The Anaheim Ducks preseason is officially underway! Tonight they dive into the shark tank to take on their fearsome foes in San Jose.
Anaheim Ducks hockey is officially back! While it may only be preseason, it’s time for the team to prove that they have put their old ways behind them. Dallas Eakins is making his official debut behind the bench, a welcomed change from his predecessor, Randy Carlyle.
While the team has not released an official lineup for tonight’s game, Eric Stephens, of the Atheltic, posted a possible lineup on twitter this afternoon. Preseason gives the Ducks the opportunity to try things without it damaging their regular season stats. From the looks of it, Eakins is using the first game to really give the young guns a chance to shine.
Possible Line Combinations
During training camp, it was reported that Eakins was running a top line that consisted of Nick Ritchie, Ryan Getzlaf, and Troy Terry. It is no surprise that both Ritchie and Terry will be given the opportunity to showcase their talent on the top line during the first preseason game. Getzlaf will be sitting this one out, but Isac Lundestrom will center the two forwards.
This will give fans the chance to see how much Lundestrom has grown over the past season, despite bouncing from the NHL, to the AHL, overseas to Sweden, and then back to the AHL again. He has the opportunity to prove why the Anaheim Ducks chose him as their first-round pick in 2018 and his calm demeanor could help him manage the responsibility of centering the first line.
While many may be aghast by the fact that Nick Ritchie has been playing on the top line during training camp and now during the preseason, we must remember, this is just preseason. However, playing alongside Ryan Getzlaf going into the regular season could be the right move for the young forward. This gives him the chance to learn from a wise leader who exudes integrity both on and off the ice. Terry has shown flashes of chemistry alongside Getzlaf, as well, and Eakins would not be pairing them together if he did not feel they could be difference makers on the ice.
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Adam Henrique is one of the only rookie forwards that will be showcased in the Anaheim Ducks first preseason exhibition of the year. He will have the opportunity to show off his leadership skills as he takes the reigns tonight. Max Comtois will be joining him, adding energy and a scoring touch to the line. Andrew Poturalski, a free agent signed over the summer and last season’s Calder Cup MVP, will round out the second lin. He proved to be a dynamic player for the Charolette Checkers last season who has a knack for getting the puck in the net.
In my opinion, the third line is possibly the most exciting of the evening. Max Jones, Devin Shore, and Daniel Sprong will have the opportunity to play alongside one another. Jones’ incredible creativity and ability to create something out of nothing, paired with Sprong’s scoring prowess and a phenomenal shot could be a big challenge for the San Jose Sharks tonight. Devin Shore acts as a buffer, giving the two young guns a little more defensive coverage while still aiding them in the offensive zone.
Eakins fourth line is going to be an interesting one. Fans will finally get to see Nicolas Deslauriers in action. Is he worth the fourth-round pick we traded for him? Should his performance be lackluster tonight, he’s sure to gain some criticism from fans and experts alike. Benoit Oliver Groulx will act as the fourth-line center. He developed quite a bit in Halifax last season, and it was evident during the rookie faceoff. Seeing him alongside one of the more experienced rookies, Kiefer Sherwood, is sure to be a treat.
The Blueline and Goaltending
Now, the moment everyone has been waiting for. Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are finally back together! The two will lead the blueline tonight, which is a little bit of a question mark going into the regular season. The preseason is the perfect opportunity for Eakins to try out different combinations to see what works for the team. Josh Mahura and Jani Hakanpaa will play as the Ducks second pairing, with Simon Benoit and Chris Wideman as their third. Whether these pairings work well is questionable, but let’s hope they give their goaltenders a little more coverage than the Ducks gave John Gibson last season.
Ryan Miller and Anthony Stolarz are getting the nod in net this evening. It is possible that the two will split the game. However, while Stolarz won’t make the team, this gives him the opportunity to show off his skills and possible usurp Kevin Boyle as the starting goaltender in San Diego.
There are a lot of high hopes going into the new season, but we must remember, this is just preseason. If things don’t look good tonight, this isn’t the team we will be seeing on opening day. It’s a chance for Eakins to experiment and get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t against other teams and their systems. I, for one, am excited! Now, let’s go watch some hockey!
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