Ducks News & Rumors: Shattenkirk, Vaakanainen & More

The Anaheim Ducks’ 2021-22 season is officially in the books after their final game last night. So too concludes the career of captain Ryan Getzlaf, who played his final game in the NHL on Sunday night.

Shattenkirk Plays in All 82 Games

After missing the very last game of last season, Kevin Shattenkirk must have been overjoyed to appear in all 82 contests this season. It’s the first time in his NHL career that he has played in every game during the regular season and it comes at a point where his career is entering the twilight stage as well.

“You never know what can happen over the course of the season and especially with this year with COVID––I was able to sneak by that––and it’s fun to be out here playing and I love being with this group of guys.”

Kevin Shattenkirk

Next season, Shattenkirk will be entering the final year of a three-year deal that he signed with the Ducks in free agency in 2020. While he certainly hasn’t been everything he was puffed up to be when he first joined the team, he’s at least been a veteran presence and well-liked figure in the Ducks’ locker room.

Vaakanainen Reaches a Career-High in Games Played

Also reaching a milestone for games played was Urho Vaakanainen, who was part of the deal that sent Hampus Lindholm to the Boston Bruins at this season’s trade deadline. Vaakanainen has struggled with numerous injuries, including a few concussions, since making breaking into the NHL during the 2019-20 season.

The young defenseman set a new career-high in games played by appearing in his 29th game last night. The Ducks certainly have high hopes for Vaakanainen and it’s shown with head coach Dallas Eakins’ decision to pair the Finn with Jamie Drysdale in the absence of Cam Fowler, who missed the final two games of the season while attending to his wife, Jasmine, and their newborn child.

Urho Vaakanainen Anaheim Ducks
Urho Vaakanainen, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As of now, Vaakanainen is expected to be the no. 2 defenseman on the left side of the blue line behind Fowler. Vaakanainen has seen time on the second power-play unit since his arrival in Anaheim and an improved showing in the fall during training camp, along with the ability to stay healthy, could see him settle into a role as a dependable, puck-moving defenseman for the Ducks.

Ducks Lose Gibson & Stolarz to Injury

If the Ducks thought that they could slip quietly into the night with an ordinary final game of the season, they thought wrong. Goaltender John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury and was replaced by backup Anthony Stolarz to begin the second period. Here’s when things got wacky. Stolarz also suffered an injury of his own—his was of the lower-body variety—and the emergency backup goaltender, known affectionately as the EBUG, was pressed into action.

28-year-old Tom Hodges, who made one appearance for the Allen Americans in the ECHL five seasons ago led the Ducks out for the third period and stopped two of three shots. The one goal Hodges allowed he had no chance on, as Jason Robertson’s one-timer on the power play deflected off Ducks defenseman Andrej Sustr’s stick and through Hodges’ legs. At the sound of the final horn, both teams congratulated Hodges on a job well done. He was named all three stars of the game as well.

Related: Ducks’ Colangelo Focused On Consistency for Junior Season

The extent of Gibson and Stolarz’s injuries isn’t known at the time of publication, but there should be an update over the weekend and later on next week. The hope is that neither injury is too serious and both netminders were pulled for precautionary reasons given the point of the season.

Though the Ducks probably didn’t improve their record by as much of a substantial margin as they would have liked to, there was still an improvement, and this season’s performance was at least a lot more exciting to watch than the 2020-21 version of this team. With players like Drysdale and Trevor Zegras leading the charge along with names like Mason McTavish likely to join the team on a full-time basis, the future is bright in Anaheim.