By Kyle Shohara
Following a bruising and well-deserved 4-3 shootout victory last night against the St. Louis Blues, the Ducks returned to practice at Honda Center with a familiar face in attendance.
Simon Despres, out since Oct. 16 from a concussion following an illegal hit from Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie, joined the Ducks for practice today and afterward was all smiles as he met with members of the media.
“Today, being on the ice and back with my teammates was a feeling I hadn’t had in a long time,” said Despres. “I definitely felt like a little child again doing the thing I love to do, which is playing hockey. I was definitely more comfortable being on the ice than off the ice.”
The 24-year-old admitted it was a bumpy road in his recovery from the concussion, challenging on both the body and mind. “A lot of emotions are involved with being away from the rink and the guys, and not playing hockey,” he said. “It was the longest period of time I’ve been out with an injury. A lot of thoughts go through your head. It puts things in perspective. We play hockey for a living, but it’s also a sport we love to do. Today, I’m back. I’m stronger. I’m a happy man.”
Despres says he’ll start pushing himself to get his conditioning level back up until he’s told “that’s enough for today.”
Clayton Stoner hasn’t played since Jan. 1 against Vancouver but was out there today, and the big defenseman appears close to returning to the lineup. Close enough, in fact, there’s a chance he plays tomorrow against the Detroit Red Wings, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said. In his place has been Korbinian Holzer.
A couple of players weren’t on the ice today including Corey Perry and Sami Vatanen. Both took their fair share of contact last night, but Boudreau assured the media they’re fine.
PK CONTINUES TO SHINE
One of the reasons why the Ducks have clawed their way back from the depths of the standings over the past two weeks has been a penalty kill that is nearly unbeatable. In fact, heading into tomorrow’s game, the Ducks have successfully killed off the last 23 opportunities. Anaheim continues to lead the NHL in PK percentage (89.4%).
It’s not a pretty job, but Andrew Cogliano says a lot of credit goes to assistant coach Trent Yawney who has given the penalty killers a consistent system since the start of the season.
“He’s had a great game plan from the beginning,” Cogliano said. “He’s instilled a lot of confidence in us to do the job. Guys have taken a lot of pride in it. He’s done a good job of giving us the opportunity to do well and take it upon ourselves to be a big part of this team. Guys have taken pride in it.”