While shuttling up and down between Anaheim and Portland all season, Ryan Carter has sought a big opportunity with the club and his moment to shine came on Wednesday night.
|Ryan Carter |
With Samuel Pahlsson continuing to nurse an injured abdomen, minutes have been available at the center position on the checking line between Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen. After Todd Marchant spent the majority of time in the position during the team’s recent road trip through Western Canada, Carter got his chance on the line last night in the Ducks’ return to Honda Center. The rookie flourished, earning the third star of the game with stellar defensive play in a career-high 13:17 of time on the ice in the Ducks’ 2-1 victory over Columbus.
“With injury comes opportunity for other players. Especially as a young player, you need to take advantage of your opportunity,” Carter said on Thursday. “My ice time more than doubled last night (from 6:23 at Vancouver on Dec. 30). I think I needed to prove something to myself, the coaching staff and management. Hopefully, I did that.”
Carter’s play definitely has caught the attention of Ducks head coach, Randy Carlyle.
“Ryan Carter stepped in and is playing very well for us in the sense of our expectations,” Carlyle said. “He’s got to go in and play hard minutes, be strong in the faceoff circle and win some battles.”
Much like the player he’s filling in for, one of Carter’s better attributes on Wednesday night was winning faceoffs, as he secured the puck for the Ducks on 10 of 13 chances in the circle against the Blue Jackets. Playing well on the draws was particularly pleasing for Carter, who worked hard in the offseason to improve that area of his game.
“Last year I played center in Portland the whole year and my faceoffs weren’t as strong,” Carter said. “In the offseason, I worked on my faceoffs. I think more than anything it helped with confidence in the circle.”
Although he never appeared in a regular season game for the Ducks last season, Carter earned a championship ring and his name on the Stanley Cup by appearing in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against Ottawa, along with three games versus Detroit in the Western Conference Final. Carter says the experience under the bright lights of the NHL postseason helped immensely.
“Having played a couple of games in the playoffs helped,” Carter said. “As a young player, the more you get time around here and get comfortable, the better it is for you.”
This year Carter earned the right to play on the third line by showing good defensive ability, including select minutes on the penalty kill in the six games he played prior to Wednesday since returning to the team for a third stint this season on Dec. 17.
“The center on the third line is a shutdown position. It’s more defensive,” Carter said. “When you get out there on the penalty kill, you get a chance to prove that defensively you’re strong and you can be trusted out there in those situations. I think the kill, being able to block shots and be physical down low helped me out.”
Carlyle enjoys seeing the position competition within the Ducks created by the new-found success of players like Carter.
“It puts pressure on other players. We want players pushing one another for positions in the lineup,” Carlyle said. “I want players to step up and make our decisions difficult because those are good decisions.”