GAME DAY: vs. Anaheim
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|If it’s not broken, don’t fix it – and that is the attitude Anaheim Ducks management has taken regarding the top line in Orange County. The Ducks boast one of the best trios in the National Hockey League in center Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry.
Those three have combined for 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) in their first 10 games together this season, and are well-known for their heavy cycle game that can wear opposing defenses down. Unfortunately for their opposition, it takes more than just shutting down the big line to have success against the Ducks.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle has had a fairly stable lineup in recent years with only minor tweaks being made at forward and on defense. Anaheim’s second line, once nicknamed “The Masterson Line,” is still mostly intact with savvy center Saku Koivu and future Hall-of-Fame winger Teemu Selanne. The Finnish flash is off to another hot start at the age of 41, leading the Ducks with nine total points (3-6-9) and showing no signs slowing down in his 21st NHL season.
The bottom six group has been influenced by a youth movement and it has paid off for the Ducks. Youngsters like Maxine Macenauer, Devante Smith-Pelley and Brandon MacMillan have added a speed element to Anaheim’s checking and energy units and enabled Carlyle to roll four lines in his quirky-yet-effective system of play. General manager Bob Murray made a trade with the Edmonton Oilers to acquire Andrew Cogliano, a swift-skating center that can kill penalties and occasionally contribute on the offensive end.
It’s a primarily veteran group on defense for the Ducks, led by the rejuvenated Lubomir Visnovsky. Acquired from the Oilers late in the 2009-10 season, the Slovakian blue liner has been an impactful player on the power play in Anaheim. Using his heavy shot from the point and underrated playmaking ability, Visnovsky put up 18-50-68 with a +18 rating in 81 games last season – making him the highest-scoring defenseman in the NHL.
Jonas Hiller battled through medical issues last season and has returned as the Ducks’ starting goaltender this season. The Swiss stopper played just 49 games a year ago but still posted impressive numbers: he finished with 26 wins, a 2.56 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. He will be counted on to back-stop the Ducks with a heavier workload this season, as backup Dan Ellis struggled at times with limited work last season.