As I mentioned earlier in our makeshift recap of yesterday's goings on/open thread, none of our official staffers were able to make it to training camp today. However, when Anaheim Calls, the people answer. Reader/listener Bob Diluchio (AKA 4th_liner in the comments and @bdiluchio on twitter) attended the Friday morning session and sent us his review of the action. We thank him profusely for his contribution. So without further ado.... Here's Bob:
The Anaheim Ducks took to the ice at The Rinks at Anaheim Ice today with a purpose in mind. The bitter taste remains from a disappointing Game 7 loss at home in the 2014 Western Conference Semi-Final. But hope springs eternal on the first day of training camp in the NHL, especially with the Ducks coming off of their best regular season in club history. General Manager Bob Murray was perched alone atop the stands in the corner of rink anxious to see the fruits of his off-season maneuvering.
The Ducks emerged from the locker room wearing the new primary logo web-footed "D" on the chests of their practice jerseys. The split-squad unit for the morning practice session included four forward lines, four defensive pairs, and two oaltenders. Fans were elated to see what figures to be the Ducks' top line to open the season together at the first practice, all donning red jerseys. The inseparable duo of center Ryan Getzlaf and winger Corey Perry were joined by free agent Dany Heatley in what looks to be a formidable line rich with both talent and size. A second line of regulars Andrew Cogliano, Rickard Rakell, and Devante Smith-Pelly also joined the morning group. Top defensive pairing Cam Fowler and Ben Lovejoy were joined by Sami Vatanen and free-agent acquisition Clayton Stoner as the veteran blue-liners in the group. Frederik Andersen manned one of the nets, and newcomer Jason LaBarbera defended the opposite crease.
Much to the delight of critics of last season's team, the Ducks began with a breakout drill [Ed. Note: Hi Kyle! -CK]. The team struggled at times to clear their own blue line in the 2013-2014 campaign, and much of the early portion of practice focused on moving the puck out of the zone. Coach Bruce Boudreau built on the basic drill by gradually adding forwards into the mix to work on scoring chances at the opposite end. A roofed wrister from big Brad Winchester, here on a professional tryout contract, brought "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd. But a beautiful move and pass from Perry to Heatley for a slam-dunk goal got the biggest ovation of the session.
The group continued to go end-to-end in a series of well-designed drills highlighting the transition game. A nice finish by Heatley with a high backhand shot over the shoulder of a sprawling Andersen was just about all that got by the Danish netminder. Andersen stoned Getzlaf on a pretty tic-tac-toe play from Perry, and he lunged to stop a one-timer by Cogliano on a nice feed from Rakell.
New assistant coach Trent Yawney led the group in a corner battle drill. Much of a team's success hinges on the success of puck retrieval off the wall. Yawney stopped the drill and yelled, "Patience!" at one point, instructing the players to look for the multiple layers of support after gaining the puck. Forward Steve MacIntyre, another veteran player in camp on a PTO, used his massive 6-5/250 frame to his advantage while winning the puck on a couple of battles, as did the newcomer Stoner.
After an hour of drills, the veteran forwards were excused to the dressing room while the youngsters stayed on the ice to work on shooting drills. The tireless worker Andrew Cogliano stayed out with the forwards and took a regular rotation in the drill. At the opposite end, Coach Yawney worked with all the defensemen on defending attacks from the corner. The D-men finished with shooting drills from the blueline. At the 90-minute mark, the group left the ice to wrap up the morning session.
The second group of Ducks are scheduled to hit the ice in the afternoon, featuring highly-touted acquisition Ryan Kesler and young star goalie John Gibson. The team is scheduled for two more split-session practices on Saturday and Sunday. In lieu of the usual intrasquad training camp scrimmage, the Ducks with play a split-squad home-and-home pair of preseason games on Monday with the Colorado Avalanche.