As the Hurricanes’ latest Western Conference opponent, the Anaheim Ducks are yet another unfamiliar foe. That’s not true for two specific players, who know them quite well.
Troy Bodie and Ryan Carter, who were acquired by Carolina from Anaheim in November via a waiver claim and a trade, respectively, will be facing their former club for the first time tonight. Having each broken through with the Ducks organization, it will also be the first time they’ve found themselves in such a situation.
“This is all pretty foreign to me,” said Carter, who has become a key penalty killer with his new club. “It’s going to be weird, definitely.”
Most players say that going up against a former team is extra motivation, which seems to be the case here given that both were placed on waivers at one point. The Hurricanes claimed Bodie outright but had to make a trade for Carter once he cleared in order to make the finances work.
“I’m not a mind reader and don’t know if they were trying to send me down or get rid of me, but now I’m facing off against them and it’s a chance to show them that I can play in this league,” said Bodie.
The former Ducks said that the Hurricanes’ coaches consulted them about rookies and recalls that they were otherwise unfamiliar with, but that the staff already had a good handle on the Anaheim’s general style of play.
”They’re a physical team,” said Carter. “Lately they’ve gotten away from the bigger guys on the third and fourth line, but they haven’t changed the way they play.”
Bodie and Carter will patrol their usual spot on the Hurricanes’ fourth line tonight alongside Friday recall Zach Boychuk, who will be playing his first game of the season. One might not think of it as a customary role for Boychuk, who ranks tied for second in the American Hockey League in scoring, but the 21-year-old said that he’s become more of an energy player this season.
I just found out recently that playing physical brings out my best,” said Boychuk, who had 11 hits in the Charlotte Checkers’ 5-3 win over Hershey on Dec. 12. “I’m a small guy and when I try to hit guys I pretty much just fall over, but when you think about it, you don’t hit guys at half speed, and moving faster has helped me in all three zones.”
As Hurricanes’ television play-by-play voice John Forslund noted on Twitter Saturday morning, Charlotte coaches Jeff Daniels and Geordie Kinnear called Boychuk’s performance against Hershey, during which he notched 4 assists, the best game he’s played since joining the organization as a first-round pick in 2008.
That’s the latest in a string of strong performances that have helped him overcome certain facets of his game that held him back in the past.
“I think the knock on me was my consistency, and in training camp and the beginning of the season in Charlotte you could see that,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence now.”
Boychuk now brings that scoring touch onto a line with Bodie and Carter that has already been generating offense through a strong brand of forechecking.
“(Boychuk) has as good a chance to put the puck in the net with those guys as on any line,” said coach Paul Maurice.
Defenseman Jay Harrison took the morning skate on Saturday after missing the previous two games with an upper-body injury. Maurice said that he would participate in warm-ups tonight along with Bryan Rodney, with the team then making a decision on Harrison’s availability.
“There's more that has to happen before I put him back in," said Maurice.
In Anaheim, the Canes will be facing a team on the third contest of a brutal seven-game road trip. That swing opened with an overtime win in Washington, but suffered a setback in New York, where the Ducks became just the second team to lose to the Islanders in their last 22 games.
There is good news for the Ducks, however, as Teemu Selanne is expected to return after missing nine of the last 13 games with a groin injury.