It’s been nearly two weeks since the Anaheim Ducks have stepped onto the ice for an NHL game, with their last league game taking place on Dec. 17, a 6-5 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes. With four of their games postponed since then, the Ducks have waited quite a while now to return to league play.
Zegras Enters COVID Protocol, Joins Comtois & Steel
With the Omicron variant of COVID sweeping across the NHL, the Ducks have been one of the few teams that have not personally been affected by a large number of cases. After Max Comtois and Sam Steel entered COVID protocol on Dec. 26, Trevor Zegras too entered COVID protocol yesterday afternoon. All three are asymptomatic, which suggests that the trio will be back soon, especially given the recently updated recommended isolation and quarantine periods by the CDC.
After Jakob Silfverberg entered COVID protocol fairly early into the season, the Ducks have been pretty much scot-free of any COVID-related absences. Three players being out due to such circumstances isn’t something to worry about compared to other teams. Still, the Ducks will have to be diligent about getting in and out of protocols as smoothly as possible without losing more players.
Ducks Add Six to Taxi Squad
Because of the recent and heavy number of COVID-related absences around the league, the NHL has re-implemented the taxi squad system from last season. However, unlike last season, this season’s taxi squad will only be implemented until the 2022 All-Star Break.
Teams can hold up to six players on their taxi squad at a time, but a player cannot be on the taxi squad for more than 20 cumulative days at a time.
The Ducks wasted no time adding players to their taxi squad, recalling Vinni Lettieri, Buddy Robinson, Jacob Larsson, Greg Pateryn, and Lukas Dostal. Bryce Kindopp was also recalled yesterday after the Ducks announced that Zegras had entered COVID protocol.
With Steel, Comtois and Zegras all out and Adam Henrique still making his way back from injury, there’s a good chance that Lettieri will draw into the lineup for tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.
Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins has indicated that Isac Lundestrom will move into Zegras’ spot as the second-line center.
Shattenkirk Nears 100 Career Goals
After signing a three-year contract prior to the 2020-21 season, Kevin Shattenkirk proceeded to have the worst season of his NHL career. A preseason bout with COVID and a less-than-stellar knee didn’t help matters for Shattenkirk during his abysmal debut season with the Ducks. It’s been a 180º turn for the veteran defenseman this season, as he’s currently fifth on the team in points and leads all defensemen on the team in goals with six.
This season, Shattenkirk would have to reach double digits in goals to cross the 100-goal plateau. He hadn’t done so since the 2016-17 season when he spent most of the season with the St. Louis Blues before being traded to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline.
Because of the new additions to the Ducks’ coaching staff this past offseason, the Ducks’ blue line has looked like an entirely different animal. They are producing offensively without being detrimental to their primary goal––defending––and their eagerness to join the attack has created a much more free-flowing offense than the Ducks of the 2020-21 season.
As previously mentioned, the Ducks will finally return to action tonight against the Canucks. Though they will be missing a handful of players, they still boast a strong enough team to keep even with the Vegas Golden Knights, the current first-place leaders in the Pacific Division, after their 6-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings last night.
An absence this long from games could make or break the Ducks’ season, so here’s hoping that this break was the reset they need to power through the remainder of the season.
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