Now that the hockey teams in the Olympics are down to the final four, it is time for the NHL to get back to practice. For the Ducks, not everyone is home yet and only Jonas Hiller has been eliminated in the tournament.
Hiller will be getting a few more days rest and is expected to rejoin the team on Sunday. With seven other players still in Vancouver duking it out, the Ducks recalled four players from minor league affiliates.
The Ducks recalled goaltender Timo Pielmeier to join Vesa Toskala in net. They also brought back up defensemen Brett Festerling and Brendan Mikkelson. Finally, Dan Sexton was called back up.
Sexton was sent to Manitoba after the Jean-Sebastien Giguere trade to make room for Jason Blake in the line-up. GM Bob Murray said that Sexton would definitely be recalled at some point. Sexton had 9 goals and 9 assists in 28 games and not only made an impact on the Ducks, but also had instant chemistry with Saku Koivu and Bobby Ryan. This time Sexton wants to stay, but that depends on personnel and the NHL trade deadline (more on that later.)
“The thing about that is they don’t have to say that,” said Sexton after practice. “They can do whatever they want. I’m a first-year guy. They can send me down and bring me back up as they please. They don’t owe you an answer or an excuse, so for them to think enough of me to maybe give me a reason why I didn’t really maybe deserve it or not, it definitely gave me confidence going back to Manitoba to say, ‘Hey, let me just keep working hard here and hope to go back.’ Hopefully they want me back and hopefully I can earn my way back here.”
Players will start to be sent back as soon as teams are eliminated in the Olympics. The final four teams still have two more games. Every single one of them – USA, Finland, Canada and Slovakia – want the final game to be for the gold medal, not the consolation game.
Olympians are not the only ones who will affect personnel. On Monday, March 1, the trade freeze is lifted and there are only three short days for GM’s to make their final moves of the year. March 3 at 3:00pm eastern is it. Not much time to evaluate what is needed to be done for the final stretch.
Fortunately the Ducks were able to do well prior to the Olympic break and they are within two points of a playoff spot. Having already moved Giguere, what other tweaks will Murray come up with prior to March 3? Will he bolster the defense corps that could use a little more depth? Will he make moves based on potential unrestricted free agents and whether or not he can or will sign them after July 1? He certainly did that last year. Will he make any surprise moves that no one rumored or expected?
Stay tuned. This next week won’t be dull, that’s for sure.