The Anaheim Ducks finished up their two-game homestand last night and will now prepare to embark on a five-game road trip that will take them into the All-Star break. The team is still dealing with COVID-related issues left and right, but is managing to put together solid performances, and did so on Friday against an old friend.
Ducks Announce Updates to 2021-22 Schedule
Because of the presence of COVID-19 and the rampant spread of the Omicron variant, the NHL is no longer sending players to the 2022 Beijing Olympics, which means that the month of February––which was previously left vacated of games to provide freedom for NHL players to play in Beijing––will now be used to play rescheduled games.
The Ducks released their updated schedule on Wednesday, with five postponed games rescheduled for next month. All four of the Ducks’ postponed games from December will be played in February, starting with their matchup against the Calgary Flames on Feb. 16. Their game against the Seattle Kraken, which was originally scheduled for March 25, will now be played on Feb. 11.
Mahura Returns, Milano Placed on IR
Josh Mahura returned from an upper-body injury on Friday that had ailed him for the past month. While he was removed from the injured reserve, Sonny Milano was added in his place. Milano hasn’t played since leaving the Ducks’ game on Jan. 14 after being elbowed in the face by Minnesota Wild defenseman Jon Merrill. Mahura played nearly 12 minutes in his return and was partnered with Greg Pateryn on the third defensive pair.
Perry Returns to (and Plays in) Anaheim
The first time Corey Perry returned to Anaheim as an opposing player, he could only watch from a suite with his wife, Blakeney, and their son, Griffin. Unable to play due to a five-game suspension dished out by the league for a hit to the head of Ryan Ellis during the Winter Classic, there would be no pucks to flip or doorways to tap. Not this time.
So Friday was a special occasion for Perry, even though he’d already received plenty of honors and a special tribute video during the first go-around. The jersey and the logo on the front may be different, but some things never seem to change as the wily veteran went through his usual pre-game routine in the tunnel.
He burst onto the ice like he was shot out of a cannon during warmups, almost as if he was trying to burn off all of the emotions he was feeling. Eventually, he did take a moment to reflect, sharing a moment with his family before getting lost in his thoughts near the Zamboni corner. There was even a lift of the sweater to wipe away a few tears.
But once the puck dropped, Perry was all business. In fact, he might have had the Lightning’s best initial scoring chance, as his moves to the net evaded all but Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm, whose stick denied Perry a clean look at the goal. What an event that would have been if the puck had gone in.
Not only did Perry not get on the scoresheet, but his team was also beaten 5-1. Though he did play a part on the single Tampa goal. His net-front presence may have taken John Gibson’s eyes away for just a second and Ross Colton’s one-timer was inch-perfect.
The Ducks and Lightning will play each other once more this season, but at Amalie Arena, meaning this was Perry’s only excursion to Orange County. The fans who long admired his scoring prowess and on-ice antics were able to show their appreciation and love for a player who spent 14 seasons with the team.
Ducks to Host Ducks x Disney Night
The Ducks are planning to host five Ducks x Disney Nights this season, the first of five being on Sunday, Feb. 27. The remaining dates are March 6, April 3, 17 & 24. All five nights are Sunday night games and will include Disneyland Resort-related activities and promotions. Fans can also purchase a Hockeyland pass and gain access to a variety of collectibles.
This isn’t the first time that the Ducks have partnered with Disney to have a celebratory occasion. During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, the two organizations hosted Anaheim Ducks Day at California Adventure Park, which invited fans to join the team at the California-themed amusement park across the way from Disneyland.
Ducks Remaining Patient with Pending UFAs
The Ducks are taking a “wait and see” approach when it comes to their impending marquee free agents in Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, and Josh Manson–writes TSN and The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun. (from, ‘LeBrun rumblings: Oilers exploring goaltending options, Ducks won’t rush to move UFAs, Claude Giroux’s future, The Athletic, 01/21/22’)
Manson is currently in COVID protocol, so his presence is one that the Ducks are without for the time being. Lindholm is an extremely important part of the Ducks’ blue line and whether he stays or goes will be a big talking point as the March trade deadline slowly––but surely––approaches.
Both Manson and Lindholm specifically, would be major attractions for any teams in the market for rentals, writes LeBrun. He also puts out a personal guess that the Ducks will circle back on Manson relatively soon.
He also mentions the Ducks’ current general manager interview process as something that could potentially alter what kind of deals are made. Jeff Solomon, who is one of the internal candidates being interviewed for the job, is the current interim GM.
Eakins Enters COVID Protocol; Stothers Takes the Helm, Gets First Career Win
The Ducks continue to be overwhelmed by COVID cases as head coach Dallas Eakins became the third member of the Ducks’ coaching staff (along with assistant coach Geoff Ward and video coach Joe Piscotty) to enter COVID protocol. This came just several hours before the Ducks’ matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Assistant coach Mike Stothers would assume the role of head coach for the game and he was joined on the bench by Director of Player Personnel, Todd Marchant, and his fellow assistant coach, Newell Brown. The Ducks thoroughly dispatched the Lightning, giving Stothers his first career win as an NHL head coach.
Being a head coach is nothing new for Stothers, who spent the previous six seasons as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. Stothers has also been head coach of the Owen Sound Attack in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Western Hockey League (WHL), and the Grand Rapid Griffins in the AHL.
The Ducks kick their road trip off against two tough Eastern Conference foes in the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins will likely be without Brad Marchand, who left Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury, but the team still poses a threat with the likes of David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron.
The Maple Leafs are led by ex-mustachioed phenom Auston Matthews, who ranks fourth in the league in goals scored. The Ducks played some of their best hockey of the season on their way to a 5-1 rout of the Lightning and will look for similar results when they head out east next week.
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Derek Lee is a contributor for The Hockey Writers covering the Anaheim Ducks. Derek has spent nearly two decades immersed in the world of sports and has been writing about sports for five years. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication in May 2020 from UCCS in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he also spent two and a half years on staff with their on-campus student newspaper–both as a sports reporter and editor. In his free time, he enjoys playing FIFA, curating his Spotify playlists and attending concerts & sporting events