The injury bug has reared its ugly head and devastated the Anaheim Ducks blueline. Tonight, three of the Ducks Top 4 defensemen will be out of the lineup with injuries.
In Dallas, the Anaheim Ducks lost Josh Manson in the first period. After the 5-2 win in Colorado, Hampus Lindholm was the next defenseman to succumb to injury. Finally, the team is back home, and news coming out of Anaheim this afternoon is that Brendan Guhle is, once again, out of the lineup. The blueline has been devastated, and with Cam Fowler being the only Top 4 defenseman in the lineup tonight, difficulties are bound to arise.
Josh Mahura is getting the nod, but Dallas Eakins might have to do some shuffling tonight if his d-pairings don’t jive. Winnipeg might be missing Patrik Laine, but there are still several hurdles the Ducks must jump over if they have any hopes at starting their homestand off on the right foot. There are going to be several players that are going to be exhausted after tonight’s game, and although it’s unfair to put so much pressure on their shoulders, there is no avoiding it when three of your Top 4 defensemen are down for the count.
A Lot of Pressure on Cam Fowler
Tonight is going to be a difficult game for the entire team, but for two players in particular. Cam Fowler is tonight’s sacrificial lamb. If the offense cannot find a way to step up, the veteran defensemen will have to carry the entire team on his shoulders in the absence of Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, and Brendan Guhle. He could see a significant spike in ice time, much like he did after Manson was injured against the Dallas Stars (27:03 TOI.)
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What makes things so difficult for Fowler is his struggle to find chemistry with his linemates. He’s made significant improvements after switching to his right side, but when he is apart from Brendan Guhle, he isn’t able to play to the best of his ability. He needs to be partnered with another like-minded offensively gifted defenseman, which is why Guhle is such an asset to the current lineup.
While the sample size from this season is still a little small, he has shown limited success with Michael Del Zotto. Should Dallas Eakins decide to pair him with Erik Gudbranson instead, the chances that the two would be able to carry the blueline together are slim, seeing as how Fowler struggles next to defensively-minded defensemen. This isn’t to say that the pairing wouldn’t work, but Fowler’s history speaks for itself.
The Anaheim Duck’s defensive issues have yet to work themselves out over the course of their first 13 games. Tonight will likely be the most difficult game for them defensively as CF4 will be the only Top 4 defenseman on the blueline in a sea of bottom-pairing defenseman. The entire team needs to strap themselves in because tonight is going to be a bumpy ride.
John Gibson and Ryan Miller Need to Prepare for War
Tonight is going to be a battle, and John Gibson is going to find himself on the front lines. As unfair as it is for Gibby to have to carry the entire team on his shoulders, should the defense buckle and the offense struggle to finish, Gibson is going to see a lot of action from the Winnipeg Jets. After a few rough starts for JG36, tonight he must be in top form.
Despite his “rough starts” the past few games, Gibson has been a huge reason the Ducks haven’t fallen to their opponents by dozens of goals. He’s been solid in net aside from a few goals he will probably want back. Should the rest of his team refuse to show up, Gibby will likely be playing the role of both goaltender and blueline.
Last season, however, he had a rough game against the Winnipeg Jets when the rest of his team refused to step up and make an effort. Sometimes a goaltender can’t stop every goal from going in, but should he struggle against the Jets once again, let’s hope that Dallas Eakins is kind enough to have mercy on him and put Ryan Miller in net instead.
Miller has had a pretty decent season so far, winning his first three starts of the season. Should the pressure get to Gibson, he must be prepared to take over on a whim. They are the best goaltending tandem in the league, and as unfair as it is for one, or both of them, to take the brunt of the beating tonight, this game is going to come down to good goaltending from the Anaheim Ducks.
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