Anaheim Ducks’ defense in turmoil after rocky start to season
Jonas Hiller might have made number 6 on the NHL’s Saves of the Week, but the rest of the news coming out of Anaheim is raising some eyebrows to say the least. Defenseman Andy Sutton, following the October 8th Detroit game where he fractured his thumb, is out for 6-8 weeks, yet the franchise surprised many by placing defenseman Brendan Mikkelson on waivers, and calling up d-man Danny Syvret from Syracuse. Mikkelson, incidentally, was picked up almost immediately by Calgary.
In a tweet today, the Ducks announced Cam Fowler is practicing today in spite of his broken nose, and Danny Syvret is ready to go, also making an appearance at practice. Cam Fowler was checked hard face first into the boards by Shane Doan after scoring a goal in Sunday’s game against Pheonix. Shane Doan also hit Dan Sexton pretty hard later in the same game.
Fans began to see glimmers of hope during the October 13th game against the Canucks, which showcased a much more disciplined blue line, and less clustering around the Anaheim goal. Once the defense started clicking, the big guys were able to shoot, and Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan have recorded much less time in the penalty box per game since hosting Vancouver. Teemu Selanne shows no signs of slowing down, and questions of chemistry are beginning to dissipate as Selanne, Saku Koivu, and Jason Blake begin to look like a serious penalty killing force within the league, at a respectable 77%. Let’s hope that percentage climbs a little more.
Although the Ducks went on to lose to the Atlanta Thrashers in overtime, they buckled down for another win on Sunday the 17th against the struggling Phoenix Coyotes. The game against the Coyotes also saw defenseman Andreas Lilja in action for the first time with the Ducks, and it seems clear that veteran experience plus Cam Fowler’s raw talent is starting to pay some dividends for the Ducks.
Defenseman Luca Sbisa, 15 years younger than Andreas Lilja and acquired in the now infamous Chris Pronger trade, was sent down to make room for the veteran defenseman, who signed a one-year contract. It’s early yet, but fans should be encouraged at management’s decision to return to a balanced and level-headed line.
Finally, the Anaheim Ducks had a small scare when Cam Fowler took that hit from Doan, but it’s nothing worse than a broken nose, and he’s already back practicing with the team, and is conditional at this point for the next game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 20th, although most expect him to play. The teenager has been phenomenal, with very few mistakes, and has even scored a goal. Fowler’s not afraid to take shots on goal when there’s opportunity, and he seems to fit in well with the rest of the team, showing remarkably intelligent decision making abilities.
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