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Hockey

Ducks switch young defensemen ahead of home opener

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Ducks defenseman Shea Theodore celebrates after scoring during the third period against the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 13
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Shea Theodore has commuted from San Diego to Anaheim enough times that he can make the drive in his sleep. But these days Jacob Larsson is in his mirror, and he’s closer than he appears.

The Ducks defenseman prospects switched places Saturday when Theodore was recalled from San Diego and Larsson was reassigned there. The move was primarily so Larsson, 19, can play increased minutes on smaller North American rinks in his transition from Sweden.

The Ducks are expediting his development, which speaks well for their first-round draft pick in 2015. Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said Larsson needs to be quicker “but he did not disappoint us. He competed day in, day out. We love the kid. This is, I would say, a fast track for his development … all we’re looking at is to make sure he can elevate his game just one more notch because we think he’s very, very close to being an NHL defenseman.”

That high praise is usually heaped on Theodore, a dynamic offensive defenseman and a fan favorite last season. But Theodore, 21, acknowledged a poor training camp in which Larsson beat him out of a job.

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Theodore identifies with Larsson because “when I was a young guy, they gave me a look,” he said. But Theodore isn’t concerned with Larsson so much as finding consistency in his young career.

“I know it’s not going to be the easiest path to the NHL in terms of staying right away,” Theodore said. “I felt I could have had a better camp and I didn’t. Going down kind of gave me the chance to get my legs back under me and get my confidence back.”

Theodore took rushes with Kevin Bieksa in practice before the Ducks home opener Sunday against Vancouver. Carlyle said Theodore can take pressure off Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen offensively as the Ducks have relied on them through the first five games. 

It’s an ever-fluid situation on the blue line, with unsigned Hampus Lindholm in contract limbo and Simon Despres out because of concussion-like symptoms. The Ducks also recalled forwards Michael Sgarbossa and Joseph Cramarossa, and reassigned forwards Mason Raymond and Nick Sorensen. Raymond, a nine-year veteran, had a disappointing start.

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“We felt it would be best for him to go down and see if he can get his game underneath him because he’s a speed guy,” Carlyle said.

The minimum age for drafted players to play in the American Hockey League is 20 but Larsson is eligible as a European first-round draft pick.

Korbinian Holzer is OK

Defenseman Korbinian Holzer thought the illegal hit he absorbed from Philadelphia’s Dale Weise on Thursday “felt like a clean hit,” so he didn’t have an opinion on the three-game suspension given to Weise.

“For me, it’s forgotten,” Holzer said. “It’s a hockey play. I’m sure he didn’t mean to. It’s a quick game out there. It’s not for me to judge.”

Holzer was struck on the nose and has cuts there from his visor coming down, but he assisted on the game-winning goal with a slick pass from behind the net. His last game-winning assist?

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had one,” he said. “Maybe back in Germany sometime. But I’ll take it.”

DUCKS VS. VANCOUVER CANUCKS

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When: Sunday, 5 p.m.

On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 830

Update: Ducks nemesis Loui Eriksson signed with Vancouver in free agency. He has 32 points in 45 games against Anaheim. Ducks goalie John Gibson got his first NHL win against Vancouver in 2013. He is 3-1-0 with two shutouts against the Canucks. The Ducks are 5-1-2 at home against the Canucks the last three seasons.


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