Another practice has come and gone inside Honda Center, as the Ducks inch nearer toward their preseason finale against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
A bit of good news came out of the session today, as forward Kyle Palmieri skated briefly at the beginning and end of practice. Palmieri has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain that occurred back home in New Jersey, and hasn’t participated in any of training camp. Palmieri says he’s taking a day-to-day approach to his recovery.
“When you have an injury as long-term as this, it’s not one of those you want to push through and have linger,” he said. “Right now I’m taking it day by day, and hopefully it feels good tomorrow and keeps getting better.”
Palmieri says his brief practice session was a step in the right direction. “It felt pretty good,” he said. “I was out there for the very beginning and very end of practice, so I wouldn’t consider it a full practice yet. It’s a step in the right direction. It’s been a while, five weeks off of skates. It’s a long road to recovery. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer.”
Head coach Bruce Boudreau is still taking a cautious approach to Palmieri’s recovery. “Until I hear from the trainer that he’s ready to practice fully, he’s just day to day.”
Though Boudreau says a Saturday debut is unlikely for Palmieri, he won’t rule out anything. “He could come off tomorrow and say ‘You know what? This is unbelievable. It’s a miracle.’”
WORK IN PROGRESS
To a man, the Ducks know they can be better than they have been thus far in the preseason. So with four more days until their preseason finale, and then another five days until Opening Night at Pittsburgh, now is the time to nail down systems work and execute the little things that will lead to success.
“We’re working hard, but not necessarily working smartly,” said defenseman Ben Lovejoy. “I very much think we’re a work in progress. We’re not playing our best hockey. We need to play a smarter game. This is the time to work that out. As we get closer, we need to play a more perfect game, a more smarter game. I do believe we’re getting there.”
With October 9 on the horizon, Lovejoy says these practices are gaining in intensity. “There is more focus and more excitement,” he said. “Training camp is work. You’re emotionally tired from all the learning you’re doing and you’re physically tired from the hard work you’re putting in. You do that to be ready for October 9, and I think we’re getting there.”
Boudreau says the theme has shifted from the individual to the team. “The first couple of weeks are individualistic. They want to show what they can do and everything else,” he said. “The last few days, everything is team oriented. We now know the core of the group that knows they’re going to be here. Now they’re re-focused instead of showing what they can do skill-wise.”
Boudreau says he isn’t complaining about the time between games. “I love the fact that we’re able to practice,” he said. “There are still teams with four games left. When they’re getting down to it, they’re not getting practice time. Hopefully it benefits us, but at the same time, we’re hoping we’re not rusty. We’ll see if it’s good or bad.”
Newcomer Clayton Stoner has used his time during training camp and preseason to learn a new system implemented by Boudreau. The 29-year-old defenseman previously spent his entire career with the Minnesota Wild organization, and says his time during camp has been a learning process.
“Coming from a new team, systems are different,” he said. “It’s been a bit of a learning curve for me. To get into one group was nice. You work with the guys who you’re going to be playing with this year and build some chemistry.”
Stoner says the lengthy break between games is giving the team a chance to solidify and build chemistry. “We had quite a few games jammed into a tight schedule,” he said. “Now we have a week to really work on systems. I’m used to having games spread out throughout the preseason. But this gives the core group of guys time to really work on our systems, and develop – and build – that chemistry.”
With Dany Heatley out of the lineup for a minimum of a week, Patrick Maroon once again skated with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Filling Maroon’s spot on the second line was speedy winger Andrew Cogliano, who skated with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg.
Red: Patrick Maroon – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Grey: Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Orange: Emerson Etem – Rickard Rakell – Devante Smith-Pelly
White: Matt Beleskey – Nate Thompson – Tim Jackman
Blue: Max Friberg – William Karlsson – Chris Wagner