This season was supposed to be a good one. But so far, the media and everyone in the NHL world have been talking about the Anaheim Ducks injuries more than their play on the ice. And unfortunately, their woes will continue for a little longer.
Wings Clipped – Anaheim Ducks Injuries Slow Their Start
When a top two center, two top four defensemen and your more than capable back up goalie start the year on injured, the season is going to start off on the wrong foot. But that’s where the Ducks found themselves heading into this season.
Ryan Kesler was the lone forward missing the beginning of the season, but he was always going to be a big loss. A perennial 20-goal scorer, Kesler has managed to improve his offensive output each of the last three years. But after dealing with hip pain all of last season, Kesler decided to undergo off season surgery which would put him out four to five months. The Ducks are hoping to have him back by Christmas but as with any surgery recovery there is no official timetable.
The blue line took the hardest hit as both Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen started the season on the injured list. Both players underwent offseason shoulder surgery on the exact same injury. Lindholm was expected to make his season debut Friday against the Canadiens but unfortunately was unable to take the ice with his teammates. Vatanen, who many expected to be sideline for much longer, looks close to returning as well. Look for both to return in the next few games.
Ryan Miller was another unfortunate member of the IR list when the season began. After picking up an upper-body injury, Miller has yet to make his season debut with the Ducks. He, like both Lindholm and Vatanen, looks to be close to a return. Expect him to be the back up for most of the teams upcoming four game road trip and possibly make his season debut between the pipes as well.
The List Grows
With four big name players already being sideline for the immediate future, the Ducks could not have imagined a worse scenario to start the season. Ondrej Kase was the first in season injury to hit the team. He suffered a head injury in the team’s third game. Thankfully he returned this evening.
After splitting their first four games the team received their first in season blow with the loss of Ryan Getzlaf. Thankfully the lower body injury is just a day-to-day thing for Getzlaf and he has yet to hit the IR. If the Ducks are hoping to get back to the top of their division and speedy recovery for their captain and top line center is paramount.
If Getzlaf was the only top forward to go down, the Ducks may have been ok. But losing a 30-goal scorer from last season as well is hard to stay positive. Patrick Eaves is the latest, and hopefully last, player to hit the IR. Of course, this is already his second stinit on the IR after starting the season their with a lower body injury.
He made his season debut October 12th against the New York Islanders, a game in which Eaves and Getzlaf both got points, Eaves a goal and Getzlaf two assists. Since then Eaves has only played in one game against the Colorado Avalanche. He sustained another lower-body injury that has kept him out of practice, let alone games since. His return is still up in the air until he starts practicing again.
The forward replacements have been interesting. Up the middle Rickard Rakell has taken over the top line center job for the time being. When Getzlaf and Kesler are both back expect Rakell to return to the left wing with Corey Perry and Getzlaf as the Ducks top line. The other center replacement is Dennis Rasmussen. His inclusion has bumped both Antoine Vermette and Derek Grant to the second and third line spots respectively. With the center depth as it currently is, the Ducks can be expected to struggle until Getzlaf and Kesler return.
The wing replacements have been a combination of Jared Boll and Nicolas Kerdiles, with one game from Giovanni Fiore. With eight games combined between them and no points, the Ducks will need more if they are going to deal with the Eaves injury for any sort of time.
Along the blueline the team has utilized a trio of Jaycob Megna, Korbinian Holzer and Kevin Bieksa. With none expected to last once Vatanen and Lindholm return, expect a big shake up in the next week.
The Ducks schedule was very fortunate for the goaltending injury though. Reto Berra has only had to enter one game as the back up and has yet to start. With no back-to-back games the team was able to ride John Gibson through the first six games of the season. With Miller’s return imminent, they could be back to the strong crease they expected to start the season.
With a tough start to the season, the team averages to be better come season’s end. Missing your top two centers will slow your start obviously. Being one of only two teams in the NHL without a three-goal scorer as of Friday also doesn’t help. But adding 78 goals between Getzlaf, Kesler, Eaves, Lindholm and Vatanen will help that. Kase himself started the season with a goal in three games before injury.
No one expects them to struggle going forward so expect a quick turn around when the troops return.