New-look Ducks visit Blue Jackets
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the Anaheim Ducks hit the ice Friday night to face the Columbus Blue Jackets, they’ll have two new teammates.
The Ducks made a significant trade Thursday, acquiring centers Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi and a 2018 third-round draft pick from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional draft pick.
Henrique, the major piece in the trade, is expected to arrive in Columbus and make his debut at Nationwide Arena on one of Anaheim’s top two lines. General manager Bob Murray said Blandisi, who has been playing in the American Hockey League this year, also will join the Ducks.
The Ducks are hoping that Henrique gives their injury-decimated forward lines an immediate boost. Anaheim is missing five forwards — Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Rickard Rakell, Ondrej Kase and Patrick Eaves — who would be in its top three groups.
“It’s a good deal for both teams in the sense that we both had needs to fill,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. “You never like to give up a guy like Sami because he’s such a competitive player and has done so many good things for us. It probably wasn’t easy for them to give up Adam either. Hopefully, this one works out for both teams.”
The 27-year-old Henrique had four goals and 10 assists in 24 games for the Devils this season. He averaged 18:15 of ice time per game and played on the penalty-kill unit.
“The addition of a veteran NHL guy that’s been to the Stanley Cup Final, has been a 20-30 goal scorer, consistently, plays center in a high role, top-six forward, kills penalties, plays the power play, all-around player — add that to your lineup, what coach wouldn’t be happy?” Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle said.
After being drafted by the Devils in 2008, Henrique had spent his entire career with New Jersey and at first had mixed emotions about the trade.
“Heading to Anaheim, it hasn’t really settled in yet,” Henrique said. “I look forward to the opportunity to play there. They have a great team with a lot of great players.
“The exciting part is it’s a winning organization. Once everybody comes back, and it’s healthy there, it’s going to be a scary team for a good push this year.”
Blandisi, 23, had three goals and 11 assists in 19 games with Binghamton in the AHL. Last season, he played in 27 games for the Devils and logged three goals and six assists.
Vatanen had four points in 15 games this season for the Ducks after coming back from offseason shoulder surgery. Brandon Montour will fill Vatanen’s role.
“I had an opportunity (for a trade) because of our depth on defense,” Murray said. “We knew we had to do something from last year. With the emergence of some of our younger guys, it was just a matter of time.”
The Ducks (11-10-4) will be at less than full strength against the Blue Jackets (16-8-1).
Kesler has not played yet this season because of a hip injury, Getzlaf has sat out 14 games with facial injuries and may not return for another month, Rakell has missed three contests with an upper-body injury, and Montour did not play Wednesday night but is expected back Friday night. Rakell and Kase could be back for Tuesday night’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Rakell leads the Ducks with eight goals and 18 points in 22 games. Corey Perry is right behind with 17 points.
The Ducks are in the midst of a six-game road trip and are 1-1-1 after picking up their first win Wednesday night with a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
“We were tired of losing,” Ducks goaltender John Gibson said after his eighth win of the season. “We wanted to come out hard and end the losing streak here. We battled hard. We played a lot better defensively, blocking shots and doing what we needed to do for the win.”
The Blue Jackets have won seven of their last eight games and four in a row at home after their 3-2 shootout victory Tuesday night over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Columbus has a tough back-to-back with the Washington Capitals looming Saturday.
But the Blue Jackets are rolling and also starting to get players back from injuries that will help them persevere through their second back to back this week.
Center Alexander Wennberg returned from an upper-body injury Tuesday and forward Matt Calvert is skating again after missing nearly three weeks with an upper-body injury.
“When you’ve got guys that are injured, you find ways to win,” Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson said. “It’s that ‘next man up’ mentality. We’re a pretty solid group, and we’re going to continue to get better.”
Sergei Bobrovsky is expected back in goal against the Ducks after a scheduled rest game against the Hurricanes.
The Blue Jackets’ No. 1 goaltender has not given up more than two goals in his past eight starts and leads the NHL with a .935 save percentage.