The Ducks’ urgent push to end their preseason losing streak at four and produce an uplifting performance they could carry them into the regular season became reality Saturday thanks to the late heroics of Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry.
Beyond contributing five hits and winning 17 of 20 faceoffs, Kesler scored a tying goal with the Ducks’ goalie pulled with 52.4 seconds remaining in regulation in the preseason finale against the San Jose Sharks.
And Perry then blasted in the winning goal over San Jose goalie Antti Niemi’s left shoulder on a power play with 1:23 remaining in overtime for a 2-1 victory.
The night helped solidify plans for Thursday’s regular-season opener at Pittsburgh.
Frederik Andersen should be starting goaltender
Unless Coach Bruce Boudreau is going to award a starting spot based on hometown, Andersen should be the opening-night goalie.
The second-year goalie stopped 25 shots Saturday, including two good late looks by San Jose’s Logan Couture, to win his second preseason game.
While John Gibson is from Pittsburgh, Andersen had the better preseason and withstood the pressure of seven penalty kills Saturday.
Boudreau said afterward he’s likely to keep the starter choice under wraps until Thursday’s morning skate.
“We’ll see what happens, but I felt good out there,” Andersen said. “Stuck with it, battled through, came through. … We’ll see when we get to Pittsburgh.”
Ryan Kesler’s multidimensional game has great potential
In addition to the faceoff dominance Saturday, Kesler forms a gifted power-play unit alongside Getzlaf and Perry and the former Selke Trophy winner played more than six minutes on the penalty kill, stopping all seven San Jose advantages.
“We’re feeling good about our game … that’s a pretty good power play over there, and we did a good job of keeping them to the outside,” Kesler said.
Kesler additionally improvised on his tying goal, taking a pass from Perry and contorting his body to push a shot through traffic and past a shielded Niemi.
“I was in a little bit too close, but still got it off, found a way,” Kesler said. “We’ve had a good week of practice and tonight was a solid effort, and we’ve got more days before that first game.”
Clayton Stoner could fill in for Cam Fowler
If Fowler (lower body injury) isn’t ready for Thursday, expect free-agent acquisition Clayton Stoner to play alongside defenseman Ben Lovejoy on the Ducks’ top pair.
Boudreau said they played well Saturday, with Stoner blocking two shots and spending more than five of his 20 minutes on the ice in penalty-kill duty.
Rickard Rakell appears to have a roster spot
Beyond the edge that comes with his experience of being in the NHL last season and also playing alongside Devante Smith-Pelly and Emerson Etem for an extended stretch in minor-league Norfolk, Rakell played Saturday while his rookie competitor for the final center’s spot, William Karlsson, was scratched.
Rakell got 9 minutes 33 seconds of ice time, winning four of six faceoffs with two takeaways and a hit – nothing earth-shattering. Yet, he’s the safer pick that should be finalized any day.