Quack of Dawn: Ducks Report

The Sporting Tribune's Derek Lee has the latest on the Anaheim Ducks.

IRVINE, Calif. — Trevor Zegras wasn’t on the ice for Tuesday morning’s practice due to an illness, but Max Jones was. The winger has missed the last month with an upper-body injury but practiced in full, slotting in alongside Jayson Megna and Brett Leason.

“I don’t know if it’s a 24-hour (illness) but it sounds pretty similar (to what Shattenkirk had) so we’ll see where that goes,” said head coach Dallas Eakins. “We’ll just have to re-evaluate it in the morning and see if he’s available or not.”

“He hasn’t played in a long time here,” said Eakins of Jones. “The biggest thing for him (is finding) the rhythm of the game. (We have to) try to control his ice time as best (we) can.”

Nov 29, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Anaheim Ducks left wing Max Jones (49) handles the puck against Nashville Predators defenseman Alexandre Carrier (45) during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t the first time that Jones has missed a large chunk of the season. Last year he suffered a torn pectoral muscle just two games into the season and spent the rest of it watching from the sidelines.

“Unfortunately he has great experience with this so I know he’s excited to get back,” said Eakins. “We’re excited to have him back but now he’s got to get back to his game as soon as possible.

With Zegras unavailable for the day, defenseman Colton White slotted in alongside Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano as a makeshift forward. Zegras has been shifted to the wing recently with Mason McTavish being promoted to top-line center.

“They’re two similar but different players,” said Adam Henrique, who has now skated on a line with both of the two young centers.

“I think Mac’s skill, it’s right up there with Z so he’s certainly fun to play with. He established himself over the last month or so. His game’s come a long way and his maturity level and his complete game (have too) so it’s just a matter of trying to help him keep going and hopefully we can build our chemistry together.”

Taming McDavid & Co.

They’ll face off against the Edmonton Oilers tomorrow night, who boast the best power play in the league. Anaheim committed just two penalties in Sunday night’s loss to the league-best Boston Bruins but allowed them to convert on one of those two opportunities.

“Obviously Edmonton poses a challenge with those guys they have there,” said Henrique. “So first you have to stay out of the box against them. Try to limit their opportunities on the power play because they’re just so dangerous.”

“Those guys” would be Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers’ pair of star forwards. They’ve combined for 18 power play goals. McDavid alone has more power play points than Troy Terry—the Ducks’ all-star selection—has points, period.

Jan 9, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) passes past Los Angeles Kings center Quinton Byfield (55) during the first period at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

“With those two guys, just try to limit their opportunities as much as possible,” continued Henrique. try to take away a bit of their ice time, not to let them on the inside, just anything you can do to limit them if they do get on the power play so (it’s) certainly a big challenge for us but I think we’ll be up to it.”

Simon Benoit, like Henrique, has spent a lot of time on the penalty kill this season and said just as much. “We know they have a good power play, especially with McDavid out there. He skates fast so we’re just trying to take him out of the equation and if we can shut them down that’s a good plus for us.”

Benoit is approaching 100 games played in the NHL—he’s currently at 96–and has become a fixture on the Anaheim blue line this season after winning a top-6 spot during training camp.

“They gave me way more responsibility this year so I’m just trying to soak everything in, just trying to do as best as I can to do a good job, especially on the PK. From there I’m just taking it game by game and trying to learn as much as I can. Coming to 100 games, it’s pretty cool.”

Forwards on the Mend

Justin Kirkland, who missed Sunday’s game after being involved in a car accident, was released from the hospital today. “Obviously the timing of that the other night definitely put a good scare into all of us,” said Eakins. “At the same time (it) reinforced a lot of things that we speak about here not about hockey, being grateful (and) trying to win the day with our relationships at home. You just never know when you could find yourself in a terrible, terrible situation.”

The Ducks are still down a couple of forwards even with Jones and Kirkland both returning soon. Isac Lundestrom and Derek Grant have been out with separate injuries since December. Lundestrom was expected to miss six weeks after suffering a fractured finger and is still a couple of weeks away. There is no timetable for Grant’s return. “It’s kind of an open timeline on (him),” said Eakins.

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