IRVINE, Calif. – With five games left in the season, the Ducks are as close to full health as they’ve been since the season began. Jamie Drysdale, Urho Vaakanainen and Anthony Stolarz are on injured reserve and won’t be back this season, but a return for Adam Henrique––who has been on injured reserve since February––appears to be close.
“Well, it’s up in the air,” said head coach Dallas Eakins after Tuesday morning’s practice. “Today we had 16 healthy forwards, Adam Henrique being one of them. That’s a bit to manage, so he is available. But we’re going to talk about it, sleep on it (and) make the decision in the morning.
Eakins also confirmed that Troy Terry would return to the lineup for tomorrow night’s matchup against the Edmonton Oilers. Terry did not join the team on their recent road trip with the potential of an early birth for him and his wife, Dani. Terry will not accompany the team on their final road game in Arizona this weekend either.
“The one thing we really learned with (Terry) out is he is a driver of the line,” said Eakins. “I think for (Mason McTavish) and (Max Jones), that had been the line and they played very well there. But suddenly, without Troy, the matchup becomes a little bit different for them. There’s a bigger challenge. So, the biggest thing for me is wherever we’re going to play him (is) that he just comes in and takes control of the line and drives the play.”
Jones seeking regularity after 200th game
Jones skated in his 200th career NHL game on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers. The 2016 first-round pick missed all but two games last season with a torn pectoral muscle. “It’s been a lot,” said Jones. “(I) still go through it, you know? Still going through it but it’s nice to be able to say I’ve hit that 200-game mark, especially after missing a whole year. It’s still just a number though. I’ve still got a lot to prove. Still a lot I want to prove, but it’s nice.
For Jones, it’s not just a matter of getting his feet back under him or even playing well. It’s simply being able to play regularly. “It’s not always easy to stay in the game the whole time,” he said. “You get cold and it’s hard to have the flow of the game, I’m just trying to find the rhythm of playing minutes and then consistently playing minutes. (I’m) just trying to hold onto that and it’s kind of been up and down this year. The big thing is just playing.”
A player currently in a similar situation to what Jones went through last season is Jamie Drysdale, who tore his labrum in October and underwent shoulder surgery the following month. The expected recovery time was 4-6 months, but Dallas Eakins confirmed last month that Drysdale would not play in a game for the remainder of the season. Jones said that he went over to Drysdale’s house shortly after the injury to talk to him and walk Drysdale through what he did during his own recovery period.
“You come down to the end of the year like this and it kind of really starts to hit you like, ‘Ok, it’s the end of the season, I’m not playing and we’re about to go into the offseason which is another ‘x’ amount of months that I’m not going to be able to compete with my team again.’”
Jones said the extended time off during the offseason can be a good thing for Drysdale. For Jones, he said his offseason training was the biggest part of his year. “I know that he’s really excited to get back home and be able to do that, so I’ve just kind of been helping him through whatever he’s needed. Just try to help as much as I can.”
Carrick contributes in return to lineup
Sam Carrick drew back into the lineup on Sunday for the second half of the Canadian back-to-back against the Calgary Flames. He picked up two assists, collecting his first multi-point game of the season.
Carrick started the season on injured reserve after undergoing hip surgery last May but returned to the lineup in November. The additions of Brock McGinn and Nikita Nesterenko have made things a bit crowded among the forwards, which means some players are having to rotate in and out of the lineup.
“The rotation is terribly unfair,” said Eakins. “I will admit that. I’ve stood right in front of our team and explained. I think it’s really important for the coach to be fully transparent and very honest. I’ve talked to that group––especially Carrick and Leason and Megna––just 1-on-1 about it as well.”
Eakins said Carrick is like a son to him. The pair were together in Toronto when Carrick broke in as a professional with Eakins the head coach of the Marlies, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate. Then, they reunited in San Diego, with Eakins as the Gulls’ bench boss and Carrick becoming a fan favorite and eventually captain of the Gulls as well.
“Now I’ve had him here (in Anaheim),” said Eakins. “He’s an absolutely selfless kid. He understands his role here. He understands what’s going on here now. A kid like Nikita comes in, Nikita’s going to play some games. That’s just how it is. There are some other guys that aren’t going to come out of the lineup right now because we want to continue to keep giving them reps, so he understands that. Instead of hanging his head or dragging his lip and thinking about himself, he works his tail off in practice. When his name is called, he just goes full-in like he does every night, and I think it’s just a great testament to him.”
“It feels good for sure,” said Carrick of his multi-point effort. “I’d be lying if I said things haven’t been tough. I feel like me personally, (I) just haven’t had a lot of good bounces and I think last game I got those bounces. That was nice. It’s been a lot of hard work trying to get back into the lineup and doing what I can to stay there. To get a couple of good bounces like that, it’s great.”
Gibson good to go after injury scare
Goaltender John Gibson exited Saturday night’s game late in the third period with a lower-body injury. He played backup to Lukáš Dostál for Sunday night’s game and was on the ice for Tuesday morning’s practice.
“It’s amazing, that young man,” said Eakins. “He’s so competitive. Going through the first period, he was having some discomfort. Then into the second, it was getting worse. In between periods I just wanted to take him (out). ‘Hey you’re hurting, you’re in a tough spot. Let’s just get you out of the net.’ He was like ‘No, I’m going back in’”.
Eakins applauded Gibson’s determination but said that the discomfort reached a point where it was too much and the decision was made to take him out. “It’s settled down now and I expect him to start (tomorrow) but I’ll see how the night goes.”