By Kyle Shohara
After arriving in the wee hours of the morning following Saturday’s victory in St. Louis, the Ducks enjoyed a day off on Sunday before getting back to work today in the form of a spirited practice at Honda Center.
Luca Sbisa took part in the practice after a two-game conditioning stint in Norfolk of the American Hockey League. Sbisa has missed the past 24 games while recovering from a torn tendon in his right hand. The 23-year-old was also sidelined for the first 15 games of the season with a lower-body injury. But the affable defenseman was all smiles today as he welcomed reporters to his stall.
“I’m ready to go. I just want to stay healthy for once,” he said. “I told myself 2013 wasn’t the best year health-wise. I’m just excited to finally being able to help the team. I’ve watched enough games up top. I just want to feel like I’m part of the group again.”
Sbisa said he watched games from the press box through a scout or player’s perspective. “I try to watch games not in the eyes of a fan, but in the eyes of a scout or a player,” he said. “One thing I noticed the most, which I think will help out my game a lot, is just taking looks. When you get back for the puck, take a look to the left or right so you know where the pressure is coming from. Guys like Beauch [Francois Beauchemin] and Cam [Fowler] just turn their head once left, once right and they know where people are coming from. It makes decision making so much easier, even under pressure.”
Head coach Bruce Boudreau says Sbisa will have to bring his physicality when they decide to insert him into the lineup.
“He’s a physical player who can skate and shoot the puck,” he said. “That’s the way he has to play. When he doesn’t play physical, he’s nowhere near as effective in his game. We need him to come in and be a physical presence.”
With Sbisa’s return, the Ducks are now carrying eight defensemen, leaving Boudreau with the task of choosing who will play and who will sit.
“It doesn’t make it any easier,” he said. “Usually, things alleviate themselves somehow. It’s great to know you have eight defensemen who can play. That’s why we’ve had the luxury of moving people around.”
ONE GAME AT A TIME
Tomorrow night’s contest against the Winnipeg Jets is the first of nine before the Olympic break begins. And of those nine games, seven are at Honda Center, one is at Dodger Stadium (on Saturday) and one is at Nashville (Feb. 8). This week features three games, two of which against rival LA, but the Ducks remain focused on starting the week off right with a win tomorrow.
“We need to prepare ourselves to get the first win of the week and have a strong effort,” said Andrew Cogliano. “Because if you don’t, things can snowball the other way and you can get into bad habits. You can’t play LA when you’re not playing at the top of your game.”
After the Jets relieved Claude Noel of his head coaching duties last week [who has since been replaced by Paul Maurice], Ducks forward Kyle Palmieri expects the Jets to come out flying.
“With the shakeup they had last week, and the new coach, they’re a team that’s hungry to win,” he said. “With the record we have at home, coaches have said it numerous times that we’re the guys with a target on our backs. Coming into this building, everyone wants to be the team that ruins the streak. Right now, we have a team that’s focused on each game. There hasn’t been a time this season when we’ve looked past an opponent.”