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Kase provides energy boost to Ducks

Forward stayed sharp in AHL during five-day break, stepped up with three points in win against Kings

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- Forward Ondrej Kase wasn't kicking back on a beach in some exotic locale last week.

While his Anaheim Ducks teammates were enjoying their five-day break, Kase was hard at work in San Diego. The Ducks sent him to their American Hockey League affiliate Tuesday and he played against Chicago on Wednesday.

His brief trip may have been the most beneficial one for the Ducks. Kase was instrumental in helping the Ducks defeat the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 at Staples Center on Saturday, scoring two goals and adding an assist for the first three-point game of his NHL career.

Video: ANA@LAK: Kase nets second goal off Quick's turnover

"I'm sure he would have loved to have a little bit of down time," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "But as a younger player, sometimes you have to go and sharpen your skills a little bit.

"He felt fresh and ready to go where some of us we're trying to keep [it] a little more simple. It can be a little sluggish for guys. I thought we all hung in there."

Los Angeles and Anaheim were coming out of respective five-day breaks. The Kings (24-14-5) lost their past two games, to the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators, heading into their break. The Ducks (20-15-9) lost to the Flames in their final game before the break.

With the win Saturday, the Ducks (49 points) are in fifth place in the Pacific Division, four points behind the second-place Kings, three behind the Flames and one behind the San Jose Sharks. They are two points behind the Dallas Stars, who hold the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. 

"We need points," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "It's as simple as that."

Kase said he welcomed the chance to sharpen his skills in San Diego because he was sick before the break. 

"I didn't skate six days," he said. "I had the flu. It was perfect for me. I was on the ice for one game. We won. It was a good game too."

Said Carlyle: "He played and practiced and he needed that." 

Back in the NHL, Kase's game stood out. His first goal, at 6:14 of the first period, came when he beat Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick from a sharp angle from the right circle, making it 1-0 on the Ducks' first shot of the game.

Video: ANA@LAK: Kase powers down wing, beats Quick

Kase's second goal came as an eventual result of a puck-handling miscue by Quick behind the net when Ducks forward Nick Ritchie capitalized and set up Kase at 2:10 of the third period, giving Anaheim a 3-0 lead.

In 28 games, Kase, 22, has 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) and is tied with Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg, who's played in 39 games, for second in goals. He had 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 53 games in his rookie season of 2016-17.

"He brings a tremendous energy to our team," Fowler said of Kase, who was selected by the Ducks in the seventh round (No. 205) of the 2014 NHL Draft. "Always has a smile on his face. Every day he spends here, I think he's grateful for that. A guy that came out of nowhere, a late-round pick and he's a smaller energy guy who can really skate."

It has been a stop-and-start season for the talented forward from the Czech Republic who has shown flashes of a high skill level. Kase missed 10 games in November because of an upper-body injury.

"He seems to be able to come back from breaks or if you move him up or down the lineup, he is able to provide you with some offense," Carlyle said. "He did this last year too."

A big game against a rival came at the right time for Kase because the Ducks are mostly healthy after dealing with numerous injuries in the first half and have more options up front.

There is more competition for playing time. For instance, forward Logan Shaw didn't play against the Kings. It was the second time he was a healthy scratch this season.

"This is a test that's coming because we've had some people that were not on our radar to play on our hockey club and have elevated their position," Carlyle said. "They went out and played for us and represented us and did a heck of a job. … We know they're not going to get the same amount of minutes that they had four, five weeks ago because of the injured players coming back."

One of the injured players was forward Corey Perry, who returned Jan. 6 after missing 11 games because of a lower-body injury.

"We're brought in some guys that have definitely stepped up," Perry said. "Everybody's probably a better player in here because of it.

"They played a bigger role. They did different things. Maybe they wouldn't have gotten that opportunity if things didn't happen that way. Down the road, in the playoffs, you're going to need everybody. The way we handled that situation, I think we're in a great spot."

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