The Ducks suffered an astounding amount of injuries through the first half of the season, and somehow are within reach of a playoff spot.
That’s a testament to the roster depth built by general manager Bob Murray and the attitude instilled by coach Randy Carlyle.
The Ducks lead the NHL in man-games lost and it’s not just the amount of ailments suffered, but also the impact of players who were sidelined.
Ryan Getzlaf, the team’s best player, sat out 24 games after an errant puck fractured a cheekbone.
Stalwart defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler were forced to sit out several games. Corey Perry only recently returned to the lineup after suffering a lower-body injury.
And then there’s Ryan Kesler, counted on to shut down the opposing squad’s best players, who debuted only last month.
Only four Ducks have suited up in all 43 games.
So with the Ducks sitting at 47 points during the bye week, team brass must feel good about the team’s chances for another playoff push headed into the second part of the season.
Getzlaf has been on a tear since his return. The All-Star center has four goals and 20 assists despite playing in only 19 games.
He has a point in all but three of his 13 games since rejoining the team and is wreaking havoc on offense.
Getzlaf’s ability to set up teammates propelled Rickard Rakell to a six-game goal-scoring streak.
Jakob Silfverberg has been streaky, but now is playing alongside Kesler and seems rejuvenated, with points in all but one of his last five games.
Newcomer Adam Henrique has been a boon to the team’s depth down the middle. He arrived in a November trade with the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Sami Vatanen, and Murray is pleased with the results.
Now that the Ducks are somewhat healthy, they are among the few teams that can roll four lines with the confidence that the quality of play won’t drop off.
The Ducks’ impressive unit took a hit when Vatanen was traded, but the emergence of Brandon Montour made Vatanen expendable.
Montour’s smooth skating and quick hands have been a revelation, and he leads Ducks blueliners with six goals. Josh Manson has impressed on offense with a position-high 23 points.
And then there’s Fowler and Lindholm, the backbone of the Ducks defense. They anchor the top four, are tasked with matching up with the league’s elite and have been as reliable as ever.
Perhaps no player has been more valuable to the team than John Gibson.
At 24, this is his second season as the Ducks’ No. 1 goaltender and he has answered the bell.
Too often Gibson has been asked to fend off 40 shots or more as the injury-riddled team tinkered with patchwork lineups.
At more than 34 shots given up per game, the Ducks are facing more pucks than all but one team.
Gibson’s acrobatic sprawls have kept the Ducks in many games, even if his peripherals (.923 save percentage, 2.65 goals-against-average) don’t reflect the degree of difficulty in the key stops he has made.
Ryan Miller, the former Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goaltender who joined the Ducks in the offseason, has given tmore than the Ducks could hope for in a backup — when he’s healthy.
As long as Gibson and Miller continue to stay healthy, the Ducks have a chance to make a run.
The power-play unit has only a 16.9% success rate (No. 24 in the NHL). Much of the struggles can be attributed to the prolonged absence of Getzlaf, whose rocket from the point helps make him one of the best power-play guys in the game.
The penalty kill is a different story. The Ducks have killed 83.8% of opposing man-advantage opportunities, the fourth-best percentage in the league. However, the return of Kesler, the team’s best player on that unit, should help.
After withstanding a litany of bruises, aches, fractures, strains and tears, the Ducks are still without one player: Patrick Eaves. Unfortunately for the Ducks, his ailment isn’t like any of the others. He’s battling Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder in which the immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The Ducks acquired Eaves in a trade-deadline deal and signed him to a three-year deal after he posted career numbers in goals (32) and assists (19).
The winger was poised to play on the No. 1 line and on the top power play, but he played only two games before being diagnosed with the disorder. He’s not being counted on to contribute this season.
With Eaves unlikely to return, the Ducks could use a goal-scoring winger to provide a boost. They also could stand to acquire a young defenseman with the team leaning mostly on Kevin Bieksa, 36, and Francois Beauchemin, 37.