Ducks bring back Bonino for one year.

Nick Bonino accepted the Ducks’ qualifying offer, bringing the restricted free-agent forward back on a one-year contract that pays $693,000 in the NHL and $65,000 in the AHL.

The 23-year-old center had no goals and no assists in 26 games last season for the Ducks, splitting the season between the NHL and American Hockey League. (Coincidentally, the only players who played more games without a point last season are Ducks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby, who just signed with the Ducks.)

His scoring touch was readily apparent in Syracuse, where he was nearly a point-per-game player (45 points in 50 games) for the Crunch. In both the AHL and NHL, Bonino was an above-average defensive player, and he saw time in four games of the Ducks’ first-round playoffs series against Nashville.

The Ducks liked Bonino so much that they sent Travis Moen and Kent Huskins to San Jose for him, Timo Pielmeier and a draft pick; Bonino will probably need to be an offensive force if he is to make the NHL roster out of training camp.

Nashville 4, Ducks 3.

If it’s as easy to get open shots against the Ducks as the Nashville Predators made it seem Friday, you can toss goals like this, and assists like this, out the window. And you can toss the Ducks out of the playoffs.

With all due respect to Jerred Smithson (previous career playoff goals: 1) and Jordin Tootoo (previous career playoff assists: 2), the ending to the Ducks’ Game 5 loss was as inexplicable as it was stunning. Let the record show that Mr. Smithson caught the Ducks’ defense napping and deposited a pass from behind the net by Mr. Tootoo into the net to send the Ducks to the brink of elimination.

Catch all the game details in tomorrow’s editions.

My notes and observations that didn’t make the paper:
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Ducks 6, Nashville 3.

The Ducks played like a different team in Game 4 compared to Game 3. In part, they were.

Sheldon Brookbank, Kyle Palmieri and Brad Winchester came out of the lineup; and Andy Sutton, Andreas Lilja and Jarkko Ruutu went in — but the biggest difference in the 6-3 win seemed to be the Ducks’ resolve.

Goals by Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Brandon McMillan in the third period broke a 3-3 tie, and the series shifts back to Anaheim on Friday tied at two games apiece.

Goals by Cam Fowler and Saku Koivu staked the Ducks to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first 5:14. Patric Hornqvist answered 34 seconds later for Nashville, and Joel Ward’s power-play goal at 5:44 of the second period tied the game at 2.

Teemu Selanne deflected a Getzlaf shot past Pekka Rinne with the Ducks on the power play at 11:41 of the second period to temporarily restore the one-goal lead. But Kevin Klein and Matt Halischuk caught the Anaheim defense napping, with Klein setting up Halischuk for the equalizer at 14:15.

A delay of game penalty to Nick Bonino with 31.5 seconds left in the second period carried over to the third period, and could have given the Predators the break they were looking for. Instead, Perry scored short-handed 1:17 into the third period to give the Ducks all the momentum they needed. Nashville put only three shots on Ray Emery (19 saves) in the entire third period.

The Ducks outshot Nashville 38-22 in the game, and Rinne wasn’t around to see the end of it. He was lifted for Anders Lindback after McMillan’s goal at 6:46 of the third period.

“We just felt that the way we played the other night, we needed a little bit more size on the back end,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “We hadn’t played Sutton and Lilja in a while. We thought that some of our younger players — specifically Sbisa and Bonino … McMillan and Beleskey, those are all very young players — we just felt they would be more comfortable with a 6-foot-5 defenseman and another 6-foot-3, 220-pound defenseman on the back end.”

A few more notes and observations:
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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.
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Emery ‘not sure’ about Game 1, other notes from practice.

Ray Emery took part in his first full practice Tuesday, one of three Ducks goalies on the ice along with Dan Ellis and Jonas Hiller, but couldn’t commit to being ready for Game 1 Wednesday against the Nashville Predators.

“I’m not sure. We’ll see how it goes when we get there,” said Emery, who has not played since leaving last Wednesday’s game against San Jose with an undisclosed lower-body injury. “I’m just happy with the way practice went today and we’ll go from there.”

Since Hiller has only played in three games since the All-Star Break, that leaves Dan Ellis as the likely starter by default. As usual Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle didn’t say who would get the call, but Ellis is the safe choice given his health and solid performances in wins over the Kings last Friday and Saturday.

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Ducks 3, Kings 1.

The roller-coaster ride is over. Now the fun begins.

The Ducks couldn’t be happier about their position after 82 games — fourth place in the Western Conference, and guaranteed home-ice advantage for the first round — thanks to their win and losses by the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators earlier in the day.

The end result is that the Ducks will either host the Chicago Blackhawks or the Predators in the first round beginning no earlier than Wednesday.

“We found a way to get ourselves into a good position from thinking about where we were a couple months ago,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “You’ve got to credit our players; they’re the ones who put it out on the line night in and night out. It’s about a team that’s trying to work its way through all the hurdles that it’s been presented and now we have an opportunity to play at home.”

Here’s what the roller coaster looked like: The Ducks sat in third place in the West on Feb. 13. They fell as low as 11th and were there as late as March 8. They rejoined the top 8 on March 20 and did not leave. They began the day Saturday in seventh place and had risen to fourth by the end. Along the way there were subplots galore — skill, luck, 50 goals, 40-year-olds, vertigo — and it’s been fascinating to watch it all unfold.

The playoff scenarios are simple. If Chicago beats the Detroit Red Wings Sunday, the Ducks will play the Blackhawks. If Chicago loses, the Ducks play the Predators. That and more in tomorrow’s editions.

Here are a few more notes:
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Bonino sent to Syracuse.

Nick Bonino has been assigned to the Syracuse Crunch, two months and a day after the Ducks recalled the rookie forward from their American Hockey League affiliate.

Getting extensive playing time as a third-line center, Bonino established himself as a reliable defensive player. He was tied for eighth among active forwards with an overall minus-3 rating – not bad considering the team’s minus-10 goal differential – and a plus-1 on the road, best on the squad. But the 22-year-old also had the ignominious distinction of playing in more games (26) than any NHL player without a point.

Bonino’s fate was sealed after the Ducks traded for Montreal Canadiens forward Maxim Kitsyn on Friday, demoted Bonino to the fourth line and moved him to left wing for the first time since he was in high school.

Updates on Getzlaf, Bonino, Smith-Pelly. Update.

Ryan Getzlaf earned his day off practice Wednesday.

The center received 10 stitches Tuesday after he was struck in the forehead by a close-range shot by Shane Doan in the second period of the Ducks’ 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Getzlaf was oozing blood from the moment he was struck and did not return to the game.

“He got the puck directly between his eyes, eyebrows. There’s quite a
gash there,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “He had bleeding into his nasal cavity and whatnot, and he
felt nauseous at times, but that’s because the blood is draining into
his stomach.

“We told him to stay at home today. … It’s better that he stay still here for a while and just basically soak that forehead with as much ice as he possibly can. Get his rest and that really should start the healing process here as we go.”

A team spokesperson said that Getzlaf will have further tests and an MRI on Thursday.

One good omen, Bobby Ryan said, is that the captain “was in good spirits” and “was very vocal after the game.”

Carlyle said it’s too soon to know if Getzlaf is going to be available for Friday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Honda Center. If he can’t go, expect Bobby Ryan to take his place on the top line between left wing Matt Beleskey and right wing Corey Perry.

At least, that’s how they skated at practice Thursday. The second line of Jason Blake-Saku Koivu-Teemu Selanne remained intact. Todd Marchant centered Brandon McMillan and Joffrey Lupul on the third line, and Nick Bonino shifted to left wing on a fourth line with center Kyle Chipchura and right wing George Parros.

Bonino, a natural center, said after practice that it was the first time he’s skated at left wing since he was in high school four years ago. Starting Bonino in a fourth-line role (as opposed to the third line, where he’s been pretty much all season) could be an indication that Carlyle is looking to ease the minutes burden on the 22-year-old center, who will be available to the Ducks for the first time since suffering a bruise on his right foot Dec. 20 in Boston.

Also Wednesday, the Ducks announced that 2010 second-round draft pick Devante Smith-Pelly has signed a three-year, entry-level contract. The 18-year-old right wing has 20 goals and 37 points in 33 games for Mississauga of the OHL.

More in tomorrow’s editions.

12 p.m. update: Smith-Pelly will make $750,000 each year he is in the NHL.

Green sent back to Syracuse.

Josh Green’s latest NHL stint lasted only one game.

 

The Ducks returned the 33-year-old forward to the Syracuse Crunch one day after he logged 9:09 in a 5-2 loss at Buffalo. Green moved up and down the lineup, playing mostly left wing and a little center, and finished a minus-1 without recording a point.

 

Green was filling in while Nick Bonino rested a sore foot. The rookie center might be healed in time to play Sunday in Los Angeles but if not, Green could find himself in a Ducks uniform again.

Bonino (foot) out, Green up from Syracuse.

The Ducks announced that rookie center Nick Bonino will miss tonight’s game in Buffalo with a “minor foot injury,” and Josh Green was recalled from AHL affiliate Syracuse.

Green gets the nod over Dan Sexton (who is coming off a hot weekend) and Matt Beleskey (who has six goals and 12 points in 14 AHL games), probably because he can play the pivot. So can Todd Marchant, who has been mostly used as a left wing lately, but Green also displayed pretty good chemistry with Marchant and George Parros during a November stint on the fourth line. The 33-year-old has no points in 11 games with the Ducks this season. He had five goals and 13 points in 19 games for Syracuse.

The Ducks play the Sabres at 4 p.m., then get a five-day layoff before Sunday’s game in Los Angeles, which ideally would give Bonino enough time to heal before playing the Kings.