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Hockey

Sami Vatanen’s illness is one of the story lines on Ducks’ blue line

Sami Vatanen
Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen, who is ill, had a career-high 38 points and 29 assists last season.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

The Ducks’ blue line ran the spectrum Wednesday.

One defenseman was ill and needed intravenous fluids. Another was giddy with excitement over his possible NHL debut, while another was a week removed from surgery.

It was a gray area, starting with Sami Vatanen, who did not travel because of flu and appeared doubtful for at least the first leg of a back-to-back western Canada swing that starts in Calgary on Thursday.

“We’ll see what the next 24 hours brings,” Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said before departure. “I don’t think that it’s probable for him for [Thursday] in Calgary, but you never say [never], and we’ll see how his body reacts to some fluids and some IV.”

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The Ducks have Korbinian Holzer as a spare defenseman but they recalled Brandon Montour, and the 22-year-old could make his NHL debut during the trip. Montour was expected to make a case for a job in training camp but that was a challenge behind fellow defensemen prospects Shea Theodore and Jacob Larsson

Montour, like Vatanen, is an offensive defenseman. He patterns his game after the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Kris Letang and co-leads the San Diego Gulls in scoring with seven goals and 14 assists in 25 games. 

Montour didn’t yet know if he would play, but he called his mother at the family home in Ohsweken, Canada, to alert her at 2 a.m.

“I’m surprised she actually got on the phone,” Montour said.

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“It’s going to be huge [if it happens]. This is what I grew up playing the game for. Now that it’s almost here … I’m going to be excited and it’s going to be in Canada, and that’s another bonus.”

That excitement was contrasted by Carlyle’s  announcement that veteran Clayton Stoner had abdominal surgery Dec.21 and will be out four to six weeks. Stoner hasn’t played since Nov.15 and is a third-pairing defender, but it’s a blow to the team’s depth.

If Montour plays, he would be the eighth skater 24 or younger to play for Anaheim this season.

“We said with the number of games we’re playing, we’re going to use bodies,” Carlyle said. “Everybody’s doing the same thing. For us, it’s about supporting our lineup and having young players that are part of your organization take the next step. There’s lots of youth here right now.”

Getzlaf, Perry split

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were split up in practice, with Getzlaf flanked by Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase and Perry with Rickard Rakell and Antoine Vermette.

Statistically, Getzlaf and Perry are among the Ducks’ scoring leaders, but they haven’t had as big an impact as usual and have a combined one point in three games.

Neither rank among the Ducks’ top six goal scorers as Anaheim relies heavily on the line of Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano.

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“We’ve got to score goals,” Getzlaf said. “That’s our job. That’s what we’re here for. [Kesler’s line is] playing complete hockey right now, and we expect them to contribute offensively as well as defensively, but our line’s got to be better in the goal-scoring department. We switched it up today and we’ll see how it works.”

Rakell isn’t immune to criticism even though he has an impressive 14 goals in 25 games. Carlyle said he has to be around the puck more and took him off the top line during the past two games. Rakell understood the change.

“Everything hasn’t been super great lately, so we’ll see if this works,” Rakell said. “It seems like we play good in periods of times in games, but not for 60 minutes. If we can just get the team going with what we have … it’s going to be interesting to see how it works, and I’m looking forward to it.”

TONIGHT AT CALGARY

When: 6 p.m. PST

On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 830

Update: The Ducks look to avenge an 8-3 loss to the Flames on Dec.4 in Calgary.  “I think any time you’re playing a team that basically embarrassed us in their building, we want to go in with the right mind-set and try and get the upper hand again,” Getzlaf said. Calgary forward Troy Brouwer underwent surgery for a broken finger, the Calgary Herald reported, and teammate Mikael Backlund left Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed injury.

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sports@latimes.com


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