Even in a week otherwise defined by their trade for one of the top prospects in hockey and their first victory since Dec. 27, the Ducks have endured serious setbacks.
The victory, a 5-3 thumping of the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, was kicked off by an explosive first period. That was a welcome sight for a coaching staff that was guiding its players through yet another move that seemed to trade near-term competitiveness for a shot at long-term contention after they traded a key roster player for a prospect.
That win also cost them two of their top players for the next six weeks, at a minimum.
Forward Trevor Zegras was taken down from behind, slamming his lower left extremity into the boards and, as the Ducks revealed Thursday, breaking his left ankle. He will miss six to eight weeks, the bulk of what remains in the season. Joining him in the pressbox will be rookie defenseman Pavel Mintyukov, who sustained a separated shoulder in the third period of that same contest, one the Ducks led 5-0 at one point.
Coach Greg Cronin said he addressed his team following the trade that sent Jamie Drysdale, Zegras’ former roommate and closest friend on the team, to Philadelphia along with a second-round draft pick for Boston College sophomore Cutter Gauthier. A three-goal first period that they rode toward a victory were solid initial steps, but now the Ducks’ roster will be even thinner, particularly on the blue line given the departure of Drysdale and Mintyukov’s injury.
Mintyukov, 19, has been one of the NHL’s top rookies, sitting just one assist behind the league leader among first-year players. He’s also handled some challenging defensive assignments and power-play duty effectively.
Zegras, 22, scored 126 points over the past two seasons, second only to Troy Terry among Ducks during that span. This season, however, he’s accumulated a modest seven points in 20 contests in a campaign mired by health issues from its outset. The Electronic Arts video game coverboy and flashy fan favorite entered training camp late due to a contract dispute and then attempted to play through a groin injury that ultimately sidelined him for 20 games. His latest injury will rob him of even more time.
The injuries on defense led to the recall of Robert Hägg and a waiver claim on former Montreal defenseman Gustav Lindström. As they saw when Drysdale missed almost all of 2022-23 and most of 2023-24 to date, his skill set has not proved easy to replace.
While Zegras might have been the more central and better-compensated player – his salary cap hit is roughly 2½ times that of Drysdale’s despite having signed synchronized three-year deals just days apart – there is some silver lining for the Ducks up front. Rookie Leo Carlsson, who has been recovering from a lower-body injury sustained last month against Calgary, appeared ahead of schedule to return and could play during their current road trip.
The Ducks (14-25-1) entered Thursday just eight points ahead of the San Jose Sharks for the NHL’s worst record.
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2024-01-12 00:31:06 , San Bernardino Sun