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Kesler, Goaltending Among Ducks' Five Questions

Saturday, 08.30.2014 / 10:49 AM PT / News
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Kesler, Goaltending Among Ducks\' Five Questions
By Curtis Zupke | NHL.com

The search for a second-line center has been a long-term project for the Anaheim Ducks. Since trading Andy McDonald in 2007, the Ducks have largely struggled to slot someone behind captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Anaheim was able to run through the regular season with Saku Koivu and Mathieu Perreault, but their lack of size eventually hurt them against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Second Round series, won by the Kings in seven games.

General manager Bob Murray responded by trading for Ryan Kesler, giving the Ducks as good a one-two pairing at center as any team in the NHL. Kesler's contribution in a conference that only got tougher in the offseason is one of five prominent questions facing Anaheim.

1. How much will Kesler help close the gap between Anaheim and the Kings and Chicago Blackhawks? – Kesler is adept in the faceoff circle and will help the Ducks' 22nd-ranked power play. When healthy, he is good for 10-15 power-play goals per season and is also a shorthanded threat.

Defensively, Kesler has won the Selke Trophy (and was a finalist two other times) and provides size and a 200-foot game that is valuable in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That said, Kesler alone won't put Anaheim on par with Los Angeles and Chicago. The Ducks had to give up Nick Bonino in the trade and veterans Koivu and Perreault were not brought back, so they aren't as deep down the middle on their third and fourth lines.

2. Is Anaheim's defense strong enough to make a deep playoff run? – The short answer is no, at least not the way it is currently constructed. The Ducks do not have a true shutdown pairing. The duos of Francois Beauchemin with Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler with Ben Lovejoy worked well during the regular season but failed to seize the moment against the Kings.

The acquisition of Clayton Stoner gives them size, but Stoner is a second- or third-pairing defensemen who won't put Anaheim over the top. Sheldon Souray has a career-threatening wrist injury and Murray cast serious doubt that Souray would be able to continue when asked about his health in July.

3. How does the goaltending shake out?Frederik Andersen is probably the No. 1 at the moment but that could change in a heartbeat if fellow second-year goalie John Gibson has an outstanding training camp. Andersen and Gibson both usurped Jonas Hiller, who signed with the Calgary Flames, and there might be times this season when Anaheim realizes how much it misses Hiller. That's why Jason LaBarbera was signed to provide veteran leadership.

"We think we've got two really good goalies and an experienced, veteran goalie," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I think we're OK there, I just don't know how it will shake out."

Dany Heatley
Left Wing - ANA
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 28
SOG: 110 | +/-: -18

4. Who will play with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry? – Boudreau may try Dany Heatley on the left wing. He's a pure scorer who can finish Getzlaf and Perry's dirty work much the same way that Bobby Ryan did when he was in Anaheim. Heatley is also a left-handed left wing, something Anaheim lacks.

The top-line left wing spot has been a revolving door since Ryan was traded. Boudreau used at least 10 players there last season, something he would like to avoid.

5. Can Anaheim translate regular-season success into the playoffs? – Getting past the first round of the playoffs was a significant step in itself for Boudreau, who has done so just three times in seven seasons with the Ducks and the Washington Capitals and has never advanced to the third round. But Anaheim is coming off two straight Game 7 collapses, to the Detroit Red Wings in 2013 and the Kings last season. The Ducks regularly rack up regular-season accomplishments under Boudreau, whose contract expires next summer, but that has resulted in one playoff series win in the past three seasons.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 CHI 58 36 18 4 160 134 76
2 DAL 55 35 15 5 178 147 75
3 STL 57 31 17 9 138 133 71
4 LAK 54 33 18 3 151 128 69
5 COL 58 29 25 4 155 160 62
6 SJS 53 28 20 5 154 143 61
7 ANA 53 26 19 8 120 125 60
8 NSH 55 25 21 9 142 148 59
9 ARI 54 25 23 6 143 164 56
10 MIN 54 23 21 10 133 134 56
11 VAN 54 22 20 12 125 144 56
12 CGY 54 25 26 3 144 160 53
13 WPG 54 24 27 3 139 157 51
14 EDM 56 22 29 5 138 168 49

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 49 5 35 9 40
C. Perry 53 21 17 -4 38
R. Rakell 50 13 15 -3 28
R. Kesler 53 11 15 -8 26
S. Vatanen 53 6 19 -1 25
C. Stewart 47 8 10 2 18
J. Silfverberg 53 6 12 -2 18
A. Cogliano 53 6 11 -9 17
H. Lindholm 52 6 8 -6 14
C. Fowler 40 3 9 -10 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 11 8 6 .920 2.30
J. Gibson 12 8 2 .917 2.13

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