Greetings from Dallas, where the Ducks open the 2016-17 season Thursday night against the Stars. John Gibson was the first goaltender off the ice at the Ducks' morning skate, usually an indication of who the starter will be.
But Randy Carlyle, like most coaches, wouldn't confirm the identity of his starter. He advised getting the answer by being at American Airlines Center for the warmups, which is like Kings Coach Darryl Sutter's standard line, "Be there for the song," meaning the national anthem.
Antti Niemi is expected to start for Dallas.
Carlyle, back for a second stint as the Ducks' coach, said he wasn't feeling nervous Thursday morning because the time was taken up by meetings with his assistants and other matters. "I think the butterflies will come closer to game time," he said. "It's a new start for our hockey club and somewhat of a rerun for me. And hopefully our group is ready and comes out and plays to the level they're capable of playing."
Speaking of reruns, the imminent return of Long Beach native Emerson Etem, who was claimed by the Ducks off waivers Thursday morning, was greeted happily by former and future teammate Cam Fowler. Etem, a speedy winger, was the Ducks' 29th draft pick in 2010, 17 spots after the Ducks chose defenseman Fowler. Etem had 15 goals and 31 points in 112 regular-season games with the Ducks but was never able to produce at the levels his talent suggested he could. The Ducks traded him to the New York Rangers, who traded him to Vancouver last season.
"We were drafted together and kind of came up at the same time, and I've had a good relationship with Emmer for a long time," Fowler said. "I'm just hoping he finds the right opportunity, which, hopefully, is here because he's got tons of talent and just needs to harness it the right way and he can be an impact player for us for a long time.
"I'm looking forward to having him back and looking forward to seeing him because he's always got a way of kind of brightening up the room and always has a good attitude."
The Ducks were scheduled to stay over Thursday night in Dallas to practice on Friday before flying to Pittsburgh for the second game of their five-game season-opening trip. It's likely that Etem will meet them in Pittsburgh. To make space for him on the roster, the Ducks waived forward Joseph Cramarossa, who is likely to be assigned to San Diego of the American Hockey League if he clears waivers.
A few more notes about Thursday's game: two Ducks, defenseman Jacob Larsson and right wing Nick Sorensen, are expected to make their NHL debuts. And Ducks left wing Nick Ritchie will play against his brother, Brett, a right wing for the Stars. They might line up against each other, an idea that Stars Coach Lindy Ruff liked. "I think there's going to be some healthy competition there. You're playing, your brother is on the other side and you don't want your brother to outdo you," Ruff said. "I think it will work well for both teams."
Nick Ritchie, 20 years old and three years younger than his brother, said the matchup will bring their childhood dreams to life.
"As a kid, you're always picturing yourself playing in the NHL, with each other, against each other, and this is the day," he said. "It makes it even more fitting it's opening night and there's going to be a lot of excitement for everyone out there, but for us it's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and this is the first time. Hopefully, it's one of many, but at least there will be one."
The brothers met for dinner on Wednesday but didn't spend much time talking about Thursday's game. "We just connected again. I hadn't seen him in a little bit," Nick Ritchie said. "We're pretty close so it was good to see him and hang out for a bit."
Before the game, the Stars will honor five local police officers who were killed in the line of duty in July. During the game, each player will wear one of five badge stickers with the name of a fallen officer.