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Ducks getting healthier as Game 1 nears

Perron, Rakell, Bieksa, Vatanen take part in full practice Wednesday

by Abbey Mastracco / Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- Rickard Rakell had never been in so much pain.

It's been about two weeks since the Anaheim Ducks center woke up in the middle of the night with a searing pain in his abdomen. He was rushed to a hospital, where he had an appendectomy. After the surgery, he was informed that his appendix had ruptured.

"I was in so much pain," said Rakell, who missed Anaheim's last seven regular-season games. "I didn't really know what it meant. I had tubes in my stomach so they could drain my stomach out."

Rakell is one of several Anaheim players who was ill or injured in the final few weeks of the regular season. The group grew from forward David Perron and defenseman Kevin Bieksa to include Rakell, defenseman Sami Vatanen, forward Brandon Pirri and, for the final road trip of the season, forward Ryan Kesler and goalie John Gibson.

General manager Bob Murray indicated Tuesday that most, if not all, of those players are will be able to return at some point during Anaheim's Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators, which begins Friday at Honda Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-TN, PRIME). When the Ducks finally took the ice for their first postseason practice Wednesday, all but two players participated in full, much to the relief of coach Bruce Boudreau.

"It was pleasing," Boudreau said. "I'm not saying that any of them are ready to go yet. But they participated in [a] full practice, so hopefully they'll be better [Thursday] and we'll make decisions after that."

Rakell's rehab after spending six days in the hospital was aided by Ducks' captain Ryan Getzlaf and defenseman Hampus Lindholm, his roommate.

Rakell said the weight he lost is back thanks in part to his roommate, Lindholm, who made him Swedish meatballs. Getzlaf, who had his appendix removed earlier this season, helped put Rakell's mind at ease by giving him in an idea of what the rehab and the timeline would look like.

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"He knows what I've been going through," Rakell said. "He's been trying to support me because he knows what it's like. It's tough trying to get your weight back and you energy levels back. I'm pretty much healthy now, so that's all I'm focusing on right now."

For Perron and Bieksa, being stuck in the gym together helped forge a bond. Bieksa, who's been described as a gym rat, has been diligent about maintaining his strength while recovering from an upper-body injury. He's been working out with Perron, who hasn't played since March 20 because of a shoulder separation.

"I think I'm quite ahead as far as some stuff and other stuff will maybe linger for a little while," Perron said. "I was here six or seven times a day icing and doing rehab exercises in the morning, getting on the ice and trying to spend a lot of time testing it out to different things."

But after spending all that time in the gym, they were eager to get back on the ice.

"I think were probably getting on the nerves of everyone around here," Perron said. "We were driving them crazy, trying to find things to chirp them about."

The Ducks are a far stronger team with Perron, Rakell and Bieksa in the lineup. When everyone is healthy, Anaheim can overwhelm opponents with its depth, especially up the middle.

With four days between their regular-season finale and Game 1 against Nashville, the Ducks should have a healthy contingent to start the postseason.

"Selfishly, for me, for Kevin and for [Rakell], it was huge to get those extra two days," Perron said. "It's the playoffs, and the adrenaline will kick in whenever we play. Hopefully it's in the first game."

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