First, the Ducks’ good news: Both Joffrey Lupul and Petteri Nokelainen returned to practice on Wednesday.
The bad news? Nokelainen, who strained his groin on Sunday, had to leave midway through practice and was to be evaluated by team trainers.
Meanwhile Lupul, who’s had a recurrence of back spasms, made it through practice. But head coach Randy Carlyle said there’s always a level of caution with back injuries.
“I think anytime you have a muscle that goes into – I don’t know if you’d call a cramp – or whatever you want to call it, in the back area, there’s always concern,” Carlyle said. “Usually though if you get a couple good days, then you strtengthen other areas around it – that’s what therapy does – it corrects itself and you can move on.”
The status of both players for Saturday’s regular-season opener against San Jose is yet to be determined.
For a coach who can be comically redundant about taking one game at a time, Randy Carlyle took a huge look forward Wednesday when asked about keeping 19-year-old Luca Sbisa in the NHL this season.
“He’s not afraid to do things with (the puck),” Carlyle said of Sbisa. “The one thing you notice about the best defensemen who play the game … when they have the puck, they’re never under pressure. They can be very calm when they have the puck, and they want it more, and they do usually have it a lot in the game.
“Those are the types of players who seem to have the ability to extend their careers a long time, and play huge minutes and make contributions.”
Ending weeks of suspense, the Ducks announced their final training camp cuts Wednesday: Defenseman Brendan Mikkelson is headed to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies [corrects from San Antonio] while forward Logan MacMillan has been assigned to ECHL Bakersfield.
That spares defenseman Luca Sbisa another year of juniors, cements Sheldon Brookbank as the team’s seventh defenseman, and leaves forwards Andrew Ebbett and Erik Christensen as the offensive weapons in reserve.
The Ducks have 25 players still left on their training camp roster, and can only have 23 by noon. Randy Carlyle has said (nearly outright) that left wing Logan MacMillan will be one of the cuts. But who will be the other?
Most likely the Ducks will keep the other 14 forwards and 7 of the 8 defensemen currently on the roster. However, Carlyle acknowledged Tuesday that keeping all 8 defensemen and 13 forwards was also a possibility.
“I would say in the league, if you asked any coach or general manager that you can never have enough of, which position do you think 90 percent of them would say?” the coach asked rhetorically.
Both 14 and 7, or 13 and 8, are viable options because cap space is not an issue this season, unlike each of the past two training camps. Here’s a shakedown of the players on the bubble:
Andrew Ebbett is a quiet and unassuming man at 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, the type of professional athlete who, if he introduces himself as a professional athlete, makes you do a double-take. He’s easy to overlook.
Coming off his first NHL season, nobody bothered to ask Ebbett what he thought the Ducks needed to do in the off-season. If they had, he probably wouldn’t have suggested bringing in another second-line center, the job he held throughout last season’s playoff run.
Of course, the Ducks promptly signed Saku Koivu to take Ebbett’s place. His reaction?
No cuts in practice today, only two notable absences.
Joffrey Lupul, who missed two preseason games with a bad back before returning to play in Sunday’s finale against the Kings, did not participate in practice.
“He’s had some tightness in his lower back area,” head coach Randy Carlyle said, “and we seem to be able to loosen it up, and then he goes out and does anything, it seems to cramp back up. We’re more precautionary. He did skate the other day, was fit enough to play but yesterday after treatment it persisted, so we felt it was best interests for him not to skate today.”
Carlyle said that Petteri Nokelainen strained his groin muscle against San Jose on Friday toward the end of the second period. The center skated prior to practice Tuesday but didn’t participate in drills.
Logan MacMillan “has had some issues,” Carlyle said, and was in the trainer’s room too. The 20-year-old has played in just one preseason game.
“What we’re trying to do is educate him in some of the training issues and whatnot; we’re keeping the player around,” Carlyle said. “We feel he’s got a lot to learn in a short period of time around our group. He’s got a short period of time right now for him to be with us. But obviously tomorrow has to change.”
Brendan Mikkelson wasn’t exactly expected to be in Anaheim still. Certainly not considering defensemen Steve McCarthy, Jassen Cullimore, Brian Salcido and Brett Festerling were all cut from the Ducks’ training camp first.
Which is what made Sunday’s game against the Kings, the Ducks’ final action of the preseason, so important for the 22-year-old.
After the Ducks’ on-the-fly rebuild over the summer, it led many to believe that the low-scoring victories that marked the team’s 2007 Stanley Cup run were a thing of the past. Certainly losing marquee defensemen Chris Pronger and Franois Beauchemin, and adding Joffrey Lupul and Saku Koivu, would tilt the team’s balance in favor of the offense.
Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Kings in the Ducks’ preseason finale only reinforced that hypothesis.
Bobby Ryan notched two goals and an assist, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry each had one goal and one assist, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 31 of 35 shots as the Ducks ended their preseason with a 5-4 win over the Kings.
Getzlaf and Perry were on the ice for all but the last of the five goals. That goal — the eventual game-winner — came from Joffrey Lupul at the tail end of a 3-on-1 rush with Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne with 2:35 left in the third period.
With the Kings holding a 6-on-5 advantage, Anze Kopitar stuffed in a goal on Giguere from the doorstep with 1:13 left, making it 5-4.
James Wisniewski had a pair of assists and Koivu, Selanne and Scott Niedermayer had one assist apiece. The Ducks conclude the preseason with a 5-3 record and won’t play again until the season opener against San Jose, at Honda Center on Saturday.
Troy Bodie has been assigned to San Antonio of the AHL, giving the Ducks 15 forwards as the preseason concludes.
Figure that center Andrew Ebbett and left wing Logan MacMillan are in the running for the final forward spot. Both players, along with center Petteri Nokelainen, were healthy lineup scratches Sunday night against the Kings.
A 6-foot-4, 214-pound right wing, Bodie projected as a big body on the energy line. By going with either the 5-9 Ebbett or the 6-1 MacMillan, the Ducks will enter the season with a smaller lineup — certainly, a smaller energy line — than in recent years.
Bodie made his NHL debut last year in Anaheim and appeared in four regular-season games, recording four penalty minutes without a point. In four preseason games, Bodie had no points, 10 penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating.