With Andrew Cogliano back, fresh off a two-game suspension that ended his streak of 830 games played, the Ducks finally showcased the lineup that will play out the regular season — and possibly take them to the Stanley Cup playoffs — barring another trade or waiver wire pickup.
Cogliano resumed his role as the left winger on the Ducks’ checking line, and new addition J.T. Brown moved down to play right wing on the fourth line. It was the first time both players were in uniform together, and the Ducks looked good with Friday’s 2-1 victory over the rival Kings.
Patrick Eaves is the one player missing from the lineup. The bearded winger was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder in which the immune system attacks the nerves, in October after playing just two games, and there’s no timetable for his return.
“You miss a player that’s an impact player in your lineup,” coach Randy Carlyle said this week. “I think everybody misses those level of players, but he’s been away so long — it’s really like he’s on the back-burner because of his situation and where he is in his life and his health — that hockey hasn’t really been something that we’ve thought of.
“We’ve taken the attitude that he needs the time and he needs to heal properly.”
Eaves was slotted to play on the top line and the No. 1 power play unit. When he came over from Dallas last season in a trade deadline deal, all he did was pot 11 goals in 20 games. The Ducks moved quickly to re-sign him to a three-year deal worth $9.45 million this offseason, and the 33-year-old was off to a good start this campaign with one goal in two games.
The Ducks are moving on as if he won’t be back on the ice this season, even if they make the playoffs. But there is precedent for a return.
Serge Payer, who played with the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators, was diagnosed with the same disorder when he was a 19-year-old playing in the juniors. After 10 months of treatment, he resumed hockey activities and made his NHL debut less than a year later.
But for now, the Ducks are focused only on Eaves’ recovery. And the team is doing just fine without him, even if it would be far better off with him and his quick wrister in the lineup.
The Ducks have piled up points in seven of their past nine games as they battle for a playoff spot in a heated Western Conference race. They’re in the hunt for the eighth seed but so are several other squads, including the Kings.
And Eaves isn’t walking through that door to help push them to the playoffs the way he did last season, so the Ducks likely will have to make due with what they have, and hope that they finally stay healthy.
VS. SAN JOSE SHARKS
When: 6 p.m., Sunday
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830