In Thursday night’s much-needed win over Columbus, the Ducks got the closest they have all season to seeing their full roster on the ice, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The team starts a 10-game stretch against Pacific Division opponents beginning Saturday at Phoenix.
Ryan Getzlaf, Rob Niedermayer and Mathieu Schneider all returned to action Thursday night, leaving Todd Bertuzzi (concussion) as the lone Duck out with an injury. Their returns paid immediate dividends, as Niedermayer scored the Ducks’ lone goal in regulation and Schneider netted the only goal in a shootout to defeat the Blue Jackets 2-1.
“I think from a coaching point of view, it’s nice to finally get 90 percent of our lineup back,” Carlyle said after Friday’s practice. “When you have parts of your lineup that come back in and make a contribution in their first game, that’s always encouraging.”
Niedermayer believes the fusion of players back into the lineup can get the team building in a position direction.
“Last night was the building and we’re getting better. We’re getting our game where we want it to get to,” Niedermayer said. “I think we know every game is important right now because we want to get that (winning) feeling back.”
Said fellow winger Brad May, “We’ve got a huge stretch ahead of us with a lot of divisional games and it’s a challenge. There are certain points during the season that are very important. You can see them, sense them, and feel them. This is one of them.”
With most of its roster now intact, Carlyle said the focus of the team is to try and find some consistency as they embark on the critical stretch.
“We’ve battled through some difficult situations,” Carlyle said. “Now, it’s about getting this group to play a consistent brand of hockey. It’s very important moving forward and it just puts more of an emphasis on these next games that we’re playing and that starts Saturday in Phoenix.”
Carlyle said there was not much to report on the status of Bertuzzi. While Bertuzzi did return to the ice for practice a week ago, some concussion symptoms did reoccur, halting his return. “We’ve got to a stage where he’s worked out and then fell back,” Carlyle said. “You just start all over. It’s like climbing a mountain.”