With Ondrej Kase recovered from a battle with flu, the Ducks finally had their full complement of players Saturday and they showed the kind of force they can be down the stretch.
Kase wasted no time resuming his breakout season with his first career three-point contest. With a third-line player a threat to score anytime he’s on the ice, the Ducks are a dangerous squad.
The 22-year-old was paired with Adam Henrique and Nick Ritchie during even-strength play and also added an assist on Ryan Kesler’s power-play goal.
Kase’s emergence provides the Ducks with the kind of quick-skating, offensive-minded player they were lacking in a lineup filled with plenty of powerful forwards.
“It’s my second season,” said Kase. “I feel more comfortable with everything.”
He’s proved that with his smooth skating in the neutral zone and ability to generate quick wrist shots from the slot.
The right winger is always willing to shoot, too, and he was rewarded on his first goal of the game Saturday.
He blasted into the offensive zone, protected the puck with his body and let loose a sharp-angle try that had no business beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
“I just try to shoot,” Kase said.
The Czech Republic native routinely is among the team leaders in shots on goal when he’s in the lineup — his four shots were tops on the team Saturday.
The problem has been staying on the ice. He missed three games earlier this month because of flu, and was sidelined 13 contests after he sustained a concussion earlier this season.
Kase wasn’t counted on to play a role like this when the Ducks selected him in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.
And during his rookie season, he didn’t. He posted only five goals and 10 assists in 53 games last season.
This campaign, he’s already at 11 goals and seven assists in 28 games.
“Some of it is opportunity,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf of Kase’s improved play. “I think he’s earned some more ice time, earned some spots that he can play. And the other part of it is that he’s working.
“If you watch him every night, he’s working hard, doing the right things and he’s getting some results now.”
With the Ducks sitting just outside the playoffs at 49 points, they need all the hard work they can garner.
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights lead the Western Conference with 61 points, but after that, starting with the Kings, eight clubs are within four points of one another in a crowded fight for the postseason.
Now, the Ducks need to sustain good health as they attempt to win a sixth consecutive Pacific Division crown.
When: 12 p.m. Monday
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830
Update: The Avalanche are also coming off a victory after they topped the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Saturday. That was the latest of six consecutive wins, and along with the Calgary Flames, the Avs are the hottest team in the NHL. Colorado is one of those clubs packed in tight with the Ducks in the Western Conference playoff race at 49 points. The Avalanche are led by All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon, who’s already surpassed the 50-point plateau with 19 goals and 34 assists. They’ve also been boosted by the play of backup goalie Jonathan Bernier, who is filling in for Semyon Varlamov. He’s won five straight games, and will likely earn the nod Monday against the club he played for last season. Bernier led the Avs to a 3-1 victory over the Ducks when the clubs met in October. ... The Ducks claimed J.T. Brown off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lighting on Sunday and waived Logan Shaw in a corresponding move.