Hello and welcome to 2022. The Anaheim Ducks finally returned to play after being on a makeshift break due to COVID postponements. 12 days after their last game, the Ducks hit the ice for their matchup against the Vancouver Canucks. Though they fell 2-1 in overtime, you have to imagine the Ducks were more than happy to be back in a game environment.
Fowler Suffers Upper-Body Injury Versus Canucks
The Ducks were without one of their main contributors on the blue line for yesterday’s game. Cam Fowler left the Ducks’ game on Wednesday against the Canucks after colliding with Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and then falling awkwardly into the boards.
Fowler did skate on his own Thursday and made the trip with the Ducks to Las Vegas, but he did not dress for the game. Fowler joining the team on their two-game road trip is a positive sign. His next opportunity to suit up will be on Sunday.
In Fowler’s absence, veterans like Hampus Lindholm, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Josh Manson will need to step up. Shattenkirk and Fowler have been the premier defensemen on the Ducks’ power play this season, though Lindholm has a few man-advantage tallies of his own and Jamie Drysdale has contributed a handful of power-play assists as well.
Steel Returns from COVID Protocol
The Ducks saw a couple of their players enter COVID protocol earlier this week when Sam Steel and Max Comtois tested positive for COVID-19. Trevor Zegras would join them in COVID protocol the following day. Max Jones also tested positive for COVID but because he is currently on injured reserve for at least another two months, it is, as Elliott Teaford referred to it as, “a moot point”.
Because of the CDC’s adjusted protocol for isolation and quarantine, the NHL also modified their own protocols. This meant that Steel was able to return from COVID protocol on Friday and was inserted into the lineup immediately.
With Adam Henrique still on injured reserve, the Ducks have had to dig into their forward depth now that Zegras and Comtois are both out. Vinni Lettieri was recalled and dressed for both Wednesday and Friday and Buddy Robinson, who has had a positive impact since his recall, played in both games as well.
Steel’s return is a welcomed sight as head coach Dallas Eakins found it more appropriate to ice 11 forwards and seven defensemen on Wednesday night than to go with a more typical 12 forwards and six defensemen.
Zilch Makes Ducks Broadcast Debut
The Ducks players aren’t the only ones who have had to deal with COVID workarounds. With usual play-by-play commentator, John Ahlers, in COVID protocol, San Diego Gulls play-by-play commentator Andy Zilch answered the call in Ahlers’ absence.
Zilch made his Ducks broadcast debut on Wednesday and followed it up by commentating Friday’s matinee matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights. The expectation would be that Zilch will again be the play-by-play commentator for Sunday’s afternoon game against the Colorado Avalanche with Ahlers potentially returning for Tuesday’s home game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Gulls haven’t played since Dec. 18 and have had their slate of games postponed through Jan. 2 due to COVID protocols. These postponements have allowed Zilch to fill in for Ahlers in the meantime.
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It’s easy to show rust after going 10 consecutive days without playing a game. That was evidenced by the Ducks’ two goals this week in their games against the Canucks and Golden Knights. Sure, they’re missing two key pieces in Zegras and Fowler, but the rest of the team still needs to step up in their absence.