By Kyle Shohara
The adage Rome wasn’t built in a day seems to apply to the 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks. It’s been a perplexing and oftentimes frustrating start for players and fans alike, but if things go according to plan tonight, two words can be finally be used for the first time this season: winning streak.
As miniscule as it may seem, a victory tonight would give the Ducks their first string of consecutive victories this year and perhaps a little bit of momentum to start this month of November.
It was an optional skate this morning, but one that included captain Ryan Getzlaf and center Nate Thompson. The latter is coming off major shoulder surgery in June with an original return timetable of five to six months [more on Thompson later]. Getzlaf, who had a successful appendectomy (non-emergency) seven days ago, was ruled out of tonight’s game, per Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau.
Anton Khudobin was the lone netminder on the ice, so it remains to be seen whether he gets the start in net tonight vs. the Florida Panthers. Frederik Andersen has played five consecutive games up to this point.
The Panthers embarrassed the Ducks twice last season, the first instance occurring here at Honda Center in November. Nick Bjugstad single-handedly beat the Ducks with his two-goal, four-point performance, and Al Montoya saved 29 of 31 shots to improve Florida’s record to 6-4-5 at the time.
A year later, Florida enters the game tonight with a 5-4-2 record, while the Ducks, who were 11-4-4 following that defeat, come in with a 2-7-2 mark.
“We disrespected them,” admitted Boudreau, looking back on that game in Anaheim. “They kicked us pretty good, and as a matter of fact, they kicked us pretty good in Florida, too. One thing we know is we’re not taking them for granted. We know they’re a really good hockey club that can skate. They’re young and tenacious. Any time it’s the first game of a road trip, it’s usually going to be the best game. We have our hands full.” Florida will take on the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night and conclude its three-game California trip on Saturday against the LA Kings.
“You don’t get anywhere in the standings unless you put games together,” said Boudreau. “We know it’s going to be a tough task, but we’re looking forward to the game tonight.”
Carl Hagelin says the Ducks are trending in the right direction, but consistency is still lacking for a team on the upswing. “We have to be more consistent throughout the game,” Hagelin said. “We had glimpses of great play, but we also had some breakdowns in our own end where Nashville created a lot of chances.”
ROAD TO RECOVERY
You have to give credit to Thompson during the club’s postseason run last year. After missing the First Round series vs. Winnipeg, the physical centerman returned to the lineup for the five-game series vs. Calgary and the seven-game battle vs. Chicago. Thompson was banged up, there’s no doubt about that. Despite his injured left shoulder, Thompson finished the postseason with two goals and four assists in 12 games, while averaging more than 15 minutes of ice time per night.
He underwent surgery on June 12 to repair two labral tears. The 31-year-old resumed skating recently by himself, so today was definitely seen as a step in the right direction.
“It was almost like my game out there,” Thompson said. “It was fun and exciting. It was nice to have some bodies out there to joke around and have some fun with.”
Thompson says his recovery is an ongoing process.
“I’m making sure I’m doing the right thing every day, being smart,” he said. “I can definitely see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. At the same time, I have to make sure I’m smart about it and not rushing back.”