The plan for first-round pick Ruslan Salei to become a quality NHL defenseman right off the bat was a bust, but Salei returned to the lineup Wednesday after five weeks in the minors.
Injuries brought Salei back to Anaheim after a 12-game stint playing for Baltimore in the American Hockey League.
“It was better for me. I got my confidence back,” said Salei, 22, whose skating and physical play led to his selection ninth overall last summer. “I played a lot, and I feel much better than playing three minutes in Anaheim. When you play only three minutes, it’s not very good for a hockey player. You lose your confidence. It’s big pressure when you play just a few shifts.”
Mistakes led to Salei’s ice time shrinking from perhaps 10 minutes a game to only a few, and he was a healthy scratch 18 times in 39 games.
“He has to learn defensive patience, and patience comes with experience,” said Duck assistant coach Walt Kyle. “Early in the year, you’d see him get in trouble being overanxious. If the puck was coming around the wall, he’d jump ahead to stop it and all of a sudden there’s a two-on-one the other way. Or in our zone, he’d be in front of the net and race to get a puck and miss by a step, and the pass would go back to a guy in front of the net where he came from.”
Forward Ted Drury returned to the lineup after missing five games because of a broken bone in his right wrist. Drury replaced J.F. Jomphe in the lineup. . . . Center Steve Rucchin scored his 100th NHL point on a first-period assist, reaching the milestone in his 160th NHL game.