With Perry out five months, should Ducks make big, painful changes?

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Last season, the Anaheim Ducks dealt with a slew of injuries, particularly to their veteran players. It’s looking like they won’t break that pattern in 2018-19.

The Ducks announced that pesky power forward Corey Perry is expected to miss five months (or 20 weeks) after undergoing knee surgery “to repair meniscus and MCL injuries.” The Athletic’s Eric Stephens reports that Perry’s knee “popped” during a recent warm-up session, aggravating previous issues.

While partner-in-crime Ryan Getzlaf remains one of the NHL’s most prolific passers despite entering the age range where decay is more or less expected, Perry’s noticeably slowed in recent years. The agitating 33-year-old failed to reach 20 goals in each of the last two seasons (17 in 2017-18; 19 in 2016-17).

Considering that Perry missed 11 regular-season games last season, there was likely some hope that he might regain some of his previous form during a healthier season. Instead, the Ducks are merely hoping to have the veteran winger back in the mix by the trade deadline.

The Ducks were already waddling limping into 2018-19 to begin with, as while there’s some uncertainty regarding Ryan Kesler‘s being able to play, there’s an overarching concern that the cantankerous center won’t be anywhere near full-strength even if he does suit up.

Not that long ago, it seemed like the Ducks were building up a war chest of players who combined skill with “being tough to play against.” It wasn’t just Perry or Kesler, but also sandpaper types such as Kevin Bieksa.

Time caught up with Bieksa (even if he’s apparently in great shape?), and it seems like years of hard-fought battles and net-front trolling have caught up with Perry and Kesler, who’s even a bit older at 34.

About the only bright side is that, based on last season, the Ducks are at least accustomed to dealing with injuries.

This also opens the door for younger players to assert themselves. Perhaps speedy winger Ondrej Kase can prove that he deserves a more prominent role in the offense?

That said, the flip side is that Ducks GM Bob Murray may feel that much more inspired to “pivot” in 2018-19, possibly trying to shed some money and go toward more of a youth movement overall.

Consider these factors:

  • Again, these veterans are banged-up. Kesler and Perry aren’t healthy, while Getzlaf’s approaching a phase of his career where it might be wise to strategically hand him more rest.
  • We’ve seen the emergence of certain prime-age forwards, with Rickard Rakell standing out, in particular.
  • There’s fantastic youth when it comes to the Ducks hopes of preventing goals, and transitioning the puck out of their own end. Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour are 24, while Cam Fowler and Josh Manson are 26. Meanwhile, John Gibson is a borderline-star goalie at 25.
  • Anaheim is something of a “budget” team. If, like last season, they’re fighting to survive amid injuries, would it be wiser to shed some salary?
  • After all, GM Bob Murray wasn’t really all that convinced to be a “buyer” during last year’s trade deadline. Maybe it’s time to hit the reset button?
  • Let’s not forget that the massive gains made by other Pacific Division teams. The Sharks landed Erik Karlsson after already seemingly pulling away a bit from Anaheim last season. The Vegas Knights enjoyed a nice summer by bringing in Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny. The Kings even got Ilya Kovalchuk. Maybe the Ducks should put their sights more on, say, 2019-20?

In all honesty, the window to move aging players for the best-possible assets was likely open wider earlier. Even so, Murray & Co. should at least ponder an uncomfortable question: are all these bodies breaking down a sign that it’s time to make some painful changes?

Either way, the Ducks could be in for another tough start to a season.

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.

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.