Start to Finnish
Thursday, 10.6.2011 / 1:06 PM PT
Eighteen hours away.
Eighteen hours from the moment we've been waiting for all summer.
Eighteen hours from the ignition of the 2011-12 season, when the Ducks drop the puck in Helsinki against the Buffalo Sabres and we begin to find the answers to so many questions.
- Can Jonas Hiller, who hasn't played a regular season game since a rough outing against Nashville way back on March 24, return to the form that made him the Western Conference's best goalie in the first half of last season?
- Can Corey Perry be as good as he was last year? Can his RPG line be just as good, or even better?
- Can that veteran unit of Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Jason Blake once again defy their ages (41, 36 and 38) and be a productive second line?
- Can the entirely brand new grouping of Andrew Gordon, Andrew Cogliano and Devante Smith-Pelly provide that third line scoring the Ducks have been in search of so long?
- Will the Ducks defense -- made up of a core of guys (Visnovsky, Beauchemin, Fowler, Sbisa, Brookbank and soon Lydman) who return from last year's team -- be the force the Ducks need it to be?
- Will the few new guys on this roster -- Cogliano, Gordon, DSP, Kurtis Foster -- provide a spark?
- Can the Ducks shake the trend of slow starts that has plagued them each of the past four seasons?
- Can a team composed of nearly the same makeup that springboarded to a fourth-place finish in the West do it again?
Most of all, when they drop that puck eighteen hours from now, at just a few minutes after 10 a.m. in California, will any of these questions really matter at first? Most of us will just be thinking one thing: Ducks hockey is back.
Kind of brings new meaning to the words "good morning," doesn't it?