Only three days of on-ice practice and scrimmages in training camp and the Ducks are ready for their first pre-season game. It didn't take long for the players to be tired of battling against each other and instead take out their frustrations on each other.
"Guys get tired playing and practicing against one another,” said coach Randy Carlyle after Monday's scrimmage. “We always call the third day of training camp the ‘hump day.’ We have lots of people that are sore, muscles that are at fatigue points. They get a little grouchy playing against one other.”
That might be true, but in this case, the players were a little grouchier than usual. Things have always been physical, but never in your face and testy. They are supposed to be teammates after all. On Monday, the refs stepped in to break up what could have been a fight, were it not for the no fighting rule Carlyle has installed. Corey Perry took liberties with Dan Sexton. Jason Blake was checking every young prospect as hard as he could. In prior scrimmages, Stephane Veilleux, in camp on a professional tryout, was getting under the skin of every opposition player.
So it's a good thing that the Ducks have a pre-season game today, instead of having everything reach a boiling point. Take it out on the Phoenix Coyotes instead of each other.
Every team is required to have 8 veterans in the line-up for a pre-season game, which the Ducks do, but they are heavily weighted with youngsters. This will be a first look at this year's first round draft picks, Cam Fowler and Emerson Etem, as well as second round pick, Devante Smith-Pelly. Kyle Palmieri, who decided to turn pro rather than return to college, will also get a first look. (More on Fowler, Etem and Smith-Pelly can be found at www.hockeytalk.biz/anaducks.htm )
Bobby Ryan will be playing a new role as center, in this case for a top line with Matt Beleskey and Smith-Pelly. Curtis McIlhenney and Timo Pielmeier will share responsibilities in net for Anaheim.
With another pre-season game on Wednesday, most of the remaining players not playing this evening will be on the ice tomorrow, although a handful will play back-to-back.
The first cuts to the roster will likely come soon, although Carlyle refuses to reveal their timetable. Historically, the first guys have gone home after the first couple of pre-season games, so there is no reason to suppose that this will be any different. It makes how they play this evening that much more important.