By Kyle Shohara
Morning Skate Photos
Several players were absent from the morning skate at Honda Center, one that Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau simply labeled as “optional.”
Among them were defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim’s steady defensive pair. When asked about the status of the duo, specifically Lindholm, Boudreau said it’ll be a game-time decision.
The 21-year-old is coming off a multi-assist effort (the sixth multi-assist game of his career) in Anaheim’s 5-3 loss to Washington on Sunday. Lindholm did miss one game (Feb. 10 at Florida) because of a lower-body injury suffered Feb. 8 at Tampa Bay. Whether that injury still lingers remains unknown.
First off the ice this morning was goaltender John Gibson, who allowed five goals on 28 shots faced in Sunday’s game. Gibson comes into tonight’s game with a 3-3-0 record, 2.78 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.
With 24 games remaining, including tonight, it’s time to start building for the postseason. And for the Ducks, that means tightening up their game and fixing issues that have plagued them over the past few weeks. Slows starts have been an eyesore for the Ducks, who have repeatedly found themselves playing catch up. The numbers don’t lie: The Ducks have been outscored 7-3 in the first period of the past five games, with their record a meager 1-3-1 in those contests.
Veteran forward Ryan Kesler says it’s time for each individual player to take it upon himself to be ready.
“You want to be playing your best, and it starts now,” Kesler said. “This group knows that we need to get better every game from here on out. We can’t have any stinkers anymore. We have to really focus on our game, and take it upon ourselves individually to make sure we’re ready for every single one of these games coming up.”
Defenseman Clayton Stoner echoes Kesler’s sentiments. “If there wasn't [urgency] the last 10 games, there needs to be now,” he said. “Urgency and intensity need to be in our game right now. It’s going to be a tough last third of the season where every team we’re going to play is going to be fighting for a playoff spot or fighting to move up in the ranks. We have to have that same intensity and urgency.”
TIME TO STEP UP
Injuries happen. It’s a part of the game, and for the Ducks, something they’ve grown accustomed to this season. Entering tonight’s matchup, the Ducks have lost a staggering 273 man games due to injury. The number will grow larger now that left wing Matt Beleskey (out 2-4 weeks, upper body) and defenseman Sami Vatanen (4-6 weeks, lower body) are on injured reserve. Yet, despite the rash of injuries, the Ducks still find themselves atop the Pacific Division with 77 points (35-15-7) and third in the Western Conference behind the second place St. Louis Blues (78 points) and the league leading Nashville Predators (84 points).
Yesterday the Ducks recalled left wing Emerson Etem and defenseman Josh Manson from the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League to replace the injured Beleskey and Vatanen. Etem and Manson skated this morning, but due to the optional tag placed on the skate, line combos were juggled.
For what it’s worth, Etem took rushes with Nate Thompson and Devante Smith-Pelly, while Manson shared duties with Stoner and Eric Brewer.
Boudreau says he told Etem he’s looking for a consistent effort from the Long Beach native. “It’s always been consistency,” Boudreau said. “He’s big, he’s strong and he brings a lot when he skates. He’s got a nose for the net, but at this level, you need to do it nine out of ten games. You can’t do it five out of ten games.
“He knows what he has to do. He has all the ability in the world to be a good NHL player. It’s just a development thing. With Matty [Beleskey] being out for a couple of weeks, at least, he’s going to have a good opportunity to show what he can do.”
Boudreau says Manson’s situation is slightly different, mostly due to him being relatively green at the NHL level.
“I hope he learned a lot from the experience last time,” said Boudreau, referring to Manson’s 18-game stint with Anaheim earlier this season. “We were having success when Josh was here last time. There is no reason to believe that anything should happen differently.”