Hitting the Road
By Matt Vevoda
After one final morning practice, the Ducks bid adieu Tuesday to Honda Center, a place they won’t see for quite some time. Not to return until a lengthy eight-game, 15-day road trip is complete, the team departed for Minnesota where the first leg of the trip bears their final regular season meeting with the Wild on Thursday.
Of course, the Ducks have some extra luggage in tow for the trip, as 10-time All-Star Teemu Selanne spurned retirement and re-joined the team in time to accompany them on the road. While there is no definitive date when he will return to the Ducks lineup, the Finnish Flash took part in his second practice, this time with the entire team, Ducks All-Stars Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, Corey Perry and Chris Pronger and the injured Samuel Pahlsson also skated. If all goes well, Selanne should be back in his familiar spot at right wing at some point during the jaunt.
“He doesn’t look like he missed a step out there in practice today,” Corey Perry said. “Teemu’s one of the elite players in this league. He’s going to step in and be right where he was last year. It’s going to be good for our team.”
Added Ryan Getzlaf, “We’re excited. Getting a player like that back is going to be unbelievable for us. We’re excited to play with him again this year.”
As he alluded to in his press conference on Monday, the trip provides a good starting point for Selanne and his teammates to get re-acquainted both on and off the ice.
“I would say Teemu has more of an impact from a vocal standpoint than Scotty would,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle when asked to compare the two players who re-emerged from semi-retirement. “Teemu’s a much different personality. He’s a fun-loving, outward guy where Scotty’s reserved. Scotty has his humor but it’s in his own special way. It’s not like everybody on the bus, the plane or in the dressing room would feel it quite the way Selanne brings it.”
With their two future Hall-of-Famers back in the fold for the rest of the season, the lingering questions on their statuses can finally be put to rest. But while old questions disintegrate, new questions seemingly evolve for the Ducks.
“I don’t think questions ever really leave your hockey club or your organization,” Carlyle said. “I think (Selanne and Niedermayer possibly retiring) was talked since the mid-point of last summer. Is the page turned? Is it closed? No, people are still going to talk of it taking them three or four months to make their decisions. It’s going to continue to go wherever we go. It’s not going to leave us.”
The biggest question now is, with most of its core from last year’s memorable run to a Stanley Cup title intact, can the Ducks re-create magic? The first step in that equation is securing a playoff spot. The Ducks’ longest road trip of the season should start to yield some answers.
“We have to go out and win some hockey games to qualify for the playoffs,” Carlyle said. “That’s our mandate. That’s what we have to focus on.”
Added Getzlaf, “This is going to be a key point in the season for us. We need to focus and get as many points as we can on this trip.”
Prior to commencing the trip Tuesday morning, Carlyle and his coaching staff stressed that in order for the team to have success while away from home, things will need to be taken step by step.
“We look at as one period at a time, one game at a time,” Carlyle said. “That’s as far as your focus should be. The first puck drop and the start is the most important thing. You try to build on that. The reality is that this is what we’ve been handed. We’ve known of this (road trip) since July or August, so it’s not a surprise. Now, we just have to live it.”
As the All-Star break is now in the rearview mirror, the Ducks head to the road eager to bounce back from three-straight losses suffered prior to the rest.
“For the players, it’s time to for them to turn the page and focus on what’s the most important thing and that’s tomorrow night in
The ongoing abdominal injury plaguing center Samuel Pahlsson was addressed by Carlyle following practice. While Pahlsson will go with the team on the road after skating with them for a short time on Tuesday morning, the status of the checking line wizard continues to remain up in the air.
“It seems that it’s been kind of a rollercoaster with his health,” Carlyle said. “It was supposed to be something that we looked at and thought would take 10 days when we made the decision on Dec. 22 to shut him down. He’ll come on the road trip, skate tomorrow morning at pre-game skate, skate Thursday and skate Friday in
“This doctor has some technique that has made him feel really good. He’s had some history of correcting injuries. I think (Marian) Gaborik from