Ducks’ Rakell facing new role as C Ryan Kesler recovers
LAST SEASON: 46-23-13, 105 points. Won Pacific Division. Lost to Nashville Predators in Western Conference finals.
COACH: Randy Carlyle (second season, 12th NHL season).
ADDED: D Francois Beauchemin, G Ryan Miller, C Derek Grant, G Reto Berra.
LOST: D Clayton Stoner, D Shea Theodore, C Nate Thompson.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Rickard Rakell. Rakell was a breakout star with his team-leading 33 goals in the regular season, plus seven goals and six assists in 15 playoff games. But his role will change as C Ryan Kesler recovers from hip surgery that could sideline him until Christmas, which will force Rakell to move from left wing to center. If Rakell can handle the change, the Ducks will be even more versatile and dangerous come the postseason.
OUTLOOK: There is no longer a “Twilight Zone” ride down the street at Disneyland, but the Ducks keep finding themselves trapped in the same nightmare of winning the Pacific Division and then crashing out of the playoffs. The Ducks finally won a Game 7 last season, but injuries caught up to them against the Predators. D Hampus Lindholm (shoulder) and Sami Vatanen (shoulder) will miss the start of the season, which should threaten the Ducks’ chances of retaining the division title for the sixth straight season, but this team is more than capable of another long postseason run.
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