Here’s what Ducks center Nate Thompson said Friday after he scored for the second time in as many games after going 42 games without one and his line was perhaps the team’s best and most consistent during a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks “I thought we were pretty good. It’s always good to be rewarded with a goal, but it doesn’t matter because it’s still a loss in the column.”
Ducks center Nate Thompson missed the season’s first 25 games after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery. He rejoined the lineup and recorded two assists in four games. Now he’ll be forced to sit out three more contests after the NHL banned him Monday for an illegal check.
Thompson was given a five-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct for a hit to the head of Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of the Ducks’ 5-1 loss Friday at the Honda Center. Faulk was uninjured on the play and returned to the game.
Here’s the video explanation from the NHL: http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=60&id=900508&lang=en
“I’m disappointed,” said Thompson, who will be eligible to return to the lineup for the Ducks’ game Dec. 22 against the New York Rangers, the final contest on a four-game trip that begins Thursday in Buffalo. “I get it. I understand the league has a job to do to try to protect the players.
“It’s unfortunate I have to sit out three games, but the league has to make their call and it’s a job they have to do. … I’m not going to judge the call they made. It’s a call they have to make. … They made the call and I have to serve the time.”
Key play: Chris Stewart scored the tiebreaking goal 15:49 into the second period and the Ducks defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Sunday at the Honda Center. Stewart skated into the slot, accepted a centering pass from teammate Nate Thompson and redirected it past Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for his fifth goal of the season..
Pivotal performer: Ducks goaltender John Gibson made 23 saves for his fourth victory in seven appearances since he was recalled from San Diego of the American Hockey League. He was razor sharp after giving up a goal to Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta only 3:02 into the game. Gibson is 4-2-1 with a 1.47 goals-against average, a .944 save percentage and two shutouts since his recall from San Diego of the AHL on Nov. 24.
Between the pipes: Gibson, a Pittsburgh native, started for the sixth consecutive game for the Ducks. Frederik Andersen, who was sidelined by an illness, served as his backup. Fleury started for the Penguins after he was in goal for a 5-3 loss Saturday to the Kings. Fleury made 23 saves.
Quote, unquote: “They’re building blocks,” Ducks center Ryan Kesler said of the past two victories, which includes a 1-0 win Friday over the San Jose Sharks. “We’ve been playing well for a while now. To finally string some wins together feels good.”
Coach’s challenge: An apparent power-play goal for Ducks left wing Rickard Rakell in the first period was washed out by a coach’s challenge. It was determined by video replay that Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen failed to keep the puck in the zone and offside should have been called.
Ducks center Nate Thompson returned to the Ducks on Sunday, after playing one game on a conditioning assignment with their American Hockey League team in San Diego. Thompson, who underwent shoulder surgery during the off-season, was scoreless in the Gulls’ 3-1 victory over the Ontario Reign on Saturday.
Thompson reported no pain or setbacks after playing his first game since Game 7 of the Western Conference finals last May. He was injured during the Ducks’ regular-season finale, sat out their first-round playoff victory over the Winnipeg Jets and then returned for the next two rounds of the postseason.
“I was trying first game back to keep things simple,” Thompson told reporters Sunday. “I wasn’t trying to be hesitant at all. I was hoping to get a hit in early. First shift I was hoping I would be able to get a hit and I did. … It makes you feel like you’re back in the action and a hockey player again.”
Thompson remains on injured reserve.
Christmas came early for Ducks center Nate Thompson on Wednesday. That’s the way it felt to him, anyway. After so many days and weeks of skating alone, he joined his teammates for their pregame skate at the Honda Center for the first time since undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.
It was a small but significant step on the lengthy trek back to the Ducks’ lineup.
“It was fun,” Thompson said before the Ducks faced the Florida Panthers. “It was exciting. It was like my game out there. I’ve been on the ice by myself. It was nice to have some guys to joke around and have some fun. It’s going good. You can definitely see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
As much as he’s missed the Ducks, the Ducks have missed him, too.
After all, he was their blue-collar fourth-line center until a hard check in the regular-season finale last April 11 against the Arizona Coyotes dislocated his left shoulder, forced him to sit out the first round of the playoffs and required surgery to repair two labrum tears after the postseason.
He scored five goals and 18 points during the regular season, won 52.7 percent of his faceoffs to rank second on the Ducks and had a team-best 204 hits. He also blocked shots, won battles for loose pucks and the Ducks were better with him in the lineup than out of it.
The Ducks’ depth in the center of the ice carried them to their third straight Pacific Division title and playoff victories over the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames before they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in seven games in the Western Conference finals.
Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Rickard Rakell, the centers ahead of him on the Ducks’ depth chart, receive most, if not all, of the attention. Thompson’s spot in the lineup was taken by Shawn Horcoff for the 12th game Wednesday, but it won’t be long before there’s a battle for ice time.
Or so it would seem.
“I’m slowly easing back into it,” Thompson said. “Getting back into a pregame skate with the guys is always a good sign. It was like Christmas out there, being with a bunch of guys and not just by myself. It was fun. Little things for me are a big step.”
The Ducks sent goaltender John Gibson to their new AHL team in San Diego in their final round of cuts, reaching the NHL roster limit of 23 players Monday. They also sent forwards Chris Mueller and Nick Ritchie and defensemen Joe Piskula and Korbinian Holzer to the Gulls.
In addition, the Ducks placed center Nate Thompson and left wing Kenton Helgesen on injured reserve to start the season. Thompson is likely to be sidelined for another month or more after undergoing right shoulder surgery in the off-season. Shawn Horcoff is slated to replace Thompson on the fourth line.