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Early Season Injuries Mean Changes, Opportunities On The Ducks Defense

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Stoner, Despres out means opportunity for Theodore and Holzer.

Shea Theodore skates in a 2013 preseason game.
Shea Theodore skates in a 2013 preseason game.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Last season the Anaheim Ducks dealt with a rash of injuries and illness on the backend.

Four games in to the 2015-16 campaign, Anaheim finds themselves dealing with an early season issue in the defense corps once again.

First it was Clayton Stoner missing training camp with an upper body injury, and now being placed on injured reserve after appearing in just two games thus far in the regular season. Then it was Simon Despres leaving Friday night's game against the Colorado Avalanche after a hit by Tyson Barrie that has drawn a hearing with NHL Player Safety; Despres will be re-evaluated on Monday but he too has been placed on IR.

So now without the services of defenders who each played all 16 playoff games last season and have averaged 17:06 (Despres) and 14:17 (Stoner) of ice time this year, not only does it mean that Josh Manson's stay will likely be extended, but the Ducks made a pair of recalls from San Diego:

  • Recalled Korbinian Holzer from loan to San Diego
  • Recalled Shea Theodore from loan to San Diego

Holzer dealt with an injury near the end of the exhibition season, and was sent to San Diego with Stoner returning from injury at the beginning of the regular season. Theodore has yet to make his regular season debut with Anaheim, but through two games with the Gulls has an assist, four shots on goal and has been on ice for three more goals for than against.

The Ducks defensively have largely stuck with Hampus Lindholm and Kevin Bieksa as their top pairing, while Cam Fowler had largely been paired with Despres though saw some time with Manson. Sami Vatanen had mostly played alongside Stoner, though was tried with Despres as well.

Considering Holzer's pedigree as a more physical defenseman and the 2013 26th overall pick Theodore as a puck mover/power play quarterback type, it would make sense with how previous pairings have been slated to assume Holzer could go with Vatanen and Theodore will be tried and Fowler. However, one has to wonder if this opens the door for the Lindholm-Bieksa pairing to be broken up and each tried with new partners as well, as well as where Manson fits in all of this.

After having allowed nine goals through the first four games (discounting the Colorado empty-netter), outside of the 4-0 pasting by Arizona the defense has not been the issue for Anaheim in the 0-3-1 start. Now, dealing with the first bit of injury adversity of the season, the backend will have to find a way to keep up its play as the search for offense continues.

How would you pair the defense corps with the additions of Holzer and Theodore? Share your thoughts in the comments below.