Ducks' Kyle Palmieri quickly catching up after missing start of season

After being hurt in a preseason workout, Palmieri is making up for lost time with increased productivity

First, Kyle Palmieri caught an edge. That was bad, because the fall and crash he suffered in a preseason hockey workout forced him out of the Ducks' first 18 regular-season games.

Since his return, Palmieri has brought an edge. That has been a boon, as his ability to raise his game to the demands of a promotion has provided the Ducks all they've hoped for from their second line.

"He's a pretty dynamic scorer, and it'd be interesting to see where his numbers would be if he was a healthy guy all year," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said, alluding also to a shoulder injury that sidelined Palmieri for six games in December.

Anaheim is 18-7-1 with Palmieri playing alongside center Ryan Kesler and left wing Matt Beleskey, and in the 10 games Palmieri has scored a goal, the Ducks are 9-0-1.

The 24-year-old was hurt one week before Ducks' training camp, spraining his right high ankle when he banged into the boards during an informal scrimmage in Boston.

"You train your [rear] off all summer … to get injured the week before was really hard, and it was an injury I couldn't skate through," Palmieri said.

He rushed back, then "tore everything that was torn in the first place," causing an extra five-week layoff.

Going into this season, the Ducks were hoping Palmieri could fill the void of retired legend Teemu Selanne's spot on the second line, to take the next career step after Palmieri advanced from NHL regular to fourth-line contributor last season.

"He's gotten smarter in all three parts of the rink," Boudreau said. "When he plays a good game, we're usually successful."

Last season, Palmieri contributed 14 goals and 31 points in 71 regular-season games. This season, his time on ice has increased from 11 minutes, 57 seconds to 13:27 a game.

The extra playing time "goes a long way toward letting you get into a flow, to get confidence," Palmieri said. "This was supposed to be my coming-out party, so I have a lot of time to make up for. I'm trying to be more consistent, to be an impact player."

Palmieri said he had only two full team practices before making his season debut on Nov. 16.

Five games in, he had three goals. And he has three game-winners in the bag, including an overtime winner Dec. 7 in Winnipeg.

"I knew he had a good shot," said Kesler, the Ducks' marquee offseason acquisition from the Vancouver Canucks, about Palmieri. "He's taken his game to the next level. He's helped our line click. We move the puck around well and the way he gets in there, it's … just what a line needs."

The limited on-ice preparation "helped keep it a simple game: Get the puck, take it to the net. That simplicity has helped me become more productive," Palmieri said.

When the calendar turned to 2015, both of the Ducks' top two lines were fully healthy for the first time.

While Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon thrived on offensive, Palmieri, Kesler and Beleskey have been routinely assigned to defense matchups against the opponents' top line, with Palmieri scoring five goals in 11 games since returning from the shoulder injury.

"We're guys who play with a little bit of reckless abandon," Palmieri said of his line. "Get to the corners, throw your weight around, get in those dirty areas. That's what makes us successful.

"I went to the gym every day and pushed myself to the limit to get better for this year. Even without most of the first half of the season, it's been a pretty good start. I've put myself in a good position now to stay healthy and get some good minutes down the road."

DUCKS VS. CAROLINA

When: 7 p.m. PST, Tuesday.

Where: Honda Center.

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

Etc.: The Hurricanes (17-26-6) occupy last place in the Metropolitan Division, although Carolina goalie Cam Ward has a respectable 2.41 goals-against average. The Ducks are seeking to end a two-game losing streak before embarking on a five-game trip.

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