Shuffling the Duck: Anaheim demotes Etem, Smith-Pelly

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Losers in six of their last eight, the Anaheim Ducks shook things up on Wednesday by demoting 21-year-olds Devante Smith-Pelly and Emerson Etem — the latter being club’s first-round pick (29th overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft — to AHL Norfolk.

Both have been fairly regular contributors this season. Etem sits tied for fifth on the team in goals, with six, and has played in 24 of 27 games while averaging 13:08 TOI per game. Smith-Pelly has notched eight points in 16 games since being recalled in late October, and is averaging just under 13 minutes a night.

That said, Smith-Pelly and Etem have fallen on hard times lately.

Smith-Pelly was a healthy scratch in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to Dallas and Etem was held to just 11 minutes (the only Ducks that played less were Daniel Winnik and Patrick Maroon.) Etem did score his sixth goal of the year last night, snapping a six-game pointless drought.

It’s speculative to say these demotions are messages being sent, though. The transactions would allow for the pending returns of Saku Koivu and Francois Beauchemin, both of whom are eligible to come off IR (Smith-Pelly and Etem can go to Norfolk without clearing waivers, as both are still on entry-level deals.)

But it’s also worth noting Etem and Smith-Pelly are going to Norfolk while 32-year-old journeyman Tim Jackman, who was acquired from Calgary last week and was also made a healthy scratch on Tuesday, remains with the Ducks.

Jackman, who played eight minutes in his first two games with Anaheim, would require waivers to be sent to the minors.

Update: Here’s more on the situation, from the O.C. Register…