Says Ducks winger Bobby Ryan of playing overseas during the NHL lockout:… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
As the clock ticks hurriedly to NHL's opening day on Jan. 19, the Ducks gathered Thursday at Honda Center for an informal practice to gauge their conditioning before the 48-game sprint in this lockout-shortened season.
"From what I saw, the guys have taken care of themselves and I think we'll be ready to go," said left wing Matt Beleskey, who spent three months of the layoff playing for the Coventry Blaze in England — the team covering his expenses, the left wing funding hisinsurance.
Players such as Beleskey, defenseman Luca Sbisa, centers Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano and right wing Bobby Ryan played overseas during the lockout and could hold an edge over those who didn't.
"The way things are now in this game, everyone comes to camp in great shape," Teemu Selanne said. "But game shape comes from good practices and games. It doesn't matter what you do — riding a bike or running — the games take you to another level."
Ryan, after playing for Sweden's Mora IK, agreed.
"The little things like timing and issues with the puck and things like that, they can't come by doing what we were doing every day here," Ryan said. "So I think going over there gave me a little bit of a base, I guess. It helps cardio-wise as well."
Ryan was on the ice when Anze Kopitar of the Kings injured his knee.
"Right next to him," Ryan said. "It was a matter of five feet and could have been me if we had just switched positions. I don't know how serious it is.
"It was just one of those weird, tricky plays. … I think the guy that came to hit him fell. He went forward and backward at the same time, caught up. You could see the knee bend a little bit."
Cogliano played eight games for the Austrian team Klagenfurt, between mid-November and December, and also practiced at the Ducks' and Kings' practice facilities with players (including captain Ryan Getzlaf) "chipping in 20 bucks apiece" to rent the ice time, he said.
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau, who observed some of Thursday's 90-minute practice from an arena seat about 25 rows above the action, said he was happy to see the players back at work after resolving their drawn-out dispute with owners.
"I saw they did a good defensive zone drill, and I'm happy we're already hard at work on defense," said Boudreau, whose Ducks ranked 19th last season in goals-against average (2.73) and missed the playoffs.
"You've got to believe they haven't been sitting around on their butts all winter. Some have been playing in other leagues, and that's good. The thing is, though, they haven't hit or been hit by someone they hate yet. And those bumps and bruises might take a toll early on."
The Ducks are scheduled to begin official training camp with Boudreau on Sunday after players ratify the labor deal Saturday. The NHL schedule could be set by Saturday, and it appears the Ducks will open in Vancouver on Jan. 19.