A Healthy Corey Perry Would be the Best Christmas Present for Anaheim Ducks


It has been just over two weeks since Corey Perry was on the ice for the Anaheim Ducks. Perry suffered a knee injury after a low hip check from Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard. It was announced a few days later that Perry would miss three to four weeks as a result, and the three week mark will be the day after Christmas. The Ducks have done more than stay afloat during the second absence of Perry this season. During the first absence, when Perry missed five games with the mumps, the Ducks went 1-0-4, with all five games going past regulation. Including the Minnesota game, where Perry left in the first period, the Ducks are currently 6-2-0 without their star winger. However, the Ducks are considerably better as a team with Perry than without him, and having him back completely healthy should be the Ducks’ primary Christmas wish this season.

Perry has appeared in 23 games to this point, scoring 14 goals and 22 points. The 14 goals ranks second on the team, only behind pending free agent winger Matt Beleskey (15). In those 23 games, Perry has scored at least one goal in nine of them, and the Ducks are 7-2-0 in those contests.  In the games where he hasn’t scored, Perry still makes his impact, either through assists or the sheer threat of having him on the ice: the Ducks are 16-6-1 with Perry in the lineup (including the Minnesota game where he left early). This is a guy the Ducks want back on the ice as soon as possible. He may not possess the leadership voice that Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler have, but he leads by example and is one of the most dangerous players in the NHL whenever he has the puck on his stick. Perry becomes the main focal point of a team’s defensive assignments when he is able to play.

Perry’s return will also create a trickle-down effect that will impact the whole roster in a positive way. In almost every game, Perry is slotted on the wing with Getzlaf on the top line. This allows for the left-winger, whether it is Patrick Maroon, Beleskey, Rene Bourque, or even Devante Smith-Pelly to slot in on the opposite side and be the beneficiary of the opposing teams focusing on the Getzlaf-Perry duo. This gives Kesler, his left wing (who is as of right now, Beleskey), and his right wing (Emerson Etem, Jakob Silfverberg, or the currently-injured Kyle Palmieri) a chance to produce. With that, the third and fourth lines allow for the likes of Andrew Cogliano, Nate Thompson, and Tim Jackman to slot into roles they can succeed in.

The Ducks have succeeded without Perry, but the team is better when their superstar is on Getzlaf’s right wing, not Smith-Pelly or Silfverberg. That’s not an indictment on either player: they’re just not true top-line players.  Perry’s return should also boost what has been an extremely streaky Ducks power-play. Currently, the Ducks rank 19th in the league, converting 17.1% of their opportunities with the man advantage. With a roster boasting Getzlaf, Kesler, Perry, and defensemen such as Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Hampus Lindholm, this team should theoretically be much better with the man advantage than they are. Perry has four power-play goals, second on the team behind the aforementioned Vatanen. That total can be higher, and Perry needs to make his teammates better, as only nine Ducks have power-play goals.

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When a team has someone with the talent and skill level of Perry, they want him on the ice as often as possible. However, it’s no secret that Perry takes a beating as a byproduct of the style he plays, coupled with his innate ability to get under the skin of the opposition. Since Perry became a mainstay at the NHL level, he had never missed more than 12 games in a season (he will miss his 13th game of this season). The wear and tear of the 82 game season could be part of the reason why he hasn’t enjoyed the same level of scoring success in the playoffs (22 goals in 74 games). If there is a silver lining to this injury, it’s that Perry will play in fewer regular season games and maybe have more in the tank for the post-season. Also, if other players step up in his absence, then the Ducks will have more depth on the roster and be a better team for it.

Perry skated on Sunday and Monday during the Ducks practice. Despite him possibly being ready to lace up his skates for Monday’s contest against the San Jose Sharks, the Ducks seem content to let Perry get to 100% and return after the holiday break. After practice, head coach Bruce Boudreau had the following to say regarding Perry and fellow injured Duck Francois Beauchemin.

"“It’s not like we can’t win with either of them out of the lineup, even though we’d love to have them both back in the lineup. If this was the playoffs, this would be a different story, or if these were the last three games and we were fighting for a playoff spot, it would be a different story. At this stage, we just want to make sure they’re better.”"

The Ducks would be playing smart to let Perry have a few more days. Finding a healthy Perry under the tree on Christmas morning will go a long way in helping the Ducks bring the Stanley Cup back to Southern California.

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