By Kyle Shohara
All eyes will focus on tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center. The long-awaited faceoff between Ducks center Ryan Kesler and his former team couldn’t have come at a better time, as the two clubs sit one-two in the Pacific Division standings.
The Ducks enter the game leading the NHL in standings points and co-leading in wins. Anaheim has earned points in 12 of its last 14 games (10-2-2, 22 pts.) and six of seven at home (4-1-2, 11 pts.). Vancouver comes to town with a 7-3-0 mark in its last 10 games and a 10-5-0 record overall. The Canucks got walloped in a 5-1 loss to the LA Kings at Staples Center last night. These two teams will meet again in 11 days in Vancouver on Thursday, Nov. 20 (7 p.m. PST). The season series also features games on Dec. 28 at Honda Center (5 p.m. PST) and Jan. 27 (7 p.m. PST) and Mar. 9 (7 p.m. PST) at Rogers Arena.
This game holds special significance for Kesler, who spent his entire career with Vancouver after being drafted by the Canucks in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2003 NHL Draft.
Kesler recorded 393 points (182g/211a) with a +25 rating and 594 penalty minutes in 655 career NHL games with Vancouver. Kesler was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2011 (awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game) and was a 2011 NHL All-Star. During Vancouver’s 2011 Cup run (lost in Game 7 to Boston in the Stanley Cup Final), Kesler earned 19 points (7g/12a) in 25 games and led the team with a 54.1 faceoff percentage.
“I was with the team for 11 years, and going through what I went through with them and that city, it’s going to be exciting,” he said. “They’re playing well, and I’m happy to see that. They’re very talented. They’re deep on defense and they brought in Ryan Miller, who’s a really good goalie.”
Kesler will make his first trip to Vancouver in a little over a week, and he says some of his fondest memories during his 11-year-run in Vancouver involved the fans. He recalls the 2011 Stanley Cup run as a moment that he’ll not soon forget. “Seeing how passionate that city was, and the fans, and the hundreds of thousands of people in the streets after every game sticks out.”
BEAUCHEMIN, FOWLER REMAIN DAY-TO-DAY
Francois Beauchemin (flu) and Cam Fowler (lower-body injury) didn’t practice yesterday, but head coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t rule either of them out of the lineup for tonight. Boudreau says they’ll know more regarding their status as the day goes on. “There are always different variables to the flu,” said Boudreau. “It depends on how bad [Beauchemin] gets it. For Cam, there’s still a good chance he plays.” As for Corey Perry, his status remains doubtful due to flu-like symptoms. Yesterday, Boudreau said Wednesday's game against the Kings is a more realistic return date for Perry, who mas missed the past two games.
The Ducks have had to alter their lineup over the past two weeks due to injuries and illnesses. Below is a list of players currently out:
Ben Lovejoy (fractured right finger)
Mark Fistric (lower back)
John Gibson (groin)
Corey Perry (flu)
Francois Beauchemin (flu)
Cam Fowler (lower-body injury)
WELCOME BACK TO ANAHEIM
The Kesler trade involved two Ducks who were beloved by their teammates and fans. Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa, each of whom played five seasons with the Ducks, were sent to Vancouver along with the 24th overall pick (first round) and the 85th overall pick (third round) in the 2014 NHL Draft for Kesler and a third-round selection in 2015.
Bonino, who was affectionately known as “Bones” here in Anaheim, leads the Canucks in goal scoring. The 26-year-old also ranks fourth on the squad with 12 points (7g/5a) in 15 games, and ranks tied for first in the NHL with three game-winning goals. Sbisa ranks second on the Canucks in hits (28) and tied for third in blocked shots (24).
Ducks forward Emerson Etem says he’s looking forward to taking it to his former teammates. “When you hit the ice, there are no friends out there,” he said. “But at the same time, in a way, you miss those guys. They were a great presence in the locker room. We have to be ready for them and take it to them. It should be fun.”
Boudreau expects plenty of good-natured verbal jabs throughout the night. “I’m sure it’ll come,” he said. “You make so many long-lasting friends on other teams. Bonino and Sbisa were two of the most popular players we had, so I’m sure there will be a lot of fun chirping going on.
“Knowing they’ll want to play as hard as they can for Bonino and Sbisa, and our guys wanting to play as hard as they can for Kes, it should make for a really good game.”
MILITARY APPRECIATION NIGHT
The Ducks will honor the United States Armed Forces by hosting Military Appreciation Night presented by GovX tonight. This special game night will pay tribute to local military and their family members as well as raise awareness for local military nonprofit organizations, Defending the Blue Line and Veterans First.
Ducks players will be wearing camouflage jerseys during the pre-game warm-up for Military Appreciation Night. Following the game, the jerseys will be autographed and made available in an online auction at AnaheimDucks.com/auction. The night will begin with three members of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) rappelling from the rafters with Wild Wing for the honorary first puck drop. The action continues into the second intermission with an on ice four way Tug-O-War between all four military branches (USMC, Army, Navy, and USAF).
For more information on Military Appreciation Night presented by GovX, click here.