View Original Notice ? Adam Henrique says Ducks are ‘in a good spot’ after All-Star break
IRVINE — It seems like ancient history now, but the Ducks actually used to play meaningful regular-season games routinely. They sizzled at the end of many regular seasons in anticipation of extended Stanley Cup playoff runs, and the final days and nights of 2017-18 were no exception.
The Ducks went on a 10-1-1 heater to clinch their sixth consecutive playoff appearance in 2017-18, securing second place in the Pacific Division with a 44-25-13 record. Their string of five consecutive division titles came to an end and, in hindsight, it foretold the crash landing that was to come.
A humiliating first-round sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks followed as the Ducks proved to be unworthy of their once-elite status in the NHL. They would miss the playoffs for the next three seasons, hitting rock bottom during last season’s pandemic-altered campaign.
Now, with the Ducks returning to the ice to begin a 34-game sprint to the finish line after an extended All-Star break, it certainly would appear that truly meaningful games are back again at Honda Center, starting with Friday’s home date with the expansion Seattle Kraken.
The Ducks (23-16-9) were in third place in the division going into Thursday’s games around the league, four points behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights. However, the Ducks also were six points ahead of fifth place and another disappointing absence from the playoffs.
“I’ve been on the other end of it when guys are playing for next year, playing for jobs,” Ducks left wing Adam Henrique said. “That’s no fun. That’s not what we’re here for, what we play in the league for. You play to get into the playoffs and get a chance to win the Stanley Cup. I think we’re in a good spot.”
The Ducks were no one’s idea of a playoff contender when training camp began in September, but they have emerged as one of the league’s biggest surprises thanks to some unexpected scoring from right wing Troy Terry and some offensive wizardry from rookie Trevor Zegras.
Can they complete their journey to the playoffs?
No question, that’s their focus as they resume play.
“It’s good, it’s exciting, it’s where you want to be,” Henrique said of sitting in a playoff position. “You want to be in the battle. I think we’ve done a good job throughout the season and … putting ourselves in a good spot at the break. There can’t be any letup. There’s no real buffer zone.”
REMEMBER MAX JONES?
Left wing Max Jones hasn’t played since Oct. 18, when he tore a chest muscle during what seemed to be a routine battle for position in front of the Calgary Flames’ net. He was set for surgery and has been sidelined for 45 games. There’s no firm timetable for his return to the ice.
“He’s just killing the bike, pushing hard,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said of Jones, who was scoreless in two games before his injury. “I would say over the next three weeks or so we might see him skating a little bit. He’s on track. That’s a long one.”
In fact, the original estimate was that Jones would be sidelined for between four and six months. The four-month mark would be Feb. 18, which would seem to be out of reach for Jones. The six-month mark would be April 18, when there would be only two weeks left in the regular season.
Left wing Sonny Milano skated on a line with Zegras and right wing Rickard Rakell during the Ducks’ practices the past three days and it’s expected that they will form a line Friday. Milano sat out for eight games before the break because of an unspecified upper-body injury.
SEATTLE AT DUCKS
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Honda Center
TV: ESPN+, Hulu