After a 15-game absence, Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen is set to return to the lineup Friday night against Colorado. And it couldn’t come at a better time, because since getting injured, the Anaheim power play has left a lot to be desired.
The Ducks only scored three power play goals while Vatanen was out. Neither power-play unit played well. Up against the seventh-best penalty killing team in the league, Vatanen is hoping that his presence will reinvigorate the power play.
"It’s been a long four weeks for me, just sitting there and eating some popcorn," he said. "It’s my strength, to play on the power play and help the team score some goals."
Vatanen leads the Ducks with seven goals and 17 points on the power play. His hard shot and the quick one-timer are only part of the package as Vatanen excels handling the puck as well and making plays with the man advantage as well.
"Just watching, I think he’s a guy that moves the puck really well, he’s a guy that can make a good outlet pass, which sometimes is a problem for power plays because PKs do such good jobs in the neutral zone that you need guys making good plays through the neutral zone to get into the other end," said forward Andrew Cogliano. "He’s one of those guys that from really anywhere on the ice he’s got a pretty dynamic play with the shot."
With a revamped and reloaded defense corps, the Ducks didn’t need to rush his return. He’s been skating for a week now and trying to get back into game speed, but his teammates and his head coach, Bruce Boudreau, expect him to be well-rested.
His skating partners have typically been Clayton Stoner and Francois Beauchemin, but with so many new additions, the defense pairings have been mixed up and Vatanen skated with Cam Fowler in Friday’s morning skate.
In net against the Avalanche is Frederik Andersen, who is making his return after a four-game hiatus. Boudreau rode the hot hand with John Gibson but Andersen, who is ninth in the league with 30 wins, is anxious to get back in the mix. The two goalies have been rotating as part of a predetermined plan set by the coaching staff and will continue to rotate throughout the rest of the regular season, but Andersen would like make it difficult for them to plan in the postseason.
"I don’t really want to mess it up, I don’t want to give (Boudreau) too many headaches but I want to give him a hard time picking," Andersen said. "That’s a good problem to have."