Defense needs to be priority for Fowler

Cam Fowler mesmerized opponents and fans with his playmaking, skating and ability to come up with big goals for the Ducks that it was easy to overlook the deficiencies in his game during his rookie season.

The promise is still there for the 20-year-old defenseman, but the defensive problems haven’t disappeared and there hasn’t been the kind of offensive impact as a sophomore to balance out the ledger.

After compiling a minus-25 rating that was the worst on the Ducks last season, Fowler is sitting with a minus-18 that’s tied with Ryan Getzlaf for the team low following his team’s 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.

Fowler did start a nice tic-tac-toe passing play that ended up with Bobby Ryan’s third-period goal, but the nights in which he has made a difference on the scoreboard has been far outweighed by the number of times he’s on the ice for a goal against.

“It’s a part of my game that I wish I was contributing a little bit more,” said Fowler, who has three goals and 13 assists in 37 games. “My biggest thing right now is working on my defensive play.

“You create offense from good defense. Right now, we’re giving up too much. That’s my main focus right now. With me, I have the capability to make plays when I can. But I need to do the right things in the defensive zone. The chances will come.”
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau is getting his first extended look at the defenseman and offered his take on what he has seen over the past month.

“He’s been so used to, at a young age, being just an offensive defenseman that sometimes he’s forgotten a little bit about the defensive side of the game,” Boudreau said. “To be in this league, you have to learn how to play defense if you’re a defenseman.

“I told him his offense will take care of itself over time. I don’t care if he gets another point this year. I’m sure he’s going to. It’s more important that he learns how to play defense.”

The biggest thing the coach said is mastering positioning in his end and knowing the right time to take chances and the time to play it safe.
Fowler acknowledged that his play varies greatly from game to game.

“For whatever reason, I just can’t do it consistently right now,” he said. “It’s all about having a complete game, doing it defensively and offensively. I’m still searching to try and do that.”
 
His next chance comes Wednesday night, when the Ducks face the Sharks.
 
NOTES, QUOTES
   –Saku Koivu had a strong return to the lineup with two assists and faceoff wins in half of his draws after missing the previous eight games because of a strained groin muscle. The Ducks’ second-line center didn’t report any issues with his groin afterward. “It’s a good feeling,” he said. “You never want to miss out on games because of an injury. It felt good. I didn’t have any problems. Hopefully, we feel the same tomorrow and continue from there. When you miss seven, eight games, it’s going to take time to get back in a rhythm and get into game shape.”
   –The Ducks could be getting a valuable addition to their lineup as their six-game homestand continues on next week. Jason Blake’s original timetable for his recovery from a torn tendon in his left wrist was supposed to be mid-to-late January, but coach Bruce Boudreau said that it is possible the veteran winger could be back for either the club’s home game against San Jose on Wednesday or the New York Islanders next Friday. “He’s not long,” Boudreau said of Blake. “A game or two, I would think.” Blake’s wrist was cut when San Jose defenseman Brent Burns inadvertently stepped on it during the Oct. 14 home opener against the Sharks.
   –The Ducks on Friday reassigned winger Kyle Palmieri to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League. Palmieri, 20, appeared in Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to Vancouver, going scoreless with one shot on goal in a little more than 11 minutes of ice time as he played on the fourth line with Rod Pelley and Jean-Francois Jacques. In seven games since his recall on Dec. 9, Palmieri had a goal and an assist. His goal on Dec. 14 against Phoenix was the second of his NHL career. “He’s still very young,” Boudreau said. “We need him to play 20, 23 minutes a game and learn the game. To play limited minutes on a fourth-line role, I don’t think is doing him any good.”
   QUOTE TO NOTE: “I was pissed off at them. It was like at that moment they felt defeated. I said, ‘You know, I’m tired of building you guys up. It’s about time you manned up and played the game instead of feeling sorry for yourself.’ ” — Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, on what he said during a timeout in his team’s 4-2 home loss to Colorado.
 
ROSTER REPORT
PLAYER NOTES:
   –C Andrew Cogliano played in his 365th consecutive game when he suited up against Colorado. Cogliano has never missed a game since he entered the NHL with Edmonton in 2008-09. His consecutive game streak is currently fourth behind Calgary’s Jay Bouwmeester (545), Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin (537) and Calgary’s Jarome Iginla (367)
   –LW Bobby Ryan has a three-game goal-scoring streak after tallying against Colorado. It is his longest streak of the season and it comes after he went six games without finding the net. Ryan’s 13 goals are one behind team leader Corey Perry.
   –C Saku Koivu had two assists in his return to the lineup after an eight-game absence. Koivu has recorded points in four of the last five games that he has played in. For the season, the veteran has five goals and 12 assists.

MEDICAL WATCH:
   –LW Jason Blake was supposed to be out until mid-to-late January after suffering a severe cut on his left forearm in a 1-0 win over San Jose on Oct. 14, but he has begun to practice regularly and could be back in the Ducks lineup as soon as next week. Blake, who had surgery to repair tendon damage, was inadvertently cut by the skate blade of Sharks D Brent Burns.

GOALTENDERS:
   –Jonas Hiller
   –Dan Ellis

DEFENSE PAIRINGS:
   –Francois Beauchemin, Cam Fowler
   –Toni Lydman, Lubomir Visnovsky
   –Luca Sbisa, Sheldon Brookbank

FIRST LINE:
   –LW Niklas Hagman, C Ryan Getzlaf, RW Teemu Selanne
   SECOND LINE:
   –LW Bobby Ryan, C Saku Koivu, RW Corey Perry

THIRD LINE:
   –LW Matt Beleskey, C Andrew Cogliano, RW Andrew Gordon

FOURTH LINE:
   –LW Rod Pelley, C Nick Bonino, RW George Parros