Considering that Brett Festerling and Brian Salcido were among the last defensemen assigned to the American Hockey League in training camp a year ago, it’s worth noting they were among the first on Saturday.
“We felt people here had outplayed the players we decided to reassign,” a diplomatic Randy Carlyle said Monday. “We’re going to put the best players on the ice … we felt the other players were ahead of them.”
The Ducks opened the preseason with more veteran candidates to fill the sixth and seventh spots on defense this year — Sheldon Brookbank, Steve McCarthy, Steve Eminger and Jassen Cullimore to name a few. Still, that leaves youngsters Brendan Mikkelson and Mark Mitera among those still standing.
“You’re comfortable with the guys, the room, the coaching staff, their expectations, the building,” said Mikkelson, who appeared in 34 games in 2008-09 as a midseason injury replacement. “Last year I wanted to make the NHL. This year I still have to make the team, but I want to stay.”
For Mitera, who sustained an ACL tear that cost him all but 13 games last year between the University of Michigan and Iowa (AHL), the road has been bumpier.
“It’s like he’s starting all over again,” Carlyle said.
But the big-bodied (6-3, 202) defenseman hasn’t gotten much of a chance to get anything started, playing in just one of the Ducks’ first five games. Mitera’s presence may have less to do with him beating out Salcido or Festerling for a roster spot than a chance to get his feet wet in an NHL clubhouse.