Ducks can afford to scratch players because of roster depth

Ducks can afford to scratch players because of roster depth
Anaheim Ducks forward Jiri Sekac celebrates after scoring during a 3-2 overtime win over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The six trades the Ducks made before the NHL trade deadline this month have left Coach Bruce Boudreau to scratch players who would've been a constant presence a month ago.

The benefit to that is how those temporarily benched players perform when they return for the Ducks, who open a five-game trip Sunday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.


First-line forward Patrick Maroon responded to his March 13 scratch in Minnesota with a two-assist game two days later and a third-period goal Wednesday in what became a Ducks overtime victory over the Kings.

The upheaval has most rattled the third-line mates of center Rickard Rakell. Tomas Fleischmann sat March 15, Jiri Sekac was out Wednesday and Emerson Etem was on the bench Friday.

"It means you can't take any nights off," Rakell said. "We have depth. That's good for us."

That was clear Friday, when Sekac scored his first goal as a Duck less than four minutes into the game on assists by Rakell and Fleischmann, and Rakell forced overtime in what became a Ducks 3-2 victory over Colorado by scoring nearly midway through the third period with Sekac providing an assist.

"That whole line played well," said first-line right wing Corey Perry, whose breakaway goal won the game. "That's what we want. It can't be the same line over and over."

On a 40-shot night by the Ducks, Boudreau said, "every time [the third line] was on the ice, they were doing something, creating something."

Boudreau said he considers the opponent, how a player is performing, and even fair treatment to determine who plays.

"Everybody has to know there's only one goal," Boudreau said. "I don't want them to want to sit out, but they have to understand we're all going for the same thing, and it's not to win scoring championships … it's to win the big one."

Sekac says the coach's communication soothes the disappointment of getting scratched.

"You want to play every game," Sekac said.

Etem had a feeling that his time on the bench was coming after a four-game pointless rut.

"The trades have definitely added depth, a mixture of skill and grit," Etem said. "The best thing about our team is no one complains. You get a little longer time to skate after the pregame skate, then go support your team. It's about who's playing that gritty playoff style. I know how I need to play. And when I'm not, they'll tell me."

Big shot?

The Ducks' marquee acquisition at the trade deadline was defenseman James Wisniewski, with General Manager Bob Murray pointing to how Wisniewski's powerful shot would help the power play.


In six games with the Ducks, Wisniewski doesn't have a goal and has only nine shots on goal. He has had three shots blocked in the last two games.

"It wasn't his shot that was getting me excited, it was his puck-moving ability — that first pass, getting it right on that stick," Boudreau said. "I've heard of his shot. I'm seeing it for the first time. I think it's just starting to round into shape. He's starting to get shots through," including three Friday.

Odd course

Instead of staying in the greater New York area to play the Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, the Ducks will head to Columbus, Ohio, for a Tuesday game before going to Boston, then returning to New York.

"It's a tough one: five games in nine days," Boudreau said. "You'd like to think you can … save some wear and tear on the body, but every team's doing it out West. It's a great test."


When: 4:30 PDT.

On the air: TV: NBC Sports Network. Radio: 830.

Etc.: The defending Eastern Conference champions are leading the Metropolitan Division and giving up fewer goals than all but one team in the NHL, although goalie Henrik Lundqvist is sidelined because of an injury. Forward Rick Nash is New York's goals leader.