Game #47 Preview: "Ducks" @ Canucks

Thomas Drance
April 25 2013 02:00PM


You know when an Andrew Alberts image leads off our game preview that it's going to be a good one.
Photograph by: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America

The Ducks aren't really playing tonight. Anaheim's lineup, in fact, won't include Iced Man Ryan Getzlaf (though actually it might which is hilarious), Bobby Ryan, Luca Sbisa, Bryan Allen, Corey Perry, Saku Koivu or Teemu Sellane. So if they're not showing up, why must I in writing a game preview?

Because that's my damn job. Read past the jump.

Broadcast Info:

Puck Drop: 7 PM PST

Radio: The Team

Television: Sportsnet Pacific

Setup:

So yep, here's the Ducks lineup tonight per Eric Stephens (who you should follow because he's one hell of a beat writer):

I feel like we'll see a slow paced game with everyone important trying to avoid injury and a few guys playing hard just because they want a spot on the playoff roster. The only Ducks player I'm really interested in watching tonight is Sami Vatanen, an undersized puck moving defenceman with a rocket of a shot. 

For the Canucks there appears to be only a couple of changes from Monday night's victory over the Blackhawks. Derek Joslin will draw in for Cam Barker (thank goodness) and skate on a third pair with Andrew Alberts. That leaves Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis together on the top-pairing, while Frank Corrado skates alongside Alex Edler again. I've seen some people questioning Corrado getting a second game when it's a meaningless affair between two teams that have clinched their respective divisions but, frankly, the coaching staff should see what Corrado looks like in more than just a game. Need to learn as much as you can about his ability to handle secondary competition at the NHL level before the playoffs, I figure.

Upfront Keith Ballard will draw in for Tom Sestito and play on a fourth line with Andrew Ebbett and Zack Kassian. Seems weird but Vigneault doubled down on it:

I have to say, I'm all for Keith Ballard playing forward on the fourth line. If your fourth line includes Keith Ballard with Jordan Schroeder (who absolutely needs to replace Andrew Ebbett in the top-12 for the postseason) and either Dale Weise or Zack Kassian, I think that's pretty good. That's a group with a lot of speed and who would probably be able to handle eight minutes a game. An additional bonus of deploying a guy who can lineup as a defender on your fourth line is that you've got some injury insurance should a defenceman get hurt in a tight playoff game. Vigneault won't play his fourth line much in the playoffs regardless, so if you're going to have a lump sitting on the bench, you might as well have a lump who can slot in as a defenceman, I figure.

Moreover, Keith Ballard actually played pretty well in two games as a forward earlier this season (yes, I thought he'd played three games as a forward too, but he didn't). In the first game with Ballard as a third-line forward, he skated alongside Andrew Ebbett and Dale Weise, started most of his shifts in the defensive end, lined up against Matt Lombardi and Raffi Torres primarily (but say three minutes against the Vermette, Boedekker line too) and came out ahead by the possession data. Later that week against Colorado he played on the third line again this time with Ebbett and Burrows. Again that line had a defensive oriented deployment, matched up primarily against Ryan O'Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog (what?) and came out way ahead by the possession data and finished +1 on the evening.

So yeah, I think it's a pretty safe bet that Keith Ballard is a better option to give you decent minutes as a fourth line left-wing than any of Tom Sestito, Andrew Ebbett or Steve Pinizzoto...

Numbers Game

Who cares? Basically the Ducks aren't that good and rely on goaltending, but have decent special teams. I'd lay it out in table form, but seriously, it's a preseason contest.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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