By Kyle Shohara
A handful of Ducks were on the ice for an optional practice this afternoon at Honda Center, with the team having just returned to town following a 2-0-0 road trip to Minnesota and Winnipeg. Among those on the ice today were injured players Ben Lovejoy and Dany Heatley. Both have missed significant games due to injuries (Lovejoy is recovering from a fractured finger and Heatley is coming back from a lower-body injury).
With the plethora of injuries the Ducks have had this season, seeing Lovejoy and Heatley on the ice with teammates was a positive sign. The duo had previously been skating by themselves prior to the optional session today.
“I feel great,” said Lovejoy. “I’ve been skating a lot the last four weeks. I feel like I’m in very good shape, but obviously nothing is the same as a game. My finger feels good and I’ve been shooting for a while.”
Lovejoy fractured his finger during a fight against Sharks forward Joe Pavelski on Oct. 26. The 30-year-old defenseman had one assist in nine games before he was shelved with the injury.
Being on the ice with teammates this afternoon, Lovejoy says, is a welcome change from solitary skating, which had become the norm.
“Today was the most fun I’ve had in six weeks,” he said. “I’ve been doing a ton of skating. For a long time it was no pucks, and then it was pushing pucks a little bit. The last couple of days I’ve been able to shoot. Today, I felt like I had a ton of adrenaline because I was excited to be back out there with other hockey players, playing the game.”
When asked when he’ll return to the lineup, the Dartmouth graduate quipped, “People with more degrees than I will make that decision.”
For Heatley, being on the ice with fellow teammates was also a welcome change. One of Anaheim’s bigger free agent signings of the summer, Heatley has only appeared in four games this season, going scoreless. A nagging lower-body injury has had him on injured reserve since Nov. 14, the second time he’s been placed on IR this season.
“I felt really good skating while the guys were gone and I felt really good today,” he said. “When you get out with the team, it’s another step. It was fun today and I’m looking forward to a full practice tomorrow.”
Heatley says his injury was preventing him from going 100 percent. “It got to a point where I couldn’t really do what I needed to do,” he said. “I could get by, but I was still feeling it. The time off really helped it. I feel good out there now.”
Heatley says his condition over the next couple of days will dictate whether or not he goes on the team’s upcoming five-game road trip.
PERRY UPDATE COMING TOMORROW
The only news regarding Corey Perry was that the team will know more information tomorrow. Perry, according to Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, is expected to undergo tests today on his knee, which he injured on Friday night at Minnesota on a hip check from Wild defenseman Keith Ballard.
Perry spoke with the media on Saturday afternoon in Winnipeg and said it wasn’t the first time he suffered such an injury. “It’s a little stiff, but it’ll heal,” he said. “I’ve done it to the other leg, so I’ve been through it. It’s just going to take a little bit of time.”
Boudreau took a philosophical approach regarding the status of Anaheim’s leading goal scorer. “I don’t know what we’ll know tomorrow, but we should know more than I know today.”
Boudreau says goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov returned home to New Jersey for a "predetermined" reason, but believes he'll continue his training. Bryzgalov was invited to a pro tryout with Anaheim on Dec. 3 and has been practicing.
Originally selected by Anaheim in the second round (44th overall) of the 2000 NHL Draft, the Togliatti, Russia native appeared in 69 games with the Ducks from 2001-07, posting a 26-23-8 record, 2.48 GAA and .909 SV%. Bryzgalov served as the backup netminder on Anaheim's 2007 Stanley Cup champion squad. Bryzgalov has appeared in 457 career games with Anaheim, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Edmonton and Minnesota, fashioning a 220-158-53 record, 2.56 GAA, .913 SV% and 34 shutouts.
When asked for a progress report, Boudreau says the news has been positive. "The reports were all really good," he said. "I saw him the first day before we left on the road, but that was it. I've had teams play against him and I know how good he can be."
ADVERSITY BUILDS CHARACTER
Despite the rash of injuries (and illnesses) to the Ducks this season, they still became the first team to reach 40 points. Entering tonight’s games, the Ducks sit atop the league with 41 points (18-6-5). They also have nearly identical records at Honda Center and on the road (9-3-3 at home, 9-3-2 on the road).
Anaheim is riding a four-game winning streak and the team’s 85 goals rank tied for third in the Western Conference with Chicago.
Boudreau says it’s the character in the locker room that helps push this team through any obstacle. “It’s such a good group of guys,” he said. “We have good depth. I never hear any talk about it in the dressing room. We try not to even use that as an issue.”
Boudreau singled out two of the team’s leaders, captain Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, for keeping the team afloat on the ice and inside the room.
“[Getzlaf’s] the captain and leader,” he said. “We follow his lead during the game and off the ice. He’s very good at that. He’s grown into this role and has become a very good leader.
“Kesler is in the same boat. He’s another very good leader. He doesn’t let us mope around. You have to constantly work and follow their lead. They’re the ones who eat up all the minutes.”