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It’s Anaheim Ducks day at PHT

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Anaheim Ducks.

2017-18
44-25-13, 101 pts. (2nd, Pacific Division; 5th, Western Conference)
Playoffs: Lost 4-0 vs. San Jose Sharks, first round

IN:
Brian Gibbons
Andrej Sustr
Luke Schenn
Carter Rowney

OUT:
Francois Beauchemin
Reto Berra
Jared Boll
J.T. Brown
Derek Grant

RE-SIGNED:
Adam Henrique
Kale Kossila
Brandon Montour

A fifth straight 100-point season ended with a thud when the Ducks were swept out of the first round by the Sharks. That prompted general manager Bob Murray to say there would be changes before the 2018-19 campaign began, but as we arrive in the final month of summer, these Ducks have a pretty similar look to the Ducks of last season.

The biggest changes for the Ducks when the puck drops in October could be the return of Patrick Eaves and the absence of Ryan Kesler. Eaves missed all but two games last season dealing with post-viral syndrome. Kesler, meanwhile, played only 44 games and all four playoff games while battling through injury. In May, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that there was a chance the 33-year-old forward would sit out the entire ’18-19 season.

“I’m more confident that Patrick Eaves is going to play for the full season than I am of Ryan Kesler at the moment, although ‘Kes’ says he’s going to be fine,” Murray told season-ticket holders during an event last month via the Orange County Register.

[Under PressureBuilding Off a BreakthroughThree Questions]

Injuries down the middle early on forced Murray to trade defenseman Sami Vatanen to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Henrique. He would settle in nicely and find chemistry with linemates Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase. His addition would help an offense that needed some assistance as veterans Ryan Getzlaf (11 goals) and Corey Perry (49 points) were again among the team’s scoring leaders, but posted some of their lowest numbers of the past few seasons. Meanwhile, Rickard Rakell had another career season (34 goals, 69 points) and continued to show what a bargain ($3,789,444 AAV through 2021-22) he is around the NHL.

Josh Manson (37 points) and Brandon Montour (9 goals) made huge strides on the blue line, aiding Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm on the back end. Then there was John Gibson, who put himself into the Vezina Trophy conversation. With four shutouts and a .927 even strength save percentage, the 25-year-old has set himself up for a hefty pay raise should he continue his strong play. He’s set to become a restricted free agent next summer.

Prospect Pool

• Sam Steel, C, 20 – Regina (WHL) – 2016 first-round pick

In 54 games last season captaining the Pats, Steel led the team in scoring with 83 points and finished second with 33 goals. He led Regina to the Memorial Cup Final and would earn MVP honors with 13 points in five games. After being one of the final cuts for Canada’s World Junior Championship team two years ago, he made the roster for this past season’s tournament in Buffalo, scoring four goals and recording nine points in seven games.

Troy Terry, C, 20 – Denver (NCAA) – 2015 fifth-round pick

The 2018-18 season was an adventurous one for Terry. His college season with Denver was interrupted when he got the opportunity to represent the U.S. at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games. After he returned, he finished his collegiate career before joining the Ducks for two games. Averaging 1.3 points per game in his final two seasons with the Pioneers, Terry will battle for one of the final roster spots on the Ducks in training camp, but he may be better served playing regular minutes in the AHL at first.

• Max Jones, LW, 20 – Kingston (OHL) – 2016 first-round pick

Jones spent a third season back in junior in ’17-18 and while production dropped (24 points) after an injury-plagued year, he did curtail his time in the penalty box as he adjusted to a mid-season trade from London. He’ll get another shot to stick with the Ducks roster during training camp

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Another Capitals injury as Kuznetsov’s night is over

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The Washington Capitals experienced almost-freaky-good injury luck for basically Barry Trotz’s entire run as head coach. Will they see that luck run out under new coach Todd Reirden?

It’s too early to tell, but Wednesday presents a series of worries.

First, Braden Holtby‘s availability was canceled out pretty late in the phase of getting ready for a game against the Winnipeg Jets, prompting the team to bring in an emergency backup for Pheonix Copley. Now the Capitals need to worry about rising star center Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Kuznetsov won’t return to Wednesday’s game thanks to an upper-body injury, likely suffered thanks to this Brandon Tanev hit:

Kuznetsov, 26, came into his 18th game of 2018-19 with an impressive 21 points. Ideally this will just be a minor hiccup as the Russian center aims to meet or exceed last season’s career-high of 83 points.

Holtby’s injury isn’t expected to be a big deal, so perhaps this will be closer to a minor speed bump than a troubling pothole in the road to defending that first-ever Stanley Cup.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Jeremy Roenick trains to become Golden Knights ‘archer’

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Whenever NBC Sports hits a fun locale, you can expect Jeremy Roenick to embrace opportunities for ridiculous spectacles, and who does ridiculous spectacles better than the Vegas Golden Knights?

JR didn’t disappoint heading into Wednesday’s NBCSN doubleheader, which closes out with the Golden Knights hosting the Anaheim Ducks.

[WATCH LIVE – 10:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

At the bottom of this post, you’ll see Roenick go marching in, but it’s his “training” as an archer for the Golden Knights’ Medieval Times-style pregame shows that really takes the (cheese)cake.

(Personal highlight, beyond Roenick in archer garb, was an alarmed JR asking: “Commence, does that mean start?”)

Enjoy that affably goofy video in the clip above this post’s headline. Also, you can tune into the first game of that doubleheader (St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks) as we speak.

The NBCSN Wednesday night doubleheader continues with the Vegas Golden Knights hosting the Anaheim Ducks at 10:30 p.m. ET. You can watch that game online by clicking here

Capitals need emergency backup with Holtby out

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Facing the Winnipeg Jets with your number two goalie starting and an emergency backup behind him isn’t exactly the ideal scenario, but that’s what the Washington Capitals face tonight.

Hey, things happen during an 82-game season.

Braden Holtby‘s out with an upper-body injury, giving way to wonderfully named Pheonix Copley. (Do you think Pheonix Copley knows Micheal Ferland? They should be best friends, right?)

Copley isn’t just facing the high-powered Jets unexpectedly. He’s also dealing with back-to-back starts, so this could be a real challenge.

The Washington Post’s Isabelle Kurshudyan reports that Holtby’s upper-body injury isn’t believed to be serious, so perhaps Capitals fans can enjoy some of the novelty aspects of this situation?

Of course, the novelty aspects that stand out the most is the guy who was pressed into backup duty out of the blue. That fellow is 6-foot-7 Gavin McHale, 31, who serves as the goalie coach for the University of Manitoba women’s team.

PHT’s Scott Billeck notes that McHale has been thrust into this sort of role before, so the giant netminder is at least collecting some lightly-worn NHL sweaters and strange memories to share at cocktail parties.

Not having Holtby ranks as “not fun,” but the rest of this could be entertaining. Also: NBC Sports Washington’s J.J. Regan notes that it’s possible that highly touted goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov could end up being called up depending upon how this works out over the next few days, so that could be fun, too.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Blues visit Blackhawks on Wednesday Night Hockey

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blackhawks and Blues find themselves at the bottom of the Central Division eneytering Wednesday’s meeting. Chicago took the first two meetings in overtime, but St. Louis got one back with a 7-3 victory on Oct. 27.

New Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton is still looking for his first win since replacing Joel Quenneville. Chicago is 0-2-1 under Colliton, which has extended their losing streak to eight games. That loss to the Blues was the game that started this current slide. They’ve not had a nine-game losing streak since the 2011-12 NHL season.

“I believe we’re on the right track. I believe we will turn this around. I think we’ve got really good players,” said Colliton. “When things are going against you over a long period of time, it’s not easy to get out of it. The circumstances are what they are. We’ve got to find a way to get it done. We can and we will.”

The dark clouds that were above the Blues earlier this season have brightened as they’ve won four of their last six. During that six-game stretch they’ve sliced their goals against per game from 4 to 2.5. Ryan O'Reilly is also excelling with eight goals and 17 points during a 10-game point streak.

Jake Allen‘s play was a factor in the Blues’ slow start, which opened the door for Chad Johnson, who’s played well in net for the last three games. He’s stopped 86 of the last 90 shots he’s faced and will get his chance to continue to shine during this current three-game road trip. Tonight, however, it’s Allen’s net versus the Blackhawks.

“He’s been our best player. You’ve seen countless times the big saves he’s making that are giving us a chance to win,” O’Reilly said about Johnson. “He’s stood on his head and it’s helped a lot. It’s helped us find our groove and do some good things. We have to be better in front of him, though.”

[WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Wednesday, November 14th, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blues-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUES
Jaden Schwartz – Ryan O’Reilly – Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby FabbriTyler BozakAlexander Steen
Zach SanfordRobert ThomasDavid Perron
Patrick MaroonIvan BarbashevOskar Sundqvist

Carl GunnarssonAlex Pietrangelo
Vince DunnJordan Schmaltz
Joel EdmundsonJay Bouwmeester

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

BLACKHAWKS
Nick SchmaltzJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane
Brandon SaadArtem AnisimovJohn Hayden
Alex DeBrincatDavid KampfDominik Kahun
Chris Kunitz – Luke Johnson – Andreas Martinsen

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook
Erik GustafssonHenri Jokiharju
Brandon Manning – Gustav Forling

Starting goalie: Corey Crawford

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule