Road to the Season: Penalty Kill Preview

Jeff Gross

Sheldon comes and Sheldon goes...but how will that hinder the PK unit?

We’re talking penalty kill here, and, to be honest, I don’t really care about what happened last season. The Ducks were a middle of the road team in terms of the PK (82%, 16th overall) and for a group that is quite often at the top of the league in penalty minutes, they’ve got to improve. With that in mind, let’s take a look ahead at this short 2013 season - who’s in, who’s out and who’s got to improve!

Thankfully for Anaheim, the defensive special teams won’t see much change as many of their key players are still intact. Defensemen Francois Beauchemin and Toni Lydman led the Anaheim unit in shorthanded scenarios. Their hefty PK time-on-ice was followed by Luca Sbisa and the now Chicago Blackhawk, Sheldon Brookbank. Hopefully the good news for Anaheim is that three of those four players will be returning this October January.

Better news is the possibility that the Ducks have upgraded that Sheldon factor with the signing of Sheldon Souray (who knows, The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper might be a better upgrade). If it turns out that Souray isn’t an improvement for the team, the Ducks might consider looking to new addition Bryan Allen. Allen racked up the second highest minutes on the PK last season for Carolina, which means he’s bringing plenty of experience. Worried about missing Lubomir Visnovsky? Don’t worry about it here; he’s the power play’s problem.

The forward core group is definitely blossoming with opportunities. Andrew Cogliano and Saku Koivu saw plenty of PK time as they were both inserted for faceoff matchups. Let’s just hope that Cogliano has done some work on his paltry 42% in the circle.

Those looking for some more ice time and opportunities to impress the Ducks coaching staff will be Matt Beleskey and Devante Smith-Pelly who definitely did some of his best stuff last season defending short handed.

In terms of new acquisitions for the Ducks, look to Daniel Winnik to be an addition to the PK unit. This might be a huge factor for Anaheim as they’re missing a key figure in Niklas Hagman. Winnik’s physicality and experience on the PK is going to be his stronghold for a place with the club this season.

As for the big names, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf were used quite a bit last season, and, while I like the option that gives players like Perry, I always cringe when the opponent takes a blistering slap shot from the blueline. [Ed. Note: See Getzlaf's puck to the face in Phoenix two years ago. Not on the PK but still, Ouch! -CK] But, keep in mind the positives of all that extra ice time Perry saw in the 2010-11 season!

The bottom line is that the Ducks are known for taking more than their fair share of stupid/ridiculous/lazy/offensive-zone penalties and I don’t expect them to amend those rotten habits, just because the season is shortened. The good news is that the personnel isn’t changing all that much, yet we may be in for an overall upgrade. Either way, special teams will have a lot to figure out with no time to waste.

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