The Anaheim Ducks have been remarkably resilient on their way to a surprising fourth seed finish, but they will need to continue to roll with the punches in the playoffs. That could mean beginning a challenging first round series against the Nashville Predators without their top two netminders.
It already seems like a near-certainty that Jonas Hiller won’t be in the Ducks net, but Ray Emery also told the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens that he doesn’t think he will play in Game 1 on Wednesday. Emery suffered a lower-body injury last weekend, although it’s unclear if he aggravated his career-threatening hip problem or if it’s another ailment entirely.
Emery said that his condition is improving and that he can move well, but it sounds like the Ducks will have to go to Plan C: Dan Ellis.
Before you crack out your Twitter-inspired jokes, Ellis already came up big for the Ducks upon Emery’s setback, making 43 saves in Anaheim’s fourth-place clincher against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. Now, does that mean that he’ll be able to keep up that kind of pace when his overall season stats are pretty paltry? Probably not, but this series is ultimately all about how the Ducks’ explosive offense going toe-to-toe with the Predators’ lock-down defense.
Then again, Ellis was once a backup in Nashville, so perhaps he’ll be able to show his former team that they should’ve given him the nod, instead of their Vezina Trophy candidate Pekka Rinne.
For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”
On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.
With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.
“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”
As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.
It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.
Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?
We’ll know in a month.
Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:
The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.
The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.
If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.
Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”
And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.
While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.