The Ducks don’t have any more room to move atop the Pacific Division standings and now their health is returning.
Wednesday, the 22-7-5 team riding a 13-game home unbeaten-in-regulation start and seven-game unbeaten-in-regulation streak moved defensemen Alex Grant and Nolan Yonkman along with center David Steckel back to minor league Norfolk in anticipation of Sunday’s return of defenseman Francois Beauchemin, center Mathieu Perreault and defenseman Mark Fistric versus the visiting Edmonton Oilers.
“It’s hard to get better when you’re winning all the time, but we hope to come back and keep doing the same thing,” Perreault said Wednesday at the team’s optional practice in Anaheim. “Hopefully, we’ll just get stronger.”
Forward Jakob Silfverberg, out since Oct. 25 with a broken hand after scoring four goals in the first three games, shot softly Wednesday and is expected back by Christmas.
Beauchemin (upper body injury) and Perreault said they expect to play Sunday, and Fistric could be a healthy scratch.
Perreault said his lower body injury bothered him for two weeks before he awoke Dec. 4, the day after a shootout loss to the Kings and “could barely walk.”
“For me to be going on the ice, I need to be at 100%, so that’s why I took the time off and took care of it,” he said. “My skating wasn’t as good.”
Beauchemin has missed 10 games since crashing into the boards Nov. 20 in a shootout loss to New Jersey.
“I’ve been feeling better every day this week,” he said. “I needed rest and strengthening, had lots of time to do that.
He said it was a “huge thing” how “the kids who came up played with confidence.”
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said, “My worry is the rest of the team thinking, ‘Oh, all of our healthy guys are here, now we don’t have to work as hard,’ … when that happens, you end up losing.”
Grant departs after becoming just the third NHL defenseman since 1995 to score a goal in each of his first two games after beating Minnesota’s Josh Harding with a second-period slap shot that gave Grant two goals in his first two NHL shots.
Norfolk has games scheduled Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“Alex Grant did really good, but he only played two games in 11 days here … you don’t get better by sitting around doing nothing,” Boudreau said.
For those demoted from the Ducks’ success, Boudreau said he’s hopeful they leave with confirmation they can contribute on a good NHL roster.
“You get down there and go, ‘Man, I’m going to play so hard because the lifestyle in the NHL is so much different,’ ” Boudreau said. “It’s a deflator going down. A guy I knew had made a lot of trips going up and down one year and they asked him, ‘Aren’t you tired?’ He said, ‘Only on the way down.’ ”