Ducks get back from break and face a heavy roadwork
Some important hands are on deck for the Ducks, just in time to navigate some potentially choppy waters.
Jakob Silfverberg and Nate Thompson practiced with the team Monday as it began its post-All-Star-break push. They are getting close to a return — Silfverberg from an apparent head injury and Thompson from a torn Achilles’s tendon — but there was no definitive word on their status as the Ducks prepare for a February schedule that includes eight of 11 games on the road after Tuesday’s home game against the Colorado Avalanche.
Silfverberg said the extra rest from the break worked to his advantage. He has sat out three games.
“All I can say is I felt good today and we’ll see,” Silfverberg said. “Hopefully, I’ll feel the same [Tuesday].”
Thompson recently played in three minor league games and is eager for his first NHL game since April 27.
The Ducks would have to maneuver the salary cap upon his return, but Thompson would solidify the fourth-line center role as a detailed, blue-collar defensive player and faceoff specialist.
“I think the way I play, with my physicality, I pride myself on a lot of little things in the game, so I think I can add that,” Thompson said. “I’ve been around a bit, and maybe add some leadership too.
“It will just be good to be a part of the team again.”
Thompson was a part of a 2015 Ducks’ run to the Western Conference final, a destination the Ducks would like to return to if they can patch together more complete games. They are only one point out first place in the Pacific Division but haven’t found their top gear yet.
“It almost feels like we’re in a good spot, but I don’t know if anyone’s really thrilled with our complete game,” Andrew Cogliano said. “In terms of how we’ve played the entire season, I think we’ve been a little inconsistent and we haven’t really solidified our game. It’s nice to be where we are … but I think overall we need to start playing in that mindset that you start doing when you’re in playoffs.”
Said Coach Randy Carlyle: “We think this group can take another step, for sure.”
What’s going right
The Ducks’ defensive foundation and closing ability are sound. They are 18-1-1 when leading after two periods and have given up an NHL-low 33 third-period goals.
John Gibson’s 1.79 goals-against average since Christmas is second in the NHL. The Ducks also can boast what might be the most dynamic line in the NHL with Silfverberg, Cogliano and Ryan Kesler. They’ve combined for 41 goals and a plus-32 rating, in addition to getting the top defensive assignment every game.
Defense and penalty killing tend to buttress a long spring, and the Ducks have improved in those areas. They have given up two goals or less in 10 of their last 12 games.
“For us, I think it was pretty clear in the beginning of the year, we were going back and forth in the way we were playing and I think a lot of that had to come from not playing good defensively,” Silfverberg said. “Now that we’ve found that structure I feel like we always play on an even level.”
What needs fixing
Offensively, the Ducks have depended heavily on the Kesler line and the breakout season of Rickard Rakell. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are two of their top three points leaders but have combined for only 16 goals.
Speaking generally, Carlyle said, “We feel we have a hockey club that is capable of doing some damage. We just have to go out and prove it day-in, day-out here.”
The Ducks will be gone for most of February, with the bye week Feb.26 through March 2. They have 16 home games remaining and 15 on the road, with one of those at the Kings.
The big question is how much General Manager Bob Murray feels an upgrade is needed before the March 1 trade deadline. The Ducks have a surplus of young defensemen and a need for a veteran scoring wing.
DUCKS VS. COLORADO
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Honda Center.
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 830.
Update: The Avalanche are on a seven-game losing streak and own an NHL-worst minus-63 goal differential. But the Ducks needed a third-period comeback to beat goalie Calvin Pickard in a 2-1 victory Jan.19.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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