|Huskins came back from sitting out the game in L.A. with a first-period goal last night against the Oilers.
By Matt Vevoda
Normally soft-spoken, Kent Huskins looked anything but last night when he scorched a slap shot past Edmonton’s Mathieu Garon in the first period.
The young defenseman pumped both fists and released a jubilant roar after tying the game 1-1. It was a reaction you could see any of the Ducks making right now amid a 0-4 start where scoring has been hard to come by. The circumstances were even more amped up for Huskins, who was a healthy scratch for the first time in his three-year career the previous night at Los Angeles. The move by the coaching staff came after Huskins didn’t look himself over the Ducks’ first two games of the season. But last night’s goal helped him forget about spending a game night in his business suit rather than his Ducks uniform.
“I haven’t had the greatest first couple of games and was a bit frustrated with how things were going.”
Second on the Ducks and fifth among league defensemen with a plus-23 rating last season, Huskins proved capable of a bigger role with the team. That time has come in 2008-09 with the departures of Mathieu Schneider and Sean O’Donnell. But the start to the season has been bumpy for Huskins, specifically in the team’s home opener against Phoenix when he picked up two penalties and a minus-two rating. As a result, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle took the 29-year-old a step backward and held him out of the following game.
|“I just needed to re-focus a bit and get back to playing my game,” Huskins said. |
“I don’t think he was playing to the level that he is capable of playing,” Carlyle said of sitting Huskins against the Kings. “Those are coach’s decisions and are not easy to make.”
Huskins took the move in stride and concentrated on getting back to the things that made him one of the most efficient d-men in hockey one season ago. “I just needed to re-focus a bit and get back to playing my game,” he said.
In his quick swing back into the Ducks’ lineup against the Oilers, Huskins seemed to receive the message Carlyle sent his way. He chipped in with the early goal, stayed out of the penalty box and like the rest of the team, turned in an overall better performance despite the 3-2 loss.
The goal for Huskins coincidentally came one year to the day after he lit the lamp for the first time in his career against Detroit at Honda Center. He went on to tally four total goals in 2007-08, but may not have savored a goal any more than the redeeming one he drilled home last night.
‘It’s always nice just to get a goal period when you’re a defenseman,” Huskins said. “I haven’t got a lot in my career. That one last night was pretty nice."
- Travis Moen (stiff back) missed his second practice of the week, but the ailment has not kept him out of any games thus far and Carlyle said he doesn’t expect it to any time soon. “It’s not like he’s anywhere near coming out of the lineup, but it’s what we like to call a maintenance day,” the Ducks head coach said after Thursday’s practice at Honda Center.
- While the Anaheim forward groupings have been shuffled somewhat in the early going, expect Carlyle to try to stick with lines he had against the Oilers, at least for the time being. “We’re going to stay the course with our groupings at forward,” said Carlyle of lines that included the checking unit of Moen, Samuel Pahlsson and Rob Niedermayer reassuming duties together and Chris Kunitz jumping back on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. “I think they’ve earned an opportunity to get back together. Players don’t want to be changed on a day-to-day basis. They’d like some continuity, and we’re going to try to provide that right now.”
On the second line, Carlyle said that he asked Brendan Morrison to play left wing during last night’s contest after initially trying Ryan Carter there. “We tried Carter on the wing and felt that he was better suited in our minds to push the puck, push the pace, get in on the forecheck and get that skating game going,” Carlyle said of switching Morrison and Carter’s positions. “That is where he seems to be more effective, in the middle doing that.”