Ducks hanging tough despite health issues

Ducks defensemen Stoner and Fistric appear ready to return from maladies

The rest of the Pacific Division hasn't taken advantage of the rash of Ducks' defensive absences, and now the first-place team is regaining its health.

Ducks defensemen Clayton Stoner (mumps) and Mark Fistric (back) practiced Tuesday at a lightly attended workout, both declaring they're capable of playing in Wednesday's home game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

To make room, Anaheim moved rookie defenseman Jesse Blacker back to minor league Norfolk, Va.

"Good day, I had a lot more energy on the ice … hoping that tomorrow is the same," said Stoner, the Ducks' $13-million off-season free-agent acquisition who has missed five consecutive games.

Fistric, hampered throughout the season by back pain, practiced with a facial shield Tuesday after getting hit in the mouth with a puck in a recent practice.

"Rough start to the year, but it's good to be out there and close to 100 percent again," Fistric said. "We've definitely hit a big injury bug, but it shows the character and depth of the organization. No matter who's out there, we have a chance to win."

Monday's 3-2 victory over Boston made the Ducks 8-4-5 since the injuries began piling up.

Defensemen Ben Lovejoy and Francis Beauchemin (broken fingers) and goalie John Gibson (groin) remain sidelined. Recently acquired defenseman Eric Brewer suffered a lower-body injury against the Bruins and underwent tests Tuesday that will be assessed Wednesday.

"We don't know the extent of what's wrong with Eric, we'll figure that out," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said.

In the meantime, the idea of getting back Stoner and Fistric is "a welcome relief," the coach said.

The Ducks (15-6-5) have given up at least 34 shots on goal in four consecutive games. In Friday's 4-1 home loss to Chicago, no defenseman was older than 24.

"Our whole defense has been pretty young, but I'm proud of the way they've hung in and battled and stayed competitive," Boudreau said.

Stoner said the 35-year-old Brewer, in 21-plus minutes of ice time Monday, showed the value of playing multiple years in the NHL.

"When you have experience like Brewer … people can lean on that," Stoner said. "He can eat some big minutes."

Lovejoy, now in his sixth week of being sidelined, has his cast off and has begun passing the puck. He is awaiting X-ray results that can clear him to practice and shoot.

"When … the guys start coming back, then we can have our choice of who will be in the lineup, have a nice mixture of youth and experience," Stoner said. "We're not far from having some options back there."

Another move

The team additionally demoted center Rickard Rakell to Norfolk after he was goal-less with three assists in 17 games. Rakell was benched in three of the past four games as converted wing Devante Smith-Pelly shifted to center Monday and scored a goal.



When: 7:30.

On the air: TV: FS West. Radio: 830.

Etc.: The skidding Flyers were 2-7-1 in their last 10 games before Tuesday's game in San Jose, where they made cold-starting center Vincent Lecavalier (two goals) a healthy scratch for the first time in his career. Forward Jakub Voracek has nine goals and 32 points.

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