By Kyle Shohara
Two teams with similar starts to the season collide tonight at Honda Center. Anaheim’s slow start was well-documented, but the team has since been trending upward, having won two in a row for the first time this season. Columbus’ start was so bad the end result was the firing of their head coach Todd Richards, who has since been replaced by John Tortorella. The Blue Jackets, who started the season winless in their first seven games, have won four of their past seven under Tortorella.
It appears Frederik Andersen will make his seventh consecutive start in goal tonight, while the Blue Jackets will tab former Duck Curtis McElhinney, as confirmed by Tortorella earlier this morning. Stalwart netminder Sergei Bobrovsky held the LA Kings to two goals last night in Columbus’ 3-2 victory at Staples Center, despite the team not registering a shot in the second period – the first time they’ve been held shotless in a period in franchise history.
“It’s a feisty Columbus team playing really well under a new coach,” said Cam Fowler. “They seem to be buying into the system. They went up to LA and beat a good hockey club, so we need to make sure we’re at our best tonight. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
With the Blue Jackets playing the second half of a back to back tonight, Fowler says it’s imperative for the Ducks to set the tone and dictate the play from the outset.
“The first five to ten minutes are going to be critical for our group,” Fowler said. “We want to push the tempo early. They know how to handle [playing on consecutive nights]. Teams play back to back quite a bit, but the importance of getting on them early is key for our group.”
Last night’s game in LA had the markings of old-time hockey. Not including the fighting majors given to Columbus' Nick Foligno and Gregory Campbell, and to LA's Kyle Clifford and Andy Andreoff, the remaining infractions included seven roughing minors, three slashing calls and an elbowing penalty.
If Tortorella is concerned about fatigue factoring into the team’s play tonight, he certainly didn’t show it.
“You don’t even go there. There’s no conversation,” he said. “That’s the league, that’s the schedule. Being tired or whatever you are after a really good game – and we expended a lot of energy – that’s a mental state we need to get through today. We have to be ready to play against a team that’s coming now. Anaheim is beginning to find [itself]. That’s a really good club. Just be ready to go. This is your job. I know they’re going to jump on us.”
HELLO, OLD FRIEND
Tonight marks the return of William Karlsson, better known as “Wild Bill” during his time in Anaheim. Karlsson recorded two goals and three points in 18 games with the Ducks last season, but was traded to the Blue Jackets on March 2, along with Rene Bourque and a 2015 second- round pick for James Wisniewski and a 2015 third-round pick.
Karlsson won Ducks fans over with his boy-band looks and breakthrough performance in a road game at Buffalo on Oct. 13, 2014, when he scored his first and second career NHL goals.
Though still without a goal this season with the Blue Jackets, Karlsson’s recent play has earned him the trust of Tortorella, who is giving him big minutes. Earlier today, Karlsson spoke about what it means to come back to Anaheim.
“It’s the organization that drafted me and took care of me for a few summers,” he said. “It’s a special feeling.”
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf skated with the team and appears to be nearing a return to the lineup. Getzlaf underwent an appendectomy (non-emergency) on October 28.
Whether he plays tonight still remains to be seen, however Getzlaf says he won’t return to the lineup if he’s not fully ready.
“I don’t think I’ve ever come back where I’m not ready to actually play,” he said. “I don’t expect to go out there and be limited in minutes.”
The Ducks have gone 2-2-0 in his absence.
OTHER NEWS, NOTES
It appears defenseman Josh Manson will return to the lineup tonight after missing the past five games with an upper-body injury. “Josh had earned the right to make this team,” said Boudreau. “It’s back to back games, too, so we don’t know who’s going to play tomorrow, but at the same time, Josh was ready the last game but we wanted him to have one last practice. He’s ready to play tonight.”
The only update given on the status of Rickard Rakell (upper body) is that he’s not playing tonight, according to Boudreau. “He didn’t skate the last two days, so you can read into that what you want.”