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Kesler, Goaltending Among Ducks' Five Questions

Saturday, 08.30.2014 / 1:49 PM / News
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Kesler, Goaltending Among Ducks\' Five Questions
The Anaheim Ducks\' five questions entering this season revolve around the play of Ryan Kesler and their two young goaltenders.
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 NSH 63 41 15 7 191 151 89
2 ANA 63 39 17 7 186 176 85
3 STL 61 39 18 4 190 152 82
4 CHI 63 37 21 5 183 150 79
5 WPG 63 31 20 12 174 170 74
6 VAN 61 35 23 3 174 162 73
7 MIN 61 32 22 7 173 160 71
8 LAK 61 29 20 12 164 157 70
9 CGY 62 33 25 4 175 160 70
10 SJS 62 30 24 8 173 177 68
11 COL 62 27 24 11 166 179 65
12 DAL 62 27 25 10 195 207 64
13 ARI 63 20 36 7 138 214 47
14 EDM 62 18 34 10 142 206 46

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 60 19 40 10 59
C. Perry 48 26 17 13 43
R. Kesler 63 16 23 -2 39
S. Vatanen 57 12 22 6 34
M. Beleskey 56 21 9 13 30
P. Maroon 55 7 21 -4 28
H. Lindholm 60 6 22 17 28
J. Silfverberg 62 9 18 7 27
C. Fowler 62 5 21 -2 26
R. Rakell 52 5 19 4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 29 8 5 .916 2.37
J. Gibson 7 5 0 .914 2.63

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