After an arduous 14-day road trip and a late-night flight from St. Paul, most of the Ducks didn't get home until past 2 a.m. on Wednesday. Thus, yesterday was a full off day, so the players obviously took advantage.
Jakob Silfverberg said he strolled through the mall with his fiancée as a way to get out of the house and get his legs moving. Nate Thompson went on a long walk with his dog and took a ride on his beach cruiser after running some errands. Hampus Lindholm, never one to shy away from some natural vitamin D, soaked up the California sun on a warm Orange County afternoon.
It was a chance to decompress and take their minds off the rigors of the season and allow them to return to work refreshed and focused. So today, the Ducks reconvened for practice at THE RINKS - Anaheim ICE for an hour-long skate that, at least to the naked eye, appeared upbeat and crisp.
"The last three or four days of the trip felt like we were on the road for a month," said Thompson. "It's always nice to be home and back on the ice." The veteran center said the biggest challenge was staying mentally fresh over the course of a trip that lasted two weeks.
Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle made one change to the forward line combinations with the absence of Antoine Vermette, who did not skate today. Taking Vermette's place at left wing alongside Silfverberg and Ryan Getzlaf was rookie Ondrej Kase, who came on strong when he was called up earlier this season but has failed to record a point in his last eight games. Recent call-up Corey Tropp rotated through rushes on the fourth line with Thompson, Joseph Cramarossa and Jared Boll. (Full line combinations will be listed at the bottom of this story.)
Sami Vatanen took part in the full practice and could be an option tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers, but Carlyle says he'll wait to make his decision in the morning. Vatanen hasn't played since he suffered the lower-body injury on February 3 at Florida. For what it's worth, rookie defenseman Brandon Montour and Lindholm went through rushes at the start of practice while Vatanen skated alongside Korbinian Holzer.
Previewing the Panthers
The Panthers come to town with wins in four of their last five games, including the 2-1 victory over the Ducks, and have scored 13 goals over their last two (7-4 W at Nashville, 6-5 OTW at San Jose). Aleksander Barkov returned to the lineup that night against Anaheim, while Jonathan Huberdeau made his season debut after missing the first 51 games of the season with an Achilles injury. Their addition has given the Panthers life as they continue to push for a playoff spot.
"Offensively, they're deep," said Thompson. "They have a lot of weapons up front, even on their back-end. They're scoring a lot of goals right now. They can make plays."
Adds Silfverberg, "They're really fast in the neutral zone and quick in transition. They've got some offensive abilities. You can't give them any easy transitions in the neutral zone. It has to be a tight, grind game for us."