The Anaheim Ducks have been doing all they can to get things done while in the midst of players coming in and out of COVID protocol. Thanks to a breakout star and a couple of NHL debuts, they’re still grinding out wins, even at less than full strength.
Comtois Scores First Goal of the Season
It’s been a rough-and-tumble season for Max Comtois. After breaking out with 16 goals last season, the winger was held scoreless through his first 11 games of the season before grabbing an assist against the Seattle Kraken on Nov. 11. However, he suffered an injury in that very same game and required surgery to remove a broken bone from his right hand. Not only that, but he also went through COVID protocol recently, which forced him to miss a handful of games as well.
Things may be looking up for Comtois, as he has three points in four games since the New Year began and scored his first goal of the season on Sunday night against the Detroit Red Wings. A nifty pass from Rickard Rakell found Comtois at the back door and he slammed it home. Playing on a line with Rakell and Trevor Zegras isn’t something that Comtois has been able to do since training camp, but head coach Dallas Eakins was doing everything in his power to get the team going after a mostly sluggish second period.
While this line might not become a permanent fixture, Comtois did see a lot more ice time following the goal and it was clear that he had more of a pep in his step as well. Much like Troy Terry and his breakout performances this season, filling Comtois with confidence is essential to ensuring that he continues to perform well.
Terry Reaches New Career High in Assists
Speaking of Terry, he reached a new career high in assists on Saturday, grabbing his 14th helper of the season. He stripped K’Andre Miller, spun and sent a cross-ice feed right on the stick of Isac Lundestrom, who deposited the puck past Alexandar Georgiev. He has now eclipsed his career high in goals, points and assists during an all-star worthy season to this point.
Twelve of Terry’s 14 assists this season have tied the game or given the Ducks the lead, and of his 36 total points, 24 of them have contributed to tying the game or giving the Ducks a lead. His goal on Sunday night tied the game at two apiece.
Dostal, Perreault, Tracey Make NHL Debuts
A trio of San Diego Gulls made their NHL debuts this weekend. Jacob Perreault made his debut on Saturday against the New York Rangers while Brayden Tracey and goaltender Lukas Dostal made their debuts on Sunday against the Red Wings.
Perreault played on a line with Zegras and Sonny Milano and came close to scoring his first NHL goal numerous times. Ultimately, the only time he was able to put the puck into the net was for the Rangers. Jarred Tinordi’s shot from the point deflected off of Perreault’s stick and past Anthony Stolarz in what proved to be the eventual game-winning goal.
Having played on Friday night for the Gulls, Perreault was out of the lineup on Sunday and in came Tracey. The latter was placed on a line with Terry and Ryan Getzlaf and while he didn’t do much to impact the game overall, he didn’t look out of his element by any means. Tracey didn’t see much time once the third period arrived, but that was understandable, as the Ducks were in a close game and he, like Perreault, was playing his third consecutive game in as many nights.
A lot of credit should go to Eakins as he put both Tracey and Perreault in positions to succeed right out of the gate, pairing both of them with dynamic, offensive talents.
The top debut, though, belonged to Dostal. The 21-year-old stopped 33 of 36 shots during regulation and overtime and did not allow a goal during the shootout, earning the first NHL win of his career.
Dostal’s positioning and ability to track the puck were on full display during the first period. A rocket from Filip Hronek on a 5-on-3 power play, a back door pass that none of the Ducks covered and a deflected shot from the point through traffic meant that Dostal did allow three goals, but he was a major reason behind why the Ducks would even make it to overtime.
The Ducks went nearly four minutes without a whistle in overtime, defending for their lives as the Red Wings retained possession and were easily executed numerous line changes with ease. The trio of Terry, Rakell and Jamie Drysdale were also trapped on the ice for nearly the entirety of that four minutes as well.
Ducks’ Special Teams Running on All Cylinders
The Ducks are the only team in the league that ranks top-5 in both power-play percentage (PP%) and penalty-kill percentage (PK%). Ranked fourth in PP% and third in PK%, the Ducks’ special teams units are a big reason behind why they have been so successful this season, just one season removed from finishing second-to-last in the entire league.
A bounceback season from defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk along with offensive renaissance from fellow blueliner Cam Fowler — who’s already equaled his goal total (five) from last season — has helped the cause. Terry’s performances too have been a big part of the power play and the dynamic duo of Zegras and Sonny Milano has also helped keep the man advantage chugging along.
On the other end, Lundestrom and Derek Grant have been fixtures of the Ducks’ penalty kill. Both have two shorthanded points apiece and have logged over 70 minutes of shorthanded time on ice. Only Fowler and Josh Manson have more shorthanded minutes, with the pair taking in a whopping 99:18 and 93:59, respectively.
Zegras Continues to Shine
Off the back of being named “Rookie of the Month” for December, Zegras recorded his 10th multi-point game of the season on Sunday, scoring a goal and collecting the secondary assist on Comtois’ goal. Eight of Zegras’ nine goals this season have either tied the game or given the Ducks the lead.
It seems like no matter who he lines up next to, Zegras finds success. Spending a majority of his time between Milano and Rakell and looked at as a key cog on the power play, Zegras’ dynamism has added flair and flourish to the Ducks.
Chychrun to the Ducks?
The Arizona Coyotes fire sale should be on full display come the trade deadline, but the likes of Jakob Chychrun and Phil Kessel are already garnering interest around the league. Chychrun in particular has attracted interest from at least 10 teams, with the Ducks being one of them, reports Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek.
The Coyotes are asking for “a young player, a top prospect and a first-round pick” for Chychrun. The Ducks certainly have the assets to pull it off, given how much they were in the hunt for Jack Eichel up until he was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Ducks have reason to go out and get the defenseman as well. Given that Hampus Lindholm is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, that leaves a void on the left side of the Ducks’ defense. Acquiring Chychrun would fill that void, at least for a little. His contract runs through the 2024-25 season, with a limited 10-team no-trade list during the last two seasons of the deal.
Chychrun is just 23 (24 in March) and would likely cost half of what Lindholm will make on the open market. Though it can’t be stated enough how integral Lindholm is to the Ducks’ blue line, the ever increasing average annual value for defensemen may give the Ducks pause when it comes to how much they offer the Swede. Chychrun is making just $4.5 million a year for the next three seasons.
The Ducks will be at home tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins before jetting off on a two-game road trip. Several of their players should be ready to exit COVID protocol, which means a depleted team that has been scraping out wins will be getting a lot stronger soon. Having a team close to full strength will be essential as the Ducks continue their push toward a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.
Derek has been a hockey fan for 10 years and a sports fan in general for more than two decades.
He graduated from UCCS in Colorado Springs, CO in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication and spent the last several years as part of UCCS’ on-campus student newspaper staff–both as a reporter and editor. He is now creating Ducks-related content from his home in Southern California.