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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 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 77 13 50 14 63
C. Perry 82 34 28 2 62
R. Kesler 79 21 32 5 53
R. Rakell 72 20 23 -1 43
J. Silfverberg 82 20 19 8 39
S. Vatanen 71 9 29 8 38
A. Cogliano 82 9 23 2 32
H. Lindholm 80 10 18 7 28
C. Fowler 69 5 23 -8 28
C. Stewart 56 8 12 2 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 22 9 7 .919 2.30
J. Gibson 21 13 4 .920 2.07

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