The Ducks were in the middle of a six-game trip when they acquired center Adam Henrique last week, so he couldn’t introduce himself to fans in Anaheim until Wednesday. He quickly made himself welcome in his Honda Center debut by scoring the first and last goals in the desperate Ducks’ 3-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators, his first goals in a Ducks uniform.
“This is certainly a fun rink,” Henrique said after his second-period goal and third-period empty-netter supported a 29-save shutout by Ryan Miller, the goalie’s first shutout as a Duck and 40th in the NHL.
Plagued by injuries and especially vulnerable up the middle while Ryan Kesler recovers from extensive hip surgery and Ryan Getzlaf recovers from surgery on a facial bone, the Ducks were in dire need of help up front. They were able to leverage their depth on defense to trade Sami Vatanen and a conditional draft pick to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Henrique, Joseph Blandisi and a third-round draft pick. So far, Henrique has provided a big boost to a lineup that is still losing and regaining players each game.
“I didn’t even realize how many guys were injured,” Henrique said Wednesday. “That’s an exciting part — looking to the future and the guys coming back and being healthy. Same thing everywhere; guys go down and the next guy has to step in and be able to not skip a beat. I think a lot of the guys here have done that. It would be nice to get guys back on the ice, back in the locker room, and I just want to be a piece of that puzzle.”
The Ducks had been letting up in the third period and squandering leads that cost them precious standings points. But on Wednesday, playing the second game of a back-to-back sequence that began with a shootout loss to the Golden Knights on Tuesday at Las Vegas, they held on to win for only the second time in nine games.
When they sat back a bit in the final period — they’ve been outscored 29-22 in the third period this season — Miller stopped 13 shots and moved into a tie for second in career shutouts by an American-born goalie. Jonathan Quick of the Kings leads that category with 46 shutouts; Miller on Wednesday pulled even with John Vanbiesbrouck and Frankie Brimsek.
Miller signed with the Ducks as a free agent last summer in part to be near his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf, and their young son Bodhi. Recording his 40th shutout in his adopted home — and being able to bring the boy into the locker room afterward — made the occasion even more special. “All these little things are nice to have. It means you’ve been playing a while,” he said. “And it’s just a bonus. I got the chance to be an NHL player and now as long as I can kind of stretch it out, I’ll try and enjoy every moment. It’s nice, one I can enjoy with my family here. The little things like that can make you smile.”
Henrique had earned an assist in each of his first three games with the Ducks. He scored that first goal for them on Wednesday at 3:47 of the second period, taking a one-timer on one knee in the right circle after Rickard Rakell had dug the puck out for him and had passed it through the slot. The crowd of 15,890 roared its approval.
“He’s a smart hockey player,” coach Randy Carlyle said of Henrique, who has four goals and 17 points in 27 games with the Devils and the Ducks. “He’s not a flashy guy but he seems to be in good position most times. ... He’s got hockey sense and he’s got a hockey IQ that’s up there.”
Winger Ondrej Kase scored the Ducks’ second goal, at 11:10 of the second period, by making a couple of dazzling moves on Ottawa’s defense and lifting a backhander over helpless goaltender Craig Anderson.
It was a key victory for the Ducks. Their defense corps had finally gotten healthy recently but lost Hampus Lindholm for the third time this season, this time to an upper-body injury.
Rakell returned to the lineup Tuesday after a four-game absence but Jakob Silfverberg is out because of an upper-body injury. Kesler and Getzlaf have begun skating but the Ducks can’t wait for them to save their season. That makes Henrique’s performance important in keeping them close to a playoff spot.
“It’s actually been a pretty good transition,” he said. “Guys have been great on and off the ice, talking to me a lot. ... For me I think the biggest thing was just jumping in and playing right away, getting my legs under me and learning the system on the fly. The hockey language here is just a little different. Other than that I felt great and it’s been great so far. It’s been a lot of fun.”