Ellis likely to start; New third line?; Black Aces up.

Dan Ellis was the first of the three Ducks goalies to leave the ice at the morning skate. That’s usually a good sign that he will be the starter, as if the writing weren’t on the wall already.

At his post-skate presser, Randy Carlyle at once declined to name his starter and explained why he doesn’t: “I’m sure that Barry Trotz and his staff have dissected what all three of our goalies have done. They probably had to do more work because we know who’s going to play for Nashville.”

Meanwhile, the forward lines stayed the same:

Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry
Blake-Koivu-Selanne
Beleskey-Bonino-McMillan
Winchester-Marchant-Parros
Ruutu-Chipchura-Sexton

Brandon McMillan is definitely skating at right wing. I think I might have mistakenly penciled him down on the left side earlier, maybe because that’s the only position other than center he’s played in his first NHL season. Switching a productive two-way center to the right side in favor of another rookie (Bonino) who hasn’t scored a point in the NHL all season is a bit unexpected, assuming Beleskey, Bonino and McMillan are in the lineup tonight against Nashville.

Carlyle, of course, had his reasons.

“You try to find the right combination, the right mix. That’s one option that we have available,” Carlyle said. “We think McMillan can play right wing, we think he can play center. We think he can play the point on the power play – but we haven’t done that with him. That’s the only place he hasn’t played. Previously in junior hockey, he’s played center, left wing, right wing, even played a full year of defense in his second last year of junior hockey, then went back and played center his final year.”

Bonino said that he and Beleskey skated on the same line at Syracuse during the second half of the season. Otherwise, it’s a new look for all three. Beleskey was drafted in 2006, Bonino in 2007, McMillan in 2008, and their paths haven’t crossed much on the ice until now.

The same scoring touch that allowed Bonino to become nearly a point-per-game player (12-33=45 in 50 games) in the AHL never translated to the NHL. He was held without a goal or an assist in a 26-game stint at the beginning of the season, before being sent to Syracuse to iron out the kinks.

“The last month or so I played my best hockey,” Bonino said. “I wasn’t producing. I was playing well but I wasn’t playing as good as I could. They saw that and I knew it. I had to take some time to work on my game.”

Carlyle said that Bonino has “been their best player (in Syracuse) for the last month, specifically really has picked up the level of his game to where he was dominant in the American Hockey League, from a skating standpoint, from a puck possession standpoint. Not real dominant on the offensive side, but made a huge contribution and stepped the level of his play up dramatically in the last part of the season.”

While Bonino has a chance of getting his first real NHL playoff action, the eight players recalled Wednesday from Syracuse will have to settle for taking in the scenery.

Igor Bobkov, Mat Clark, Nicolas Deschamps, Josh Green, Nate Guenin, Peter Holland, Patrick Maroon and Kyle Palmieri are this year’s “Black Aces” and unlikely to play. Carlyle explained their purpose:

“It’s an opportunity for young kids who have never been around the Stanley Cup playoffs,” the coach said. “You always like to give them a taste. … They skate at 8:30 in the morning before everybody else. And just the experience of being around the playoffs, the atmosphere, from the outside looking in you can see the excitement that’s created. Look at the building, how much different it looks this morning with the towels. I’m sure playoff fever has caught in Nashville. They’re really here to absorb and get a first-hand view of what it’s like to participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs.”

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