Ducks' James Wisniewski won't say he's the missing piece

When James Wisniewski returns from foot injury, he could provide a boost to Ducks' power play

There's unmistakable reluctance from the Ducks and James Wisniewski to say the team's most high-profile acquisition before the trade deadline is the "missing piece" to a Stanley Cup.

The Ducks (42-17-7) lead the NHL in points, but they also seek to improve the league's 22nd-ranked power-play unit and strengthen their grit for the playoffs.

Enter Wisniewski ... well, not yet.

The 31-year-old — who previously played for the Ducks from 2008 to 2010 — is recovering from a bone bruise on his foot. He was hit by a shot Sunday during his final game as a Columbus Blue Jacket.

He was supposed to be out another week, but he said, "as long as I can get my foot in the skate," he'll try to play during the trip to Vancouver, Calgary and Minnesota that begins Monday.

"We don't want to put him as the guy that gets us over the top," Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the Ducks made six pre-deadline trades. "We think we've added pieces that blend well with the pieces we have. Together, as a group, we're deeper today than we were a week ago."

The Ducks do see Wisniewski as a key piece on their power play. Seven of his eight goals this season have come with a man advantage. But that's not all they see. Boudreau said Wisniewski "plays with a little edge," and the defenseman said he has learned not to step over that edge. In the past, he has received two eight-game suspensions for rough hits.

"Big, heavy, fast, physical team … their style fits me perfectly," Wisniewski said. "You've got to think anything but the Cup is unacceptable."

Especially now that he's here?

"I'm not going to say I'm the missing piece when we have [Ryan] Getzlaf, [Corey] Perry and [Ryan] Kesler … but sometimes a little shake-up can help," Wisniewski said.

Case in point: The Ducks have received production from two other recent additions, forward Jiri Sekac (three assists in five games) and 23-year-old defenseman Simon Despres.

Penguins in town

The team that blitzed the Ducks in the season opener in October comes to Honda Center for a rematch Friday.

As impressive as the Pittsburgh Penguins were in that 6-4 victory, they haven't been their usual dominant selves this season.

Pittsburgh has been hit with the injury bug, and returning Hart Trophy winner Sidney Crosby has not been excluded. He was slowed by a case of the mumps and missed five games. Despite their struggles, the Penguins are third in the East's Metropolitan Division heading into Thursday's games.

"Their top nine is as good as anybody in the league … and no matter what happens, Sidney Crosby is still Sidney Crosby, the best player in the world," Boudreau said. "Sometimes when you're a great team for a long time, winning the division isn't the important thing. It's what's beyond that."

In other words, don't sleep on the Penguins.

"The mood was fine," said Despres, the former Penguin acquired in exchange for veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy. "They were in first place for a while, had some injuries, went through a little slump, which is normal.

"There were a lot of veterans in that locker room, so guys were calm about it. And then they made those trades to amp up for the playoffs, like they do every year."

The Penguins also upgraded their checking line with another ex-Duck, Daniel Winnik.

Vatanen healing fast

Sami Vatanen, sidelined since Feb. 15 by a lower-body injury the Ducks refused to reveal, skated fervently in practice Thursday and said he feels good enough to consider joining the trip.

Vatanen, the Ducks' highest-scoring defenseman, was originally deemed to be sidelined four to six weeks.

"It feels pretty good right now, I have to say," Vatanen said.


When: 7.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.

Etc.: Center Evgeni Malkin leads the Penguins with 27 goals and Crosby leads in assists with 44. Pittsburgh ranks among the top seven NHL teams in power-play and penalty-kill success.

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire

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