|All three third-liners had a hand in Cogliano's goal against the Rangers on Saturday. |
Along with the memories of a week-long voyage through Finland and Sweden, the Ducks have brought back with them something just as fulfilling –an ever-improving third forward line.
The grouping of Andrew Gordon, Andrew Cogliano
and Devante Smith-Pelly
proved critical in Anaheim’s first victory of the season, a 2-1 shootout triumph over the Rangers in Stockholm on Saturday. That trio contributed the club’s lone goal in regulation, as Cogliano lit the lamp 9:26 into the first period after each of his linemates played a part in getting the puck to him in the front of the net.
“Cogs is pretty much the centerpiece to the whole thing,” said Gordon of the line’s centerman. “With his speed, when there is a loose puck, he grabs it and bang, we’re breaking out. With about three strides, he is gone.
“He’s easy to play with and communicates very well on the ice. When he yells for the puck, I know he is open. There is no doubt about it. When I heard his voice (against the Rangers), I just threw it in his area and it turned into a goal.”
Getting improved play from the bottom six forwards was high atop the Ducks’ offseason list. Acquiring Cogliano from Edmonton and then signing him to a three-year contract was arguably the biggest move in addressing that need.
|“I’m 25 years old," Gordon said. "I wanted an opportunity and this seemed like a place that was very excited to have me. It made it a pretty simple decision and things have worked out pretty well so far.” |
A little more under the radar was Gordon inking a two-year deal with Anaheim one day after free agency opened and 10 days before the Cogliano trade. The 25-year-old winger had received a couple of small looks from the Capitals at the NHL level over the last three seasons, but nothing significant because of the glut of forwards there. His AHL numbers during that time – 86 goals, 173 points – were certainly deserving of a longer opportunity.
“July 1, I was talking to my agent quite often throughout the day and Anaheim came forward right away,” Gordon said. “They seemed the most interested. They wanted to talk two years instead of just one. That showed a sense of commitment to me as a player. That is what I wanted.
“I’m 25 years old. I’m not a young, 19, 20-year-old fresh face anymore. I wanted an opportunity and this seemed like a place that was very excited to have me. It made it a pretty simple decision and things have worked out pretty well so far.”
When Gordon arrived for training camp though, he still had to earn a roster spot in a crowded field for those few openings. He enjoyed a good preseason with three goals scored, and his work ethic immediately caught the eye of Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. He was first placed alongside Cogliano and Smith-Pelly during the fourth exhibition contest at Vancouver, and that trio seemed to click almost immediately.
|“We are starting to develop a little chemistry,” Smith-Pelly said. “I feel like with the three types of players we are, we really complement each other well. Those guys use their speed well and they have great skill. I just try to get in there, create some space and let them use their skill around the net.” |
“We are starting to develop a little chemistry,” Smith-Pelly said. “I feel like with the three types of players we are, we really complement each other well. Those guys use their speed well and they have great skill. I just try to get in there, create some space and let them use their skill around the net.”Smith-Pelly on his NHL firsts
Smith-Pelly, a 2010 second-round pick by Anaheim, is the youngest of the group at just 19 years old and is proving by the day he belongs at this level. He too had to fight for his spot in training camp because the Ducks are littered with talented forwards within the organization. But the 211-pounder set himself apart with a physical style play befitting Anaheim’s system.
“I feel good,” said Smith-Pelly, whose assist on the Cogliano goal was the first point of his NHL career. “The first game I definitely suffered from some jitters. It probably showed in my game a little bit. I was a little bit nervous throughout the game. The second game, our line as a whole, really calmed down. I thought we played really well against the Rangers.”