Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Three questions facing Anaheim Ducks

1. Will Ryan Kesler play this season?
Kesler missed the first 37 games last season while recovering from hip surgery he had June 8, 2017. Although the center played 48 games (including the Stanley Cup Playoffs), Kesler, who turns 34 on Aug. 31, could miss significant time and perhaps the entire 2018-19 season, Sportsnet reported.
"I really couldn't squat last summer or even leading up to coming back," Kesler said after Anaheim's season ended. "I couldn't really build up any leg strength off the ice. I'm looking forward to that. I'm going to work with [strength and conditioning coach Mark Fitzgerald] until I end up moving back to Michigan for the summer."
The Ducks need a healthy and productive season from Kesler (14 points; eight goals, six assists), Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Getzlaf (61 points in 56 games; 11 goals, 50 assists) missed the first two games because of a lower-body injury and six weeks with a facial fracture sustained Oct. 29. Perry (49 points in 71 games; 17 goals, 32 assists) saw his production decline for a second straight season, including his lowest goal total in a full NHL season since 2006-07.
2. Can John Gibson stay healthy?
The 25-year-old goalie was 14-4-2 with an NHL-leading 1.95 goals-against average and .937 save percentage (minimum 20 games) after the All-Star break, but his durability remains in question because of numerous injuries. Gibson missed eight games and was unable to finish another six last season because of injuries.
With backup Ryan Miller turning 38 on July 17, the Ducks are at least preparing for the future. They've drafted three goalies in the past two years and signed free agent Jared Coreau on July 5. Miller had surgery on his left wrist May 18 but is expected to be ready for training camp.
3. Will the young forwards continue to improve?
Rickard Rakell, 25, and Ondrej Kase, 22, lead a young forward group the Ducks hope will take the next step this season.
Rakell's 34 goals and 69 points led the Ducks last season; he was the first player to lead them in points other than Getzlaf, Perry or Teemu Selanne since 2003-04 (Sergei Fedorov).
Kase made major strides last season. His 20 goals in 66 games were tied for second on the Ducks with Adam Henrique and 15 more than his rookie season in 2016-17.
The Ducks could also see an even younger forward make a case for a roster spot in training camp. Sam Steel, 20, was a first-round pick (No. 30) at the 2016 NHL Draft and had 83 points (33 goals, 50 assists) in 54 games for Regina in the Western Hockey League last season.

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