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Pacific: Roster restraints force Ryan to minors

by John Kreiser
The Anaheim Ducks still think Bobby Ryan will be a fine player.

Just not yet.

The Ducks sent the No. 2 pick in the 2005 Entry Draft to their new AHL affiliate in Iowa as they pared their roster to get under the salary cap prior to opening night.

"We looked at 100 ways to start the season and figure out a way to keep Bobby and we can't do that," General Manager Brian Burke said after the decision was announced. "There is no other option for us at this point in time. Fairness to players is a principle we live by in Anaheim, and it's part of the reason players want to play here. We treat our players fairly. What I said to Bobby is, 'This may not seem fair to you because you were in the hunt. But it's definitely cap-related.'

"Our first priority is to get him back here on our team -- if, and only if, he is dominating at that level. He proved he can do that in the playoffs last year. If he does that, we will try to figure out a way to bring him back with our cap situation and budget situation. If we can't do that, then the second alternative, and it's clearly our second choice, is to find him another organization to play in. But that's clearly not our first choice. We fought hard to keep him out of other deals in the past couple of months. We were under tremendous pressure to include him in other deals and we fought hard to retain him."

The Ducks still have big plans for Ryan, who starred in the AHL playoffs with Portland last spring after splitting the season between the Ducks and the Pirates.

"He's a young player who has made huge strides and he demonstrated that in training camp," coach Randy Carlyle said. "His performance was that where it made it difficult for us to reassign him today. I just want him to go down and be the best player he can possibly be. It's not a question of if  he's going to play in the NHL, it's when."

Kid stuff in Phoenix -- The Coyotes are more than willing to get their kids in the lineup. Their top picks in each of the last two seasons -- center Kyle Turris and wing Mikkel Boedker -- figure to get top-six ice time in the season opener against Columbus on Saturday night.

But coach Wayne Gretzky did some tinkering after the preseason schedule, opting to play Turris (No. 3 pick in 2007) between Daniel Carcillo and captain Shane Doan. Olli Jokinen, acquired from Florida on draft night, will center Boedker and second-year forward Peter Mueller. Jokinen had centered Doan and Mueller during the preseason.

The move was designed to take some pressure off the two youngsters, both of whom carry big expectations.

"We really felt that putting Kyle and Mikkel together puts an enormous amount of pressure on two (teenagers)," Gretzky said Monday. "It's hard enough to break into this league as an 18-year-old and although they have both played well, we thought it was a little too much.

"So now instead of having one line, we will have two young lines. I think right now, on a regular basis, maybe it takes a lot of pressure off those two young kids. They can look to their side and see a veteran player who has a little more experience. Hopefully, it will make the transition easier for them."

When Jokinen was acquired, it was anticipated that Jokinen and Doan would be paired. Despite the line changes, Gretzky said the two will see some time together.

"Jokinen and Doan will play a lot together on the power plays," he said.

The Coyotes' second first-round pick in 2008, Viktor Tikhonov, also appears likely to make the team. He's been playing on a third line with Daniel Winnik and Martin Hanzal.

Help for Joe -- Joe Thornton is the most prolific passer in the NHL and makes anyone who plays with him a threat to score. The San Jose Sharks' problem has been getting offense from the lines that aren't centered by Thornton.

Perhaps that's why the one line new coach Todd McLellan left intact during the preseason was the trio of Milan Michalek, Joe Pavelski and Jonathan Cheechoo.

"They've been our best line throughout the whole training camp," McLellan said. "We'll keep them together."

Cheechoo has slumped from 56 goals while playing with Thornton in 2005-06 to 23 last season. Michalek was a distant second to Thornton on the Sharks' scoring list last season and Pavelski is promising, but still unproven, after getting 19 goals and 40 points last season.

Pavelski had three goals in the five preseason games the trio played together, and led the way with a goal and two assists in a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles that completed the preseason schedule.

"He provides us with a lot of energy, he's in really good shape and he will be counted on greatly," McLellan said. "Joe is a very bright, intelligent player. He's prepared and willing to respect the game and he's always interested in other players and how they do things. To me that tells me that he's got a good hockey IQ."

“Joe (Thornton) is a very bright, intelligent player. He's prepared and willing to respect the game and he's always interested in other players and how they do things. To me that tells me that he's got a good hockey IQ."
-- Sharks coach Ron McLellan

His task is to translate that IQ into offensive production -- and take some of the burden off Thornton.

News and notes --
Former NHL player Landon Wilson's bid to make the Dallas Stars came up short when he was assigned to Grand Rapids of the AHL. The 33-year-old son of Stars associate coach Rick Wilson hasn't played in North America since 2003-04, when he suited up for Pittsburgh. He spent the last three seasons in Europe. … Dallas' trip to the Western Conference finals is paying off. The Dallas Morning News, citing team officials, reports that the season-ticket base has surpassed 13,000 for the first time in five years, with nearly 1,300 new season-ticket buyers. The Stars averaged 18,038 fans (97.3 percent of capacity) last season. … The L.A. Kings' top pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, Drew Doughty, made the opening-night roster; their top pick in 2007, Thomas Hickey, did not. The Kings returned Hickey to Seattle of the WHL on Oct. 6. Doughty is likely to be paired with 35-year-old Sean O'Donnell, who was acquired from Anaheim a week before the season. O'Donnell began his career with the Kings in 1995 and played six seasons in L.A. … The Kings also kept a pair of kids, 19-year-old Oscar Moller and 20-year-old Wayne Simmonds. Coach Terry Murray said Moller will play right wing on the second line with Jarret Stoll and Alexander Frolov. Simmonds will be on the right side of the third line with Michal Handzus and either Kyle Calder or Brad Richardson. The Kings could take a look at Moller, who's 19, and decide to send him back to his junior team after nine games. …  One of the newest Ducks, forward Brad Larsen, won't make his debut until next month. Larsen, acquired from Atlanta in the deal that send Mathieu Schneider to the Thrashers, will miss about six weeks after sports hernia surgery. … Among those at San Jose's training camp was Tom "Woody" Woodcock, their original trainer, who comes back to lend a hand every year during camp and during the playoffs.  Woodcock, now 75, officially retired a few years ago and now lives in Providence, R.I. The Sharks' training room at HP Pavilion is dedicated to him. … Members of the Phoenix Coyotes took time out from training camp to team with members of the sales and customer-service staff and call customers. It wasn't easy. "I don't think I'm cut out for this," defenseman Kurt Sauer joked. "Luckily I'm much better on the ice, that's for sure."
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