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Marching Towards the Opener

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
By Matt Vevoda

AnaheimDucks.com


Following a welcomed day off, the Ducks returned to practice at The Rinks – Anaheim ICE with the preseason now fully behind them and all eyes concentrated on Saturday’s opening night matchup against the Sharks at Honda Center.

"The preseason is tough, but you have to do it to get ready for the season," Perry said. "It's over and we're moving forward. Now, they really count."
Anaheim is greeting the change of focus with open arms after enduring eight preseason games in a span of 11 days. While those dates were important for evaluating the roster and preparing for a new campaign, the team is eager to see what 2009-10 has in store for them. They’re now just four days away from starting to find out.

“The preseason is tough, but you have to do it to get ready to play the season,” said Corey Perry, Anaheim’s top goal-scorer the past two seasons. “It’s over and we’re moving forward. Now, they really count.”

Opening night always creates one of the best atmospheres of the season. Along with excitement for the first meaningful games in close to five months, the first game also brings a renewed hope among fans. For the Ducks faithful, this season’s opening game also comes with the added bonus of being against the rival Sharks in a rematch of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, in which Anaheim triumphed in six games.

“It’s going to be a great test for us, that’s for sure,” Perry said. “It’s going to be back-and-forth. We’re going to have a long year against them again. There is a rivalry there and we get to start the season against them. We’ll hopefully get a start on the right foot.”

Surely helping that cause was getting Ryan Getzlaf into some action before the preseason concluded. The two-time All-Star and leading Anaheim scorer the past two seasons looked sharp in the exhibition finale against the Kings, tallying a goal and an assist in 16:05 on the ice. “Everything has felt great,” he said.  “It’s been going surprisingly really well. After the games, I’ve felt good and I feel good now. The plan has worked so far.”

The other pieces to Anaheim’s vaunted top forward line, Perry (one goal, one assist) and Bobby Ryan (two goals, one assist), also benefitted Sunday from having their center back in action after offseason sports hernia surgery. They fully understand the importance No. 15 carries back with him into the lineup.

"There are a few of us fighting for some spots and some playing time, so it was tough seeing other guys getting looks while I was getting rehab," Christensen said. "In hindsight, with the kind of surgery I had, my health was important. I'm glad I took the approach I did."
“It was big for us,” Perry said. “He’s a huge player on this team. He controls the puck and does thing that a lot of guys can’t do. It’s nice to have him back and nice to see him healthy again.”

Also returning from offseason surgery (shoulder) against the Kings was forward Erik Christensen, who played 11:51 in the preseason finale and reported no problems. “I hadn’t been a part of a scrimmage in camp, let alone a game that was fairly high tempo,” he said. “The last game I played was Game 5 (of the Western Conference Semifinals) against Detroit. The pace was a little quick, but I tried to be involved. I tried to use my body, get hit and get bumped. I felt fine.”

One big step left for the Ducks in getting to opening night is whittling the roster down to its mandatory number of 23. The team is currently carrying 25 players, which means that two will have to be reassigned by noon (PST) on Wednesday. Christensen is pleased he was physically able to return in enough time to make a case to be among the group that remains. “There are a few of us fighting for some spots and some playing time, so it was tough seeing other guys getting looks while I was getting rehab,” he said. “In hindsight, with the kind of surgery I had, my health was important. I’m glad I took the approach I did.”

Notes
Joffrey Lupul sat out practice Tuesday as a precaution due to some tightness in his lower back. “We seem to be able to loosen it up,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. "Then he goes out and if he does anything, it seems to cramp back up. We felt it was the best interest for him not to skate today.”

Carlyle also indicated Petteri Nokelainen has a strained groin, which he suffered during the second period in the preseason game at San Jose. The good news is there was no tear and he’s already working his way back, skating before the team’s practice.

There was a third goalie taking part in Ducks practice, but it was not any player on the team’s roster. It was actually 52-year-old goaltending consultant Pete Peeters, a former Vezina Trophy winner during his playing days, who likes to get back in the goalie pads from time to time while coaching (something he also did while working in Edmonton).

“When the goalies had to skate at the end (of practice), did you see that the third goalie skated and the other two took the last lap off?” said Carlyle with a laugh. "I’ll have to mention that to them.”
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