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Over the Boards: Ducks deep at center

by Dan Rosen

Look no farther than Nick Bonino's stat line this season if you want to analyze just how deep the Anaheim Ducks are at center.

Bonino, considered the Ducks' third- or fourth-line center, depending on the game, opponent and his linemates, would lead eight teams in scoring right now despite being 77th among centers in ice time per game (16:27).

He has 40 points, which is third on the Ducks behind fellow center Ryan Getzlaf and right wing Corey Perry. Bonino is one of five centers who routinely make coach Bruce Boudreau's job one of the easiest yet toughest in the NHL.


How many of the teams playing in the Stadium Series New York do you think will make the playoffs? -- @NYR1225

Only the New York Rangers. The New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils are solid teams, but I think their flaws will keep them out. The Devils don't score enough, and the Islanders don't defend well enough. The Devils' shootout problems will also come back to bite them. The Rangers defend well, have excellent goaltending and have figured out the fast-paced game that Alain Vigneault wants them to play. I think they're the second-best team in the Metropolitan Division behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Does Nashville trade David Legwand, and what is the asking price? -- @JeremyR86

While it may make sense for Nashville Predators general manager David Poile to trade Legwand because his contract is up and the argument could be made that the team should move in a different direction, I just don't think it's going to happen. Poile is typically a loyal guy, and Legwand was the franchise's first draft pick.

I'm not sure on the asking price, but maybe a second-round pick or a third-round pick and a prospect. If Poile can squeeze a first-round pick out of a team for Legwand, then trading him makes a lot of sense. He's a rental who could help bolster a contending team's center depth, including the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Devils.

What are the Vancouver Canucks playoff chances moving forward without Henrik Sedin? Is it time to move one of their defensemen? Maybe Alex Edler? -- @BrandonHandwerk

Nobody is quite sure how long Sedin will be out of Vancouver's lineup, so it's hard to answer the first question. Obviously, if this is long term, then their playoff chances take a monumental hit. If he's really day-to-day, as the Canucks continue to say he is, then it shouldn't put too big of a dent in their hopes, which are still strong.

As for the second and third questions, I think this is a slippery slope. The Canucks have a deep defense and Edler is a solid player. Dealing from depth is a dangerous thing, especially when the depth comes from your team's strength. Defense is Vancouver's strength now. Moving Edler would require a blockbuster because of his contract ($5 million per season through 2018-19). I wouldn't trade him, or any of the defensemen. In fact, I'm not sure what GM Mike Gillis can do right now to make this team a Cup contender this season; it's not. I think the Canucks will have to re-evaluate their roster in the summer. The defense is fine. Edler is better than he's played this season.

Will the Blackhawks make a trade to shake things up, and who is their best option at second-line center? -- @bsac11

I do think the Blackhawks will make a trade. Stan Bowman will not stay quiet. I think they're going to target a No. 2 center. As I mentioned above, Legwand would be a good one to get, but I wonder if Poile would trade him in the division, if he trades him at all. Among the other potential UFAs to be this summer, Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche would be a great get for Chicago, but again, Colorado is in the same division and is a playoff contender. Mikhail Grabovski of the Washington Capitals could fit with the Blackhawks, but it all depends whether Washington A) continues to slide and B) wants to re-sign him.

For now, though, if I'm Joel Quenneville, I'm seeing what Brandon Pirri can do for me again. Pirri was recalled earlier this week. He's an offensive player but can be a defensive liability. He has some warts in his game, but he can be a dynamic player. I'd give him another shot at least until the Olympic break. Bowman and Quenneville can re-evaluate at that point.

"When you've got that many guys that can play minutes, I mean, Bruce has a task every night," Getzlaf said.

The Ducks talk about their four-line balance as one of the main reasons for their success this season. They wouldn't have that four-line balance without at least four centers Boudreau trusts in nearly all situations.

But Anaheim has five, though Boudreau tends to shield Mathieu Perreault sometimes because of his size (5-foot-10, 185 pounds).

Getzlaf is the unquestioned leader and No. 1 guy. He leads the team with 61 points and is first among forwards at 20:48 of ice time per game.

Bonino, Saku Koivu, Perreault and Daniel Winnik provide the balance to complement Getzlaf. Andrew Cogliano has played on the wing most of the season, but he can also move to the middle in a pinch.

"It's a four-line League now," Boudreau said. "It used to be that you could ride your top two guys, but now it doesn't even work if you have three that you use all the time."

Boudreau said he tries to get his centers at least 10 minutes of ice time per game, and the stats bear that out.

Perreault is fifth in ice time among the five centers at 13:47 per game in 46 games. Winnik was at 15:28 in 51 games, but he plays more on the wing than in the middle. Koivu is eight seconds behind Winnik at 15:20 in 40 games; he missed 15 others due to injury.

Boudreau has scratched Winnik four times and Perreault three times in the past 13 games. He has used all five centers in 27 of 55 games this season, which is why Winnik has played mostly on the wing.

The five centers are among the team's top-10 scorers. Koivu is tied for 10th with Teemu Selanne -- each has 19 points -- but remember, he missed a full month.

"Any time you can have four lines that have any one of those guys playing down the middle, it's huge for any team," Perry said. "The depth alone on our team has come into play on our season. It definitely helps to have four solid lines. You can put any winger with any of those four guys and they're going to have success. That's the way Bruce is looking at it."

Boudreau admitted there are times when he has to ride Getzlaf more, such as in the Ducks' 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings last Thursday, when Getzlaf played 24:31.

It was that way against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 5, when Getzlaf played 25:39 in a 4-3 overtime win. It was also that way Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, back-to-back games against the San Jose Sharks and Kings in which Getzlaf played almost 27 minutes.

"There are some games when [Getzlaf] has to play more, when we need our big horse," Boudreau said.

However, in most games Getzlaf plays 18 to 22 minutes because Koivu, Bonino, Perreault and Winnik can play important minutes to give the Ducks the four-line balance all teams crave but so few have.

"You've got one of the best forwards in the game right now in Ryan Getzlaf, and he's playing so well, so the rest of us centers want to try to complement that, contribute and provide some offense," Bonino said. "You look at the teams at the top of the standings: They're always strong at center. We pride ourselves on being good game in and game out, helping the team win. We're definitely happy with how that's gone."

A different kind of whirlwind for Klein

In the midst of adjusting to a new team and playing multiple outdoor games, New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein is also trying to figure out how to play with a new defense partner.

Klein has played two games with John Moore, and so far he thinks the results have been positive. They were on the ice for the first two New York goals in the second period of their 7-3 win against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday. Moore had an assist, and they combined for three blocked shots.

"Better than you could hope for [with] not really knowing how each other plays," Klein said Tuesday after his first practice at the Madison Square Garden Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y. "[Moore] is a young guy with lots of skill. He can definitely fly. It's always nice skill to have when you can skate yourself out of trouble and jump up in the play. We're still working on communicating as much as possible which helps ease our transition. He knows that I'm back there and if he wants to go, I'll cover him."

Klein said the good thing about his transition to the Rangers is that Alain Vigneault knows him well from his days with the Canucks, and he had already played with Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan.

Girardi, Callahan and Klein were teammates with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League during the 2003-04 season. Klein and Girardi were defense partners and played on the power play together while leading the Storm to the OHL championship.

"Same type of guy, just two more kids than he had then," Girardi said of Klein, who left behind his wife and two kids in Nashville when he was traded last week.

Klein said he also received welcoming text messages from Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Ryan McDonagh when he was traded. However, after practicing Tuesday, he realized that it will likely take him a while to get used to all the accoutrements the Rangers have in their suburban training facility.

"This facility is unbelievable," he said. "You're kind of in awe when you first come in, trying to get used to everything. It's a top-notch organization. It's pretty unbelievable to see everything they have and see how well they're treated here.

Two-a-day for Donovan

Matt Donovan was on the ice with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League Tuesday morning. By afternoon the 23-year-old defenseman was skating with the New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium.

"My coach [in Bridgeport] told me to get off the ice and head to Yankee Stadium," Donovan said. "He said, 'That's the first time I ever said that to anyone.'"


Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice discussing Evander Kane and the potential to get more out of the star forward:

"Let's not forget how young this guy is. He's a young player, and he's a really, really good, really dynamic player. I think there is a lot of upside, as I would say about any good, young player. I think he's in a good spot where he is right now, and he's getting better, so he's on a great timeline for me. He's on an appropriate trajectory for what his age is and his experience in this League."

The Islanders sent Donovan to Bridgeport on Monday, then recalled him Tuesday after putting defenseman Travis Hamonic on injured reserve. Donovan said he isn't sure if he'll be in the lineup Wednesday against the Rangers, but there is a good chance he will play because during practice he was paired with Calvin de Haan, who has been a regular in the lineup.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing," Donovan said of playing at Yankee Stadium. "I had no clue [I was getting recalled]. Obviously, you don't think about getting sent down and getting called back the next day. I was getting settled in to my hotel in Bridgeport, practicing and just going with the flow of things, and then to get called back, it's awesome."

Donovan, who expects to play in Bridgeport during the Olympic break, has had an up-and-down season, which is why he's been sent down and recalled twice this season.

The Islanders were hoping he'd be the replacement for Mark Streit as a puck-rushing, point-producing defenseman, but he so far he has a goal and five assists in 32 games -- a far cry from the 48 points he scored in 75 games with Bridgeport last season. He also had 45 points in 72 games with the Sound Tigers in 2011-12.

Donovan has been mistake-prone, and the game has at times seemed to be going too fast for him. He said it's starting to slow down for him now.

"I think it's been a learning season," Donovan said. "Obviously, it's not the way I wanted it to go. I put up pretty big numbers in the AHL, and I guess sometimes it doesn't carry over. Playing against the best guys in the world, it's a very hard league, and it's hard to do the stuff you can do in the AHL. I think I'm really close for everything to click, for everything to start going my way, and start getting points more and more. Everything is slowing down a bit. The pace has gotten slower for me, and I'm seeing the ice a little better. Hopefully, it just continues."

Versteeg still adjusting in return to Chicago

Kris Versteeg's return to the Chicago Blackhawks after more than three seasons away hasn't exactly been like riding a bike.

"You try to get back to the old routine, but restaurants aren't there anymore or other things have changed," Versteeg said.

Chicago traded Versteeg to the Toronto Maple Leafs after it won the Stanley Cup in 2010. Toronto traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers later in the 2010-11 season; he signed a four-year contract with the Florida Panthers in the summer of 2011.

Florida traded Versteeg to the Blackhawks on Nov. 13.

"It's still a little weird for me," he said. "It's still like I almost can't believe I'm back, especially since I signed a four-year deal in Florida and never thought I'd be leaving there because of the relationship I had with [Panthers general manager] Dale [Tallon]. I was mentally set on being a Panther, so it's still hitting me out of left field in the sense I can't believe it's real because I'm extremely thrilled. I couldn't believe it actually happened, and that's the biggest reason why I'm still kind of caught off-guard, figuring that out."

Clearly, Versteeg never wanted to leave Chicago, especially after winning the Stanley Cup, but the team was forced to trade him because of salary-cap complications.

"With the guys in the room I'm back to normal because we're joking around, having fun," Versteeg said. "You see things guys do in warmups and you're like, 'Oh yeah, that's what that guy does.' The routines guys go through I'm like, 'Ah, now I remember all this stuff.' But the rest of it is only starting to come back all the way around to being normal."

Jokinen's leadership impressing Maurice

Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice knew Olli Jokinen's game well from coaching against him for several seasons in the Southeast Division, but he didn't know anything else about the Finnish center.

He's finding out there is a lot more to his game than just what he does on the ice during games. Maurice praised Jokinen's leadership and his fitness level.

Olli Jokinen
Center - WPG
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 31
SOG: 116 | +/-: -11
"He's a really, really fit guy, which is a good example for a young team, to see how hard you've gotta work, especially when you get older," Maurice said. "On the bench he's calling the game the right way and saying the right things. He's been versatile for us. We're using him in all situations and his minutes up."

Jokinen played 21:24 in a 3-2 win against the Ducks at Honda Center last week. That's the most he's played in a regulation game this season and the third-most ice time he'd received through the team's first 55 games.

This and that

Courtesy of the NHL's PR department, here are some numbers and records that came out of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games from this past weekend:

* Devils forward Patrik Elias and Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello became the sixth and seventh players to score two goals in an NHL outdoor game. The previous five were Yanic Perreault (2003 Heritage Classic), Richard Zednik (2003 Heritage Classic), Jiri Hudler (2009 Winter Classic), Rene Bourque (2011 Heritage Classic 2011) and Mike Rupp (2012 Winter Classic).

* The Rangers became the only team to win two NHL outdoor games. Four other teams have played in two – the Penguins, Flyers, Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.

* The seven goals scored by the Rangers against New Jersey are an NHL outdoor game record, topping the six scored by the Red Wings in the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. Their four goals in the second period set an NHL outdoor game record for most goals by one team in a period. The five goals scored by the Rangers and Devils in the first period set an NHL outdoor game record for most combined goals in a period.

* Derek Stepan scored the first penalty-shot goal in NHL outdoor game history. There have been three penalty-shot attempts, including Daniel Briere's try in the 2012 Winter Classic and Anze Kopitar's opportunity in the game Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

* The game Saturday at Dodger Stadium between the Ducks and Kings drew a 2.38 rating in Los Angeles. It was the highest rating in the L.A. market for a regular-season game on NBCSN.

* The Devils-Rangers game drew a 5.1 overnight rating in the New York area on NBC. It's the highest rating for an NHL regular-season game on NBC in the New York area and tied for the highest-rated New York game ever (Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final). NBC was the No. 1 network in the New York market from 1:30-4:30 p.m. ET.


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