By Thomas Harrington
A frustrating start to the season continued last night, as the Anaheim Ducks were shut out for the third time in four games this year. Only Sami Vatanen has been able to find the back of the net so far this season. The one goal scored over a four game span is a new franchise low.
This was Francois Beauchemin’s first game back in Anaheim since signing as a free agent in Colorado over the summer, and he was his usual self, playing solid hockey in his own zone. At one point, he almost laid out Andrew Cogliano with a big hit, but Cogliano saw him coming and was able to avoid it. After coming in for relief for Anton Khudobin against Arizona on Wednesday, Frederik Andersen was once again the Ducks’ starter. He had another solid outing, letting in only two goals. The loss was certainly not on him. Even though he would have liked at least one of those goals back, he can’t be expected to stop every puck thrown at him every night.
For Colorado, Reto Berra made his regular season debut and played very well. He is the fourth goaltender the Ducks have faced this season who had a great game against them. Chris Wagner and Tim Jackman made their regular season debuts and played solid on the Ducks’ fourth line. In happier news, this game marked the debut of the Ducks’ new third jerseys. Personally, I really liked them and hope to get one in the near future.
The Ducks wanted a better start coming into this game, but after a solid opening shift, Nathan MacKinnon scored on Colorado’s first shot of the game. It was a shot that Andersen wanted back, but he played well through the rest of the period. After that letdown, the Ducks slowly started to take over the period; they outshot the Avalanche 15 to 7 through the entire period. The Ducks’ best line in the opening period was their new fourth line of Wagner, Jackman, and Carl Hagelin, with Hagelin getting one of the best chances of the night when he pounced on a rebound off a Cam Fowler point shot. Jackman had another good chance as well, while Wagner was his typical physical self. Both teams failed on their only powerplay of the opening period, as the penalty kill units of each team played well. The period came to a close with a faceoff deep in Colorado’s zone, Cody McLeod and Kevin Bieksa both taking slashing penalties, putting the teams at four on four, for almost a full two minutes to start the second.
The second period opened up with four on four, where neither team was able to score. Through the first half of the period, the Avalanche started to take over the game; they outshot the Ducks by a margin of 8 to 1 and doubled their lead off of Jack Skille’s first goal of the year. The goal came off a nice one timer after the Ducks failed to clear the puck out of their own zone. Almost immediately following the goal, Ryan Kesler took a slashing penalty that was clearly born out of frustration. However, a minute later Alex Tanguay hauled down Josh Manson, putting the teams back at four on four. When the Ducks went back on the powerplay, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Kesler were all on the ice and they all had some great chances, but were unable to beat Berra. Later in the period, Getzlaf had a great chance in the slot, but Berra came up with a better save. Shortly after that, Getzlaf missed a partially open net as he hit the outside of the post. The Ducks received one more powerplay in the period, off of another Tanguay penalty, but were unable to generate any offense out of it. The Ducks had good chances and were the better team through two periods, but were unable to convert on any of their chances. At some point during the period, the Ducks lost the services of Simon Despres and he did not play again for the rest of the game. He took a high hit from Tyson Barrie. It’s unknown how long he could be out for. The Ducks also started mixing the lines up in the second period, as the team desperately tried to find a spark to ignite their offense.
Without the services of Despres in the third, the Ducks relied on a five man rotation on defense, leading to Fowler playing a season high 26:45. The third period was very similar of the first two periods; the Ducks played well but were simply unable to score. The Ducks received two more powerplays in the third, but were unable to cash in on either. The final powerplay was off a dangerous looking hit when Erik Johnson boarded Perry. I thought it should have been a major penalty, as Perry could have been seriously injured. Thankfully, Perry was able to get back on the ice during the powerplay. The offensive line juggling continued throughout the period, but it was not enough. The Ducks simply could not find a way to beat Berra for a goal. The Ducks pulled Andersen with over two minutes left in the game, and had some good pressure, but Colorado ended the night when they scored into the empty net with about 45 seconds left to play.
Chris Wagner Sent To Waivers, Possible Roster Moves
With the Ducks unable to score this season, and with potential injury issues, the team made their first roster move as they placed Wagner on waivers. Wagner played well last night, but he’s a player who is not going to add much offense to the team. I really hope that no one claims him and that he stays with the Ducks organization, because he is going to turn into a solid fourth line center. Right now, it’s clear that this team needs scoring help and Wagner is simply not that player. On defense, Clayton Stoner is still out after missing the last two games with an injury, and it’s unknown how long Despres will be out for. If Despres is out for a long period of time, expect him to be placed on injured reserve, opening up another roster spot in Anaheim.
Unless the Ducks make a trade, expect a player or two to be recalled from San Diego before tomorrow’s game. At forward, I would expect either Nick Ritchie, Michael Sgarbossa, Max Friberg, or Stefan Noesen to get the recall. Ritchie leads the team with three goals and four points and is seen as a future power forward on the Ducks. He could be the perfect catalyst to jumpstart the offense. If the Ducks want an offensive minded center, Sgarbossa is a good choice as he leads the Gulls with three assists. Friberg has two points in two games and had a great training camp. Noesen has yet to score in San Diego’s first two games, but he did make his NHL debut last season and he’s known for his scoring ability.
On defense, the most likely candidates for a recall are Korbinian Holzer, Shea Theodore, or Shane O’Brien. When he was acquired last year and then re-signed over the summer, Holzer was seen as the team’s seventh defenseman. However, the play of Manson led to him being assigned to San Diego to start the season. With possibly two defensemen out, his veteran presence could be useful for the Ducks, but he’s not going to help the offense out. Theodore is seen as the next young star on defense on a roster full of young stars on defense, but his offensive potential could be better than anyone else on the Ducks. With the Ducks struggling to score goals, Theodore could be the tonic from the blueline to help get the goals flowing. Finally, O’ Brien was signed as veteran insurance for the Ducks. If the team suffered a rash of injuries on the blueline they could bring up someone with NHL experience to play on the bottom pairing. While I don’t expect him to be recalled, it is a possibility.
The next 24 hours will be interesting to watch. Hopefully Wagner isn’t claimed by another team, as I think he has a bright future ahead of him. If unclaimed, I would expect Wagner to be assigned to San Diego so the team can bring someone up to fill his spot. It’s also been announced that Barrie will be having a hearing for his hit on Despres, so a suspension or fine could be coming out of that. If it’s determined that Despres will be out long term, he could be placed on IR, as could Stoner if his lingering injury persists. With a roster spot or two likely opening up, we could see a couple of players recalled from San Diego, with some of the Ducks’ top prospects possibly making their NHL debut tomorrow night against Minnesota.
UPDATE: Tyson Barrie To Have Hearing, Holzer and Theodore Recalled and At Practice Today
The NHL committee for player safety will have a hearing later today for Barrie’s hit on Simon Despres. Also spotted on ice today at practice today was Korbinian Holzer and Shea Theodore. There is a good chance one of them will play Sunday as Stoner ad Despres have both been placed on injured reserve.
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