Good afternoon from Honda Center, where earlier today the Ducks went through a vigorous practice before busing up to Los Angeles. Among the contingent of players on the ice were Rickard Rakell and Jonathan Bernier. Rakell says he's ready to play after a week's worth of skating with the team. Bernier, meanwhile, hasn't played since suffering an upper-body injury in the first period of the October 25 game at San Jose, but today took part in the full practice and said he's progressing. If Bernier isn't ready just yet, the Ducks have the option of recalling Dustin Tokarski from San Diego.
Rakell's imminent return will undoubtedly provide a boost to the team and give Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle options on where to put him.
"I think I'm ready to go," Rakell said today. "I've been skating hard with the coaches, so I feel conditioned. It's more about timing because I haven't played games in a while."
Rakell took rushes with Antoine Vermette and Chris Wagner today. It'll be interesting to see where he slots in if he plays against the Kings. Rakell has played the majority of his NHL career as a center, but his offensive numbers took off when he was moved to left wing last season. Having three capable centers on the same line isn't the worst problem to have.
Rakell saw time on the second power-play unit with Vermette, Jakob Silfverberg, Shea Theodore and Kevin Bieksa. The first PP unit was composed of Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen.
Carlyle says there's also the option of putting Rakell with Perry. "I have no qualms about putting Rakell with Perry because they played together last year," Carlyle said. "I don't want to take people away from Getzy at this point. [Carlyle is referring to Getzlaf and LW Nick Ritchie]. We need to have consistency in our lines. I'm going to stay hard and fast to that. But there is an option of putting Rakell at center or the wing. He gives us some versatility. Vermette can play left wing, center or the right side. With both of those players, it's a dimension we're looking forward to having."
Rakell will be put to the test physically if he does in fact draw in tomorrow. These are "heavy games" according to Carlyle. In other words, you have to be prepared to give hits and take hits against a physical team that won't shy away from grinding you down.
"If you don't come prepared to play a physical brand of hockey, you can get lost on the ice surface against this hockey club," said Carlyle. "We have to expect to play a heavy game tomorrow night. They try to beat you off the walls and in front of the net. We'll have to be ready to have our work boots on."
The Ducks will hold their pregame skate tomorrow morning at Staples Center.
Practice Line Combinations