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Ducks' third line looks solid in opener

by Corey Masisak
STOCKHOLM -- Anaheim's new-look third line only has two games together, but the trio looked like it had played together for much longer Saturday.

Andrew Cogliano scored the lone goal for the Ducks that was set up by linemates Andrew Gordon and Devante Smith-Pelly in the first period, and each of the trio played a key role in the team's excellent work on the penalty kill in a 2-1 shootout victory against the New York Rangers at Ericsson Globe Arena in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere.

Gordon and Smith-Pelly nearly got mixed up on a connection as they entered the offensive zone midway through the first period, but eventually Gordon corralled the puck in the right corner and sent it toward the slot. Cogliano was there waiting for it unmarked, and snapped the one-timer just under the crossbar and past New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at 9:26 for his first of the season.

It was a perfectly-placed pass by Gordon, who also absorbed a big check into the boards just after he released the puck.

The play resulted in Smith-Pelly's first career NHL point, as he joined fellow rookie Maxime Macenauer in collecting their first assist on this European excursion. It was also Gordon's third point in his 14th career NHL game.

"We've playing together pretty much all preseason and it seems like we're developing some chemistry," Smith-Pelly said. "We're just trying to do anything we can to contribute to this team."

Cogliano is the "veteran" on the line despite being only 24 years old because of his 329 previous NHL contests before Saturday. He spent the past four seasons with the Edmonton Oilers before arriving in a trade this offseason.

It took some stellar goaltending from Lundqvist to keep Cogliano from adding to his goal total. He had two great chances in the middle period, but one shot went off Lundqvist's mask and the other was ticketed for the top-right corner of the net if not for the goalie getting a piece of it at the last second.

"I think we had a pretty good preseason together and tonight was a good start for us," Cogliano said. "Now it's a matter of being consistent and for a guy like Smith-Pelly, he's trying to stay here and Gordon is trying to stay here too so they're playing hard. This is a new place for and a new coaching staff that I have to prove myself to and tonight was a good step."

All three of the guys on Anaheim's third line are part of the team's group of penalty killers, and they saw plenty of action because of the game's infraction-filled nature. There were as many penalties (12) as shots on goal in the first period, and the Ducks continued their march to the penalty box after the first intermission.

The Rangers added star center Brad Richards this summer and expected that to improve their power play, but the Ducks' PK was up to the task. New York finished the game 0-for-7 in 9:24 with the extra-man, including 40 seconds at 4-on-3 and eight at 5-on-3, but the Rangers managed only three shots in their PP time.

On a team that didn't have a lot of turnover this offseason, Cogliano, Gordon and Smith-Pelly are all newcomers. Carlyle has praised Gordon and Smith-Pelly for being the team's two best forwards during training camp, and Cogliano was moved to center to solidify a spot where a few players rotated in and out of last season.

The top two lines have to get untracked offensively, but Anaheim's third unit provided production and plenty of hard work on the PK as well Saturday night.

"When you're able to utilize all of those players, it means that their minutes get up and they are more involved in the hockey game," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "I thought we were a much better defensive hockey team tonight than we were the other night in Helsinki. We didn't have the poor start and we weren't playing catch up the whole night."
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