Saku Sidelined

DANIEL:

The Ducks started a very important trip with a loss to the New Jersey Devils. The loss highlighted an inability to convert rebounds in front of the net and generate quality chances on the power play. Also of note, Saku Koivu was kept out of the lineup with the ever famous "lower body injury" and is questionable for Friday's game in Columbus. Arthur, you and I have already discussed the importance of this trip, but do you think it's possible to salvage the trip if Koivu's injury lingers for the next 3 games?

ARTHUR:

It's definitely possible. But beyond that, I think this squad SHOULD be able to salvage this road trip. Koivu's contribution is certainly important; Sleek established that with some statistical evidence yesterday, but when I predicted Koivu to Anaheim in May, one of your biggest beefs was injury problems. And I think we (and the Ducks) have to accept that Saku isn't an 82-game guy going into any season.

Now, I don't think this injury is serious. He skated in the morning and in warmups; he probably just felt he couldn't compete to his own satisfaction. But if it IS serious, then this squad SHOULD be able to fill the void. Christensen was sharp last night for a guy who's essentially waiting for the Ducks to find a minor league team that will play him. If they can find a place for him (or just a place to stash him), they can call up Beleskey or Calder, have Marchant center the second line and have Nokelainen center the third. There are options beyond last night's band-aid.

But whatever lineup they end up with, this team SHOULD be able to compensate for Koivu's absence. The Ducks have been one of the healthiest teams in the NHL this season, and they've squandered that luxury, performing poorly with their full complement and even worse without Wisniewski. If this team can't step it up for minor absences, how are they ever going to manage a serious injury?

DANIEL:

I think the Ducks are going to have serious issues compensating for Koivu's absence. We already know Lupul is a streaky scorer, and much of Selanne's struggles for the past two years have been attributed to the lack of a quality second line center. With Koivu out maybe we can hope that Carlyle's advice to Lupul leads to one of those scoring streaks. You're right that Christensen was great last night, but the use of him, I think, reflects one of the major problems we've had since we've won the Cup. You and I have both said that there are times when it seems like guys don't know their roles on the ice. I think that this is a chance for that problem to get worse. I felt that the two games we won against Nashville and Phoenix happened because everyone knew their job and executed.

IF this injury is serious, then the only chance the Ducks have is to hope that Lupul and Selanne can carry whatever center Carlyle puts between them. I think the other lines are meshing really well. Marchant, Brown and Nokelainen are flying, Artyukhin is taking fewer penalties and still being effective with Carter and Parros, and the top line is still creating offense, albeit probably not enough until Getzlaf decides to shoot the puck.

I think it will be difficult for the Ducks to have a good trip without Koivu centering that second line, because it will allow teams to focus more on the top line. Should the Ducks be able to overcome something like this? Yes. Will they do it? I don't know, I haven't seen anything from this team that convinces me they have the resolve to overcome this kind of a problem. The only thing we can do is wait and see. As a fan, I expect to be impressed.

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