Ryan Getzlaf went nearly six months without playing a game. Judging by his performance Wednesday, he hasn't missed a stride.
Getzlaf injured his left ankle Feb. 8 and played through intense pain at the Vancouver Olympics, where he helped Canada win a gold medal. He injured it twice more after the Games while trying to carry the Ducks to the playoffs, but when their cause became lost he finally gave in and didn't play after March 24.
Not until mid-July did he feel right again, but his frustration vanished after his one-goal, one-assist effort in the Ducks' 5-2 exhibition victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday at the Honda Center.
"He has a lot of talent and a lot of ability, and when he's moving his feet and drawing people to him and shooting the puck he can be a very, very effective player," Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said. "And tonight was one of those nights."
Getzlaf created the chance for the Ducks' first goal, when he spun and took a shot that hit the crossbar and was rebounded by Corey Perry. He scored the fourth goal on a rising shot from the right circle that sailed over Antero Niittymaki's shoulder though slowed late in the game by a sore groin.
Getzlaf's ankle might have recovered faster if he skipped the Olympics, but he has no regrets.
"If we were in a playoff race I would have been out there, don't worry," he said. "The Olympics is a big experience for a player at such a young age and obviously, it didn't heal the way we wanted it to after that, but at the same time I got the experience of winning a gold medal. I wouldn't trade that for the world."
The Ducks also got goals from Aaron Voros, Danny Syvret and Jason Blake. Goaltender Jonas Hiller stopped all 19 shots he faced in 32 minutes and four seconds before yielding to Timo Pielmeier.
Been there, done that
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth Carlyle was a young defenseman trying to crack the Toronto Maple Leafs' roster.
He was 20, two years older than prized prospect Cam Fowler is now, and the same age as the promising Luca Sbisa. He needed two demotions to the minor leagues before he made it for good and developed into a Norris Trophy winner.
So Carlyle, who criticized both youngsters for committing turnovers Tuesday, had sympathy for what they're experiencing against bigger, faster competition. He also had both in Wednesday's lineup.
"I remember a lot of those mistakes that I made," said Carlyle, who made his NHL debut in the 1976-77 season.
Both seemed steadier Wednesday. Fowler had a plus-1 defensive rating and an assist in 22:31, and Sbisa was even in 19:40
"I thought both were much better tonight, but that wasn't very hard," Carlyle said. "They both struggled [Tuesday] and that's all part of the growing process. The positive is that both of them came back with strong efforts tonight."
Kings' wait for Fransson ends Thursday
When defenseman Johan Fransson wears a Kings uniform for the first time Thursday, think of him as a legacy left behind by former team captain Mattias Norstrom.
The Kings acquired Fransson in February 2007 in the trade that sent Norstrom to the Dallas Stars, but he stayed home in Sweden until he signed a one-year, two-way contract this summer.
The 25-year-old's calmness and maturity — he's married with a 5 1/2-year-old daughter and year-old son — could give him an edge over the kids battling him for the last spots on defense. Fransson is expected to be paired with Jake Muzzin on Thursday at Staples Center against a Phoenix split-squad team.
"They're really good players," Fransson said of his younger rivals Wednesday in El Segundo. "But I played many years in the Swedish Elite League. I will play the best I can and we will see."
He's not physical, but he's an excellent skater with a good shot and fine puck-moving skills. He said the Kings want him to do what he does best and not change his style.
"It's a little bit different here in the beginning with a new system, but it's fun," he said. "I think it's better and better every day. I think I have good skills to hopefully make the team."
The other defense pairs are expected to be Willie Mitchell with Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi with Jack Johnson. The lines are Ryan Smyth-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown; Kyle Clifford-Brayden Schenn-Oscar Moller; Richard Clune-Trevor Lewis-Wayne Simmonds and Dwight King-Andrei Loktionov-Brandon Kozun. Jonathan Quick is expected to start in goal, backed up by Martin Jones.
At Denver on Wednesday, the Kings scored four straight goals to rally for a 4-2 victory over the Avalanche. Michal Handzus, John Zeiler, Brad Richardson and Justin Williams scored and winning goalie Jonathan Bernier played the full game.