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Trio of injuries to top Ducks could derail early success

Anaheim announced the team would be missing three key players for the foreseeable future.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that three key players would be missing some amount of time with injuries.

The team has started to come back to earth after winning three straight and four of their first six games by overcompensating in the other direction and dropping four of their last five. While goaltenders John Gibson and Ryan Miller have managed to maintain a high level of play, the rest of the team has struggled to consistently create chances and score, a fact underscored by the oddity and rarity of their 7-4 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.

They have at times looked like a modern speed and skill team that can skate with anyone backed by an all-world goalie who could make a surprise playoff appearance after missing for the first time in seven years last season. And yet, they still far too often resemble the slow, disjointed mess being dragged to respectability by the best goalie in the world.

The Ducks are losing the shot attempt battle this year, with a 47.01 CF% to prove it that ranks in the bottom five league wide. This lack of consistent quality isn’t likely to be helped by the team losing their two best defensemen and a forward who is arguably the team’s best play driver.

Josh Manson’s injury is the most impactful for no other reason than length. Expected to miss 5-10 weeks with an MCL sprain, Manson’s absence will leave a significant void in the Ducks defense at a critical position. Right defense was already thin enough that General Manager Bob Murray was already looking to bring in help, which he ultimately did by trading for Erik Gudbranson.

Now, with Manson expected to miss at least a month (and probably closer to two if we’re being honest), those same questions persist, albeit without a rock at the top to absorb the majority of the high-leverage minutes on the right side. There has been some consternation amongst fans regarding his overall level of play this season, but he still unquestionably remains the team’s best option at the position and losing him for such an extended period of time is going to have repercussions.

Ondrej Kase is a name that Ducks fans have begrudgingly come to accept as a regular on the injury list. The swift skating Czech has quickly become a fan-favorite in Anaheim, as well as a sort of analytical darling in the larger hockey community. His speed and creativity have been a welcome remedy to Anaheim’s chronic dullness over the past few years.

Unfortunately, Kase has yet to play a full season in the NHL (he did reach a career high 66 in his second year in the league) and has a history with concussions. It’s still too early to tell with Kase a week away from his 24th birthday, but this was one factor that was universally agreed as potentially being the reason his name was involved in the Justin Faulk rumors.

Listed as day-to-day with simply a “jaw injury”, there is no way to tell from the outside if this is a potentially broken jaw or if it’s just wisdom teeth, although Ducks fans will certainly be hoping its closer to the former than latter. Despite only having one goal in eleven games, Kase had been one of Anaheim’s most impactful players early on this season with regards to shot metrics, and losing him for any length of time is going to force the Ducks to reconfigure their lineup to make up for the loss.

Hampus Lindholm leading the team in assists was not something anyone was expecting this year when the team broke camp. Being the team’s most impactful defenseman on the other hand, is something everyone was counting on coming into this season. After becoming a staple of the lineup following his 78-game rookie season, Lindholm quickly emerged as the Ducks’ most talented defender.

Strong, skilled, and smart, the 25-year-old Swede has developed into one of the premier shutdown defensemen in the NHL. If this early jump in offensive production is at all indicative of the year to come, then the Ducks would very much like to get him back into the fold and on the ice as soon as possible.

Anaheim is also going to have to make sure they do not rush Lindholm back because of Manson’s injury. But the fact remains compounding Manson’s injury with a long-term Lindholm injury because he aggravated something rushing back would probably result in either John Gibson winning the Vezina or the Ducks winning the draft lottery. Josh Mahura looked good in his season debut against the Jets tallying three assists in almost 17 minutes, but that shouldn’t lull Anaheim into any false sense of security.

With Brendan Guhle being sent back down to the AHL for some seasoning, Mahura doesn’t move either Michael Del Zotto or Korbinian Holzer back to the press box. So unless Guhle isn’t in the minors for very long and Josh Mahura really is here to stay, not having Lindholm in the lineup is going to be a major hindrance for an Anaheim Ducks team that was already outperforming preseason expectations. And that was with a healthy roster.