Thursday marked another step forward in Scott Niedermayer’s comeback to the Ducks, as the defenseman took part in his first full practice with the team.
|Niedermayer spoke to reporters after being one of the last players off the ice Thursday. |
Eyeing Friday (vs. Minnesota) or Sunday (vs. San Jose) as possibilities for his return to the Ducks lineup, Niedermayer was one of the last players to leave Honda Center’s ice after practice, spending more than an hour and a half going through a myriad of drills.
While Niedermayer skated with six of his teammates on Tuesday and took part in pre-game workouts before Wednesday night’s game against Vancouver, Thursday was the first chance he had to simulate game situations, something the Conn Smythe Trophy winner said was important in getting mentally prepared for his return to the ice.
“A lot of it’s positioning and being aware mentally where to look,” Niedermayer said. “It’s different skating laps and being out there with nine other players buzzing around in all different places. I’m trying to concentrate on those situations when I’m in practice.”
With a week of skating under his belt since announcing his return, Niedermayer said he likes the progress he has made.
“I feel pretty good so far,” Niedermayer said after practice. “I’m happy with how I’m feeling right now. I’m just going to keep working as hard as I can on and off the ice and get ready as soon as I can.”
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said Niedermayer’s skating abilities are so potent that a prolonged absence should not hinder his ability in that regard in any way.
“Scott Niedermayer could go away from the game for four or five years and put the skates back on and he would look like he’s ready,” Carlyle said. “He is that effortless of a skater.”
Niedermayer agreed that his skating should not be an issue, but said as a seasoned veteran, the work is that much harder.
“I guess I’m blessed with a certain talent for skating. In that sense maybe it’s a little bit easier,” said the 34-year-old Niedermayer. “But I’m not getting any younger and it’s more work this time for sure.”
With a decision looming on Friday’s game against Minnesota, Niedermayer said he feels prepared to play if it’s decided for him to do so.
“I would be ready,” Niedermayer said. “Would I be 100 percent? Probably not, but I probably won’t be. I’m going to need to get some games under my belt and go from there. I think Friday’s a possibility, but it’s really not up to me.”
A factor still being sorted out in getting Niedermayer on the ice is freeing up a roster space and the tagging room specified by Brian Burke when he announced the defenseman’s return on Dec. 5.
“I think that obviously has to happen,” Niedermayer said. “Unfortunately, with the way the rules are now that’s part of the game. That’s the least fun part about this whole thing. I try not to think about it much because I’m not happy about something like that having to happen. It’s a reality, but that’s out of my hands at the moment. I’m just doing what I can to be as ready as possible."