out since Feb. 20 with a fractured right wrist sustained on a freak play where it was jammed into a photographer hole cut out in the glass surrounding the ice. He returned to practice on Tuesday at Anaheim Ice for the first time since the injury.
“It felt good to go out there and get a good skate in,” Carter said. “It feels good shooting and passing, but as far as taking contact that’s a different story. Practice and the game are two different things, so it’s day-by-day there.”
After seeing a specialist in his home state of Minnesota
over a three-day period last week, Carter is starting to see vast improvement in his wrist that required pins to be inserted and a cast to heal following surgery.
“He’s had a real positive last week,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “He’s come back and there’s been a huge improvement in his abilities to do some things.”
Said Carter: “It was more therapy, that’s all. He had a different technique. It worked out in the long run, I think. It’s improved quite a bit in the last three days, more so than it had in the previous five.
Initially Carlyle’s plan for Carter on Tuesday only included conditioning drills held at the end of practice. After consulting with the rookie, Carlyle allowed him to participate in all of the team drills.
“It was basically up to him,” Carlyle said. “We’ll see how his body reacts after utilizing that hand for the better part of practice. He felt comfortable enough. Hopefully that’s a good sign.”
Just prior to the injury, Carter’s play was starting to take off, and as a result he was seeing an increased role with the team. After going 27 games into his rookie campaign without a goal, Carter found the net four times in a five-game span from Feb. 8-17.
“Any injury is frustrating,” said Carter, who will switch from jersey No. 52 to 20 upon his return. “The timing of them can be a pain too. It’s part of the game. You can’t pick and choose when you have your injuries. It’s something you deal with.”
With five days between Sunday’s 3-2 shootout victory over Dallas
and Saturday’s tilt in Los Angeles
, the Ducks will get some much-needed time to collectively heal up and prepare for the final two games and the playoffs. After an off day on Monday, the team will get another day away from the rink on Wednesday.
“I think what we tried to do with it is give our players a chance to rest their mind and the bumps and bruises they accumulated over the hectic schedule we’ve had,” Carlyle said. “It sets up part of the preparation process that’s coming and necessary for the playoff push. But that’s post-weekend. We still need two points to solidify our home-ice position. We know the Dallas
hockey club is not going to go away. They’re going to go in and give everything they’ve got to win their remaining games. We have to have the same mindset.”