By Kyle Shohara
Morning Skate Photos
Coming off consecutive losses in San Jose and at home to Chicago, the Ducks underwent preparations this morning while looking to rebound from just their second two-game regulation losing streak of the season.
It appears they may have the services of defenseman Eric Brewer, who took regular line rushes during the morning skate. The 35-year-old has been sidelined since Dec. 1 when he broke his foot in a game against the Boston Bruins, forcing him to miss 22 consecutive games due to injury.
“I’m excited to play, for sure,” said Brewer. “It’s been a while, eight and a bit weeks. I love practice, but games will be a good addition. When you haven’t played for a bit, you’re kind of like, Okay, let’s get out there and feel the game again.”
Stalwart netminder Frederik Andersen will likely make his 41st start of the season, placing him fourth among NHL goaltenders in that category. Only New Jersey’s Cory Schneider (43), Washington’s Braden Holtby (42) and Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen (42) have more starts than The Big Dane.
Among league leaders, Andersen ranks tied for second in wins (27) and leads in shootout wins (6), and enters tonight’s game vs. Carolina having won 17 of his last 21 decisions (17-3-1). Andersen is 1-0-0 in his career against the Hurricanes (5-3 victory on March 2 at Honda Center).
Andersen was drafted by the Hurricanes in the seventh round (187th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft, but was unable to come to terms with the club. Therefore, he entered the 2012 NHL Draft where he was selected by Anaheim in third round (87th overall).
Anaheim and Carolina will play a two-game season series over a 10-day span beginning tonight at Honda Center. The Ducks are 13-12-3 vs. the Hurricanes all-time and 8-5-1 at Honda Center. Anaheim has won a franchise-best three straight home games vs. Carolina dating to Nov. 25, 2009 and is 6-3-1 in the last 10 games in Orange County.
Early struggles have given way to consistently strong play for the Hurricanes, who are healthy after being hit hard by injuries in the first months of the season. Although they rank 15th in the Eastern Conference and 28th overall with a 17-26-6 record (40 points), they were among the NHL’s hottest teams in the month of January. Carolina went 7-2-3 in 12 games last month, a stark improvement to their 3-10-1 record in December.
“They’re starting to show the way that they can play,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “They’re playing their best hockey of the year, and they’re making all of their players accountable. If you’re a seven million dollar player or a five million dollar player, and you’re not playing well, you’re not in the lineup. Everybody is playing to get ice time, and it’s working for them.”
Although a relatively small unit when sized up against other defensive groups around the NHL, Carolina’s defensemen are getting the job done. Of their seven active blueliners, only two stand taller than six feet (Brett Bellemore, 6-4, and Ron Hainsey, 6-3). Justin Faulk, Tim Gleason and Andrej Sekera are all six feet on the button, while Ryan Murphy (5-11) and John-Michael Liles (5-10) complete the list.
But what they lack in size they make up in speed and mobility, something Boudreau has seen plenty of on film. “They have a lot of quickness and they work really hard,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of their games, and the one thing about them is they’re fast and they don’t quit.”
Faulk ranks second on the Hurricanes with 29 points (10g/19a), though his minus-15 rating is the worst on the team. The South St. Paul, Minnesota native was named to the 2015 NHL All-Star Game, and represented the United States, along with Ducks players Cam Fowler and Ryan Kesler, at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.