There were only three days of training camp before two back-to-back pre-season games for the Anaheim Ducks. It was all they needed to know before sending several players back to juniors or to the Ducks AHL affiliate in Syracuse.
Forwards Nick Bonino, Rob Bordson, Nicolas Deschamps, Brandon McMillan and Kyle Palmieri were sent to Syracuse on Thursday. Joining them were defensemen Mat Clark, Mark Mitera and Joe DiPenta. Goaltender J.P. Levasseur was not too far behind them, taking a plane on Friday.
Players returned to their junior teams included Emerson Etem, Devante Smith-Pelly, Peter Holland, and Scott Valentine.
That leaves 36 players on the roster, including injured Jason Jaffray, long-recovering Joffrey Lupul and Toni Lydman, who should be back to skating shortly after having experienced double vision prior to camp. Getting the roster to 23 players by opening night will be a challenge, but there are clearly spots open.
As the roster continues to pare down, the Ducks will have an opportunity to get their team in game shape. With two more back-to-back games against San Jose and Vancouver on the road, there will be plenty of chances for younger players and guys on the cusp to make a positive impression and stay a little longer with the team.
One thing is undeniable - the sense of urgency that has been accompanying the training camp practices. The intensity has been there in previous years but there is a feeling of "things must happen NOW," that was not present before.
The Ducks have stated clearly what their expectations are.
"We're going to try to put everything we possibly can into this training camp to get this hockey club as ready as it's ever been," said coach Randy Carlyle after the very first practice. "We're not happy with our poor starts. Historically, other than our Cup year, we've had starts that were questionable for our group. We cannot afford that."
Perhaps that sense of urgency comes from the knowledge that there will not be tolerance for a slow start and jobs will be in danger. And not just players, but coaching staff as well. Regardless of the motivation, things are moving quickly.
In another sign that things are moving faster than usual to solidify the team and get things in place, Carlyle spent a good portion of time working on specialty teams on Thursday.
The first unit for the power play consists of four forwards and one defenseman - Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne working with Lubomir Visnovsky. Jason Blake, Dan Sexton and Saku Koivu were sent out with Paul Mara and Danny Syvret for the second unit. Cam Fowler and Matt Beleskey were interchanged into the second groupings.
The Ducks have gone with four forwards in the past, but didn't stick with it very long. In this case, it looks like Ryan gets more opportunity for growth by being used on the point. Unlike playing at center, Ryan seems much more comfortable in this role.
“I’ve played D for a good portion of my life,” Ryan said. “I don’t mind if they come back the other way. I can certainly handle myself. I think he’s looking for guys who are willing to shoot from back there. I don’t think there is any question that I look to do that. I’ll try to step in. It’s nice to get out there with those players in that situation. It gives you a chance for success. I’ll run with it for as long as I can.”
For now, the Ducks are running towards the start of the regular season. Walking is not an option.