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5 Questions: Anaheim Ducks

First-line left wing, learning new coach Randy Carlyle's system will be pivotal

by Abbey Mastracco / NHL.com Correspondent

An NHL season is filled with twists and turns for each of the League's 30 teams. Here are five of the major questions that could define the 2016-17 season for the Anaheim Ducks:

Who will play with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry?

Another year, another left wing. Getzlaf, Anaheim's No. 1 center, and Perry, his longtime right wing, have had many players line up on their left side. The Ducks have desired to bring in a true top-line wing to complement their two world-class players and give the group a tougher look. For much of last season, Getzlaf and Perry were split up, which made Anaheim harder to defend. But they eventually were reunited. Coach Randy Carlyle first put Getzlaf and Perry together during his previous time as Ducks coach, and he's expected do so again in his return. Rookie Nick Ritchie looks like a candidate to join them after spending time on Getzlaf's line last season.

 

Has Randy Carlyle changed?

Carlyle's dump-and-chase system was thought to be antiquated in an era when speed rules the game. But Carlyle now says Anaheim is going to play fast. Though the "Dirty Ducks" are gone, Carlyle wants them to be tough and thinks they can be with center Ryan Kesler, right wing Jared Boll and defenseman Kevin Bieksa. Carlyle says he has mellowed and evolved since his first stint with Anaheim and his three seasons as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but maybe the Ducks didn't really want a changed Carlyle in the first place.

 

Will the Ducks sign Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm?

The two Sweden-born players are restricted free agents and more valuable than they look on paper. Rakell, 23, is a tenacious center with speed and a scoring touch. Lindholm, 22, is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman with the ability to suppress shots and jump into the play. Replacing Lindholm wouldn't be easy, but it would be far easier than replacing Rakell. The Ducks are deep on defense but took a hit up the middle when center Nate Thompson ruptured his Achilles during an offseason workout. Rakell's 20 goals and playmaking abilities would be missed.

Video: ANA@OTT: Rakell wrists overtime winner on the PP

 

Can John Gibson handle a full season as the No. 1 goalie?

Gibson combined with Frederik Andersen last season to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, given to the goalies on the team that allows the fewest goals in the NHL. Gibson, 23, started 40 regular-season games and Anaheim's first two Stanley Cup Playoff games but was benched in favor of Andersen after the Ducks lost the first two games to the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round. Andersen was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on June 20, leaving Gibson as the No. 1 goaltender. He has a high upside but has never won the starter's job outright or had a potential workload this great. Jonathan Bernier, acquired from Toronto on July 8, will be the backup.

Video: ANA@COL: Gibson makes a pair of tough stops 

 

Can the Ducks win a Game 7?

In each of the past four seasons, the Ducks were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by losing Game 7 at home. Former coach Bruce Boudreau took the fall after the first-round loss to Nashville last season, but some players have said they were at fault. General manager Bob Murray didn't want to make any major changes to the roster because he believes he has a talented team, but should history repeat itself, Murray may have no choice but to shake things up.

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