Already encouraged by their 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 3, the Ducks got another boost this afternoon, as leading goal-scorer Corey Perry appears likely to play in tomorrow night’s Game 4.
|After leading the Ducks with a career-high 29 goals, Perry was forced to miss the final 12 games of the regular season and the first three of the playoffs. |
Tomorrow will mark exactly six weeks since Corey Perry was struck in the thigh by the skate blade of Colorado goalie Jose Theodore and suffered a lacerated tendon above his right knee. The injury caused Perry – tops on the Ducks with a career-high 29 goals during the year – to miss the remainder of the regular season and the first three games of these Western Conference Quarterfinals.
But Perry, a first-time All-Star this season, has seen increased improvement with the injury in the last week and a half, and by all accounts is ready to go for Game 4.
“I feel pretty good,” said Perry, while sitting in the cramped dressing room at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Farmers Branch, Texas. “Practice was on the lighter side today, but yesterday we did a lot of skating at the end of practice, and it’s gotten better since last week, that’s for sure.”
As he talked to reporters immediately after practice, Perry still hadn't had his daily meeting with the Ducks team doctor, but the prevailing feeling was that he would get clearance to play. “It all depends on how I feel and what he says,” Perry said. “I’ll talk to him later this afternoon. If he does give me the okay, that will be a huge relief. I just want to get out there and help the team."
"I don’t wish this upon anybody. It’s not been a fun experience and it’s been a long road back. It’s like pulling teeth. I’m sitting in the dressing room, riding the bike and half the time I was talking to myself. You want to be out there so bad that it hurts. - Corey Perry While all signs point to Perry returning to the lineup, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle stressed caution about his return, especially at such an intense juncture.
“If we decide to play Corey Perry, we will ease him in,” said Carlyle, who indicated the final decision wouldn't be made until the morning skate tomorrow. “We’re putting him in a real tough situation if we decide to use him, to expect offense and put him with Ryan Getzlaf and whoever we decide to use on the other side. We think it’s dangerous to put a player in his first game back in that situation. There will be a lot of intensity tomorrow, the game will be at a high pace and there will be a lot of physical play. Sometimes it takes a while for a player to get his feet underneath him.”
Perry did skate in practice today on a line with Getzlaf and Brad May, while Teemu Selanne was teamed with Chris Kunitz and Ryan Carter. Todd Marchant continued to skate with Samuel Pahlsson and Travis Moen, as normal checking line winger Rob Niedermayer still hasn’t arrived in Dallas while recovering from a head injury. Todd Bertuzzi was moved to the fourth line with Doug Weight and George Parros (with Brian Sutherby and Bobby Ryan also options on that line).
"Obviously, if he's able to go, it will be good for us," said Ryan Getzlaf, Perry's linemate the past three seasons. "He's been great. He's getting all his strength back. Today, he looked really good."
Perry, who agreed that his amount of playing time is “whatever the coach thinks is right,” was well aware that coming back from injury in the middle of a playoff series is a tough climb. “It’s definitely harder,” said the 22-year-old. “The intensity is up and you’ve got to battle for space out there and make your own space. It’s definitely another notch up. You’re playing for keeps now.”
|“It’s getting better every day,” Perry said. “I'm ready to move on, get it over with and get back in the lineup." |
Regardless, Perry has had enough of sitting and watching. "I don’t wish this upon anybody,” he said. “It’s not been a fun experience and it’s been a long road back and a long six weeks. It’s like pulling teeth. I’m sitting in the dressing room, riding the bike and half the time I was talking to myself. You want to be out there so bad that it hurts. But everybody has to go through that in certain points in their career. So, I’m ready to get it over with now, move on and get back in the lineup.”
He did admit that when and if he gets back into a game, the injury will “definitely be in the back of my mind, but I’m going to try and not think about it out there.”
Said Carlyle: “We have lots of confidence in Corey Perry that he’ll get there, but it will be a wait-and-see type of thing. His assets and his strengths are down low and around the net. He doesn’t necessarily have to provide offensive output. He provides puck control, offensive zone time and he draws penalties.”
Almost as frustrating as the recovery from the injury itself were the circumstances in which it occurred. Perry was making a pass in front of the Colorado net when Theodore (with his back to Perry) had his skate lift up and it the blade wedged in between the top of Perry’s shin pad and thigh pad, while also eluding a knee brace.
“It’s one of those things that’s a freak accident and it happens one in a million times,” Perry said with a shake of the head. “Unfortunately, I was that millionth person.”
But Perry has moved well past the incident and on to the final steps in his recovery, saying the turning point came about a week ago, when he had a few full-equipment practices under his belt. “It just got better from there and it’s getting better every day,” Perry said. “I can’t wait to get back in there.
Pronger and Niedermayer Paired Up
As was the case in last night’s Game 3, All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer were paired together in practice today, something the Ducks rarely did this season in even-strength situations. But Carlyle saw the pairing as one of the adjustments the Ducks needed to make after lackluster performances in the first two games of this series.
“I think it did more for our team from a confidence factor that we have those two players together and it will give us more of an opportunity to play our game,” Carlyle said. “We’ve done it before in the playoffs, and we felt it was necessary in the situation we were in and still in. We feel we have to make some adjustments on a game to game basis, and that was one of them.
Rob Niedermayer Still Probably Out
Forward Rob Niedermayer missed Game 3 with concussion-like symptoms and appears unlikely to be in uniform for Game 4. Niedermayer still hasn’t flown from Orange County to Dallas, and as of early this afternoon Carlyle admitted he didn’t know if there was a flight scheduled for him. “I haven’t asked our medical staff yet, but I will,” he said. “I would suspect that if he is traveling here, it is tonight. But I haven’t heard anything yet.”