By Kyle Shohara
With the All-Star break officially over, the Ducks reconvened this afternoon for practice at THE RINKS – Anaheim ICE. And as expected, it was all business.
The Ducks are preparing for three crucial divisional games this week, which begin tomorrow night at home against the San Jose Sharks. Following that game, the Ducks travel up the freeway to take on the LA Kings at Staples Center on Thursday and cap off a back-to-back set on Friday night at Honda Center against the Arizona Coyotes. All three teams currently sit above the Ducks in the Pacific Division.
But did the five days away from the rink come at an inopportune time for a team that’s been on a roll since the Christmas break? There really is no answer to that on paper. The proof, as Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau put it, will be in the pudding.
“People talk about that, but I thought [our guys] were really enthusiastic at practice today,” said Boudreau. “I thought they had a lot of jump. If you’re looking at the schedule and looking for an opportunity to jump up [in the standings], this is the week. It’s not easy. All three teams have been successful against us, but we have a chance to make amends.”
Nate Thompson says coming out of the break with divisional games – games of high importance – is a good thing for this hockey club.
“You’re getting thrown right into the fire,” Thompson said. “These are big games right off the bat. That’s what you want. After the All-Star break, you want to get that engine revved up more. Why not play divisional teams while you’re doing it?
“We played a lot of hockey in a short amount of time going into the break, so it was good to have that time off. Guys got to relax and see their families. You hit the reset button so when you come back, you’re ready to go.”
“We’re certainly not going to tip-toe into the water here,” said Kevin Bieksa. “We’re getting thrown right into the deep end with three really big games against teams just above us in the standings. There’s a good chance we’ll play one of these three teams in the playoffs if things work out the right way. We want to show them our best game, but more importantly, we want to get two points and keep climbing up the standings.”
FOWLER EXPECTED TO PLAY
It appears Cam Fowler will make his return to the lineup tomorrow night against San Jose. Out since Dec. 27 with a sprained left knee, the smooth-skating defenseman says he feels strong and ready to go.
“We’ll sit down together and make a decision, but after five or six days of the break with a few good skates, I feel like I’m there,” said Fowler. “Hopefully I’ll get the okay to go and be in tomorrow. I feel like I put the necessary work in to get myself game-ready.”
His return will bolster an already sturdy blueline that is nearing full health for the first time this season. Clayton Stoner practiced today, too, recovering from a lower-body injury that has him on injured reserve. Simon Despres made his return to the lineup last week against Boston after missing 42 games with concussion symptoms.
“The more Desi plays, the more he’ll get back to his form from last year,” said Boudreau. “The other guys are playing pretty well. Our strength has been defensive hockey, not offensive hockey, so it can only help us. Cam will be ready for tomorrow.”
Fowler ranks second among team defensemen in scoring with 12 points (3g/9a) and ranks tied for fourth overall in assists. Riding a two-game scoring streak (two assists), Fowler has earned a "plus" rating in seven of his last 11 games.