Ryan Carter was feeling a bit surprised Tuesday after practice. No, not because the coaching staff changed his jersey number from 52 to 20, but because the rookie center for the Ducks felt so much like his old self during the first test run since fracturing his right wrist Feb. 20.
"I went out there today, just to see how it felt," he said. "I could handle the puck and shoot the puck well enough to where I thought I could, at least, do passing and receiving drills in practice. . . . It went great."
The freak injury came after Colorado defenseman Jeff Finger checked Carter into the boards in front of a protective barrier that covers a hole in the glass for game photographers. Carter, whose glove broke through and snagged on the barrier, said he had feared his hand was severed.
After pins were inserted to stabilize the wrist, Carter knew he was facing an extensive recovery. The timing was especially harsh since he was only starting to feel comfortable after being recalled from Portland, Maine, on Dec. 17. In fact, his four goals came in the five games leading up to the injury.
Even though Carter is still considered a rookie, Coach Randy Carlyle has no reservations about inserting the 24-year-old back into the mix, just as the Ducks are preparing to defend their Stanley Cup title.
"He had a little bit of a taste with us in the playoffs last year, so it's not like he's a raw rookie coming back in," Carlyle said, adding that Carter, as a pure goal scorer, has a style of play that should come in handy.
"I don't know in the playoffs if you see too many games that are high scoring," Carlyle said. "A lot of games are tight, and we expect that his offense will be something that will be a welcome sight to our group."
Mathieu Schneider continues his torrid second half for the Ducks. The oldest member of the team at 38, he scored both goals in regulation of a 3-2 shootout victory Sunday against the visiting Dallas Stars, giving him 12 this season.
"It has been proven over the years that he has the ability to provide offense from the back end," Carlyle said. "We feel fortunate to have that level of player in your lineup."
Schneider is plus or even in 39 of the last 43 games, showing part of what made him such a valuable free-agent acquisition last summer.
Since the 2003-04 season, he has a rating of plus-86, the third-highest mark in the league during that span.
Schneider won a Stanley Cup title as a member of the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.