Speed and exuberance of Ducks' third line paying dividends

Speed and exuberance of Ducks' third line paying dividends
Ducks forward Emerson Etem, left, celebrates a goal with teammate Rickard Rakell against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 23. (Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Matching third-line Ducks center Rickard Rakell with forwards Jiri Sekac and Emerson Etem was more happenstance than detailed plotting, Coach Bruce Boudreau said.

First, the coach said, he sought to make sure that second-line center Ryan Kesler and forward Jakob Silfverberg remained together.


After that, Boudreau speculated a line of Rakell with Sekac and Etem made sense because of common traits.

"A little something to prove, a lot of energy, good speed -- it adds a lot of speed to our lineup," Boudreau said.

Since his acquisition from the Montreal Canadiens, Sekac has three assists in five games with the Ducks (42-17-7), Rakell has a game-winning goal and an assist while Etem has a goal and is plus-two.

"It's been working out real well so far. [Sekac] can do it all, I like the way we're connecting," Rakell said. "Skilled player. Likes to hang on to the puck and make things happen. If he can be a skilled guy with that technique, it's going to open up more space for me and 'Emmer.' "

Rakell said the common bond helps, as do the youthful legs. The line posted two takeaways in beating Eastern Conference leader Montreal on Wednesday.

In that 3-1 win, Rakell watched Sekac hit imposing Montreal defender P.K. Subban on a forecheck and force a turnover that Rakell dished to defenseman Hampus Lindholm for a shot.

"Jiri beat Subban back to the net and I got position in net [to score]," Rakell said. "If he wouldn't have done that, we wouldn't have scored."

VATANEN, BELESKEY ON TRIP: Boudreau said he expects defenseman Sami Vatanen (unspecified lower-body injury) and forward Matt Beleskey (shoulder) to accompany the team on its three-game road trip that begins Monday in Vancouver, saying it was possible both will play.

Newly acquired defenseman James Wisniewski (foot bone bruise) also said he hopes to play on the trip.

GOALIE PLAN: Boudreau joked "a coin" will determine whether Frederik Andersen or John Gibson will start in goal through the regular season's remainder.

Andersen matched the NHL record for fastest goalie to 50 wins in his Tuesday return from a head/neck injury, and Gibson was less than two minutes from blanking Montreal on Wednesday.

Andersen was first off the ice at Friday's practice, so he's expected to start Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat Pittsburgh native Gibson, 6-4, in the Oct. 9 season-opener.

"We'll just go and alternate for a while to get Freddie back into it," Boudreau said. "Gibby was strong. This is a time, we play every second day starting [Sunday]. They'll get their equal fair share until April, and then we'll see what happens then."

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire