Dany Heatley didn’t wait long to endear himself to the Anaheim faithful, scoring less than a minute into his preseason Ducks debut in sparking his new team to a 4-0 victory over Colorado at Honda Center.
The Ducks played split squad preseason games for the first time in franchise history, with half the roster taking on the Colorado Avalanche at Honda Center while the other half faced the Avs just over 1,000 miles away at Pepsi Center in Denver (in a game that started an hour prior to the home tilt).
Heatley scored just 48 seconds into the game, and Anaheim added tallies from Rickard Rakell, Ben Lovejoy and Brendan Bell. Frederik Andersen went the whole way, recording 27 saves in the shutout.
"It was about getting back into the game," Andersen said. "It wasn’t really about the result; it was more about doing the right things and having a good compete level. Sometimes it wasn’t pretty hockey, but it was a good start. They had some good looks on the power play, but we were able to hold them to not scoring. It was a good start, but we need to keep getting better. We out-battled them today."
Meanwhile in Denver, 33-year-old Brad Winchester had a pair of goals as the Ducks scored four unanswered in rolling to a 5-2 victory.
The 33-year-old Heatley, the former 50-goal-scorer who signed with the Ducks in July, is getting some early time on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He scored his first goal as a Duck (albeit a preseason one) when he went to a knee to punch in his own rebound in the game’s opening minute.
"It didn’t take him long," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "That’s good for Dany’s confidence. Those guys - Heatley, Perry and Getzlaf - they’ve gone through the first [preseason] games for a lot of years now. I’m sure it wasn’t like a Stanley Cup Final game for them. But they did what they had to do. They were very positive on the bench. It was good."
Rakell, a 2010 first-round pick of Anaheim, made it a 2-0 game 5:52 into the first when he pounced on a bad Colorado turnover and shuttled the puck by recovering goalie Reto Berra.
Lovejoy gave Anaheim a 3-0 cushion 12 minutes into the middle stanza, taking in a Nate Thompson pass before slinging a shot home from just above the circles in the slot.
"It was fun to be back out there," Lovejoy said. "I thought we played a very good game tonight. Our forecheck was some of the best we’ve ever done. We were hungry, we were on every puck and we were in their face. I know we weren’t playing against [Matt] Duchene and [Nathan] MacKinnon, but for the first night, I thought we played very well."
Just a few minutes into the third, Bell hammered a one-timer from above the right circle after getting a feed from Getzlaf. Bell, a 31-year-old defenseman, is also getting a pro tryout from Anaheim. He has not played in the NHL since 2012 with the Rangers, spending the past two seasons in the Swiss League and the Swedish Elite League.
The Ducks will be back in action tomorrow evening (this time just playing one game for the night) against the Arizona Coyotes at Honda Center.
"The first game is usually so sloppy," Boudreau said. "Let’s face it – that wasn’t the Colorado Avalanche that we played tonight. That was the [American Hockey League’s] Lake Erie Monsters with a couple guys thrown in. It’ll step up. Real contests will be against San Jose and LA twice."