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Ducks’ Ryan Strome set to face former teammates in back-to-back games

NEWARK, N.J. — This won’t be just a Ryan Strome reunion game; rather, it’s the Ryan Strome Tour.

Strome was drafted by the New York Islanders and played 258 games with the organization, and 263 more with the New York Rangers, only interrupted in the middle by a 100-game tour of duty with the Edmonton Oilers.

It so happens that the first two road games for Strome and his new Ducks teammates on the schedule are against the Islanders (Saturday) and the Rangers (Monday).

Forty-eight hours of reunion time.

“It’s good, honestly, to get it out of the way,” said Strome, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Ducks on the first day of free agency. “It’s nice because it’s so fresh and you get to see some friends, but at the same time, you want to turn the page. If you sit on that one too long on the calendar, you might be looking at it too long.”

Strome was talking about the gamut of emotions players face when taking on their former teammates before the Ducks left on this five-game trip, which also includes New Jersey, Boston and Detroit. Turning the page has extended to other members of the family too. His dad was a frequent visitor to New York, but Strome said his father wouldn’t be driving down from Toronto for these games.

On Friday, Strome answered more questions about the homecoming tour after an afternoon practice at the Devils’ home arena in Newark, which is where the Ducks were able to secure practice time.

Understandably, the tighter focus was on the Rangers for several reasons – recency, namely, in addition to their compelling playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final in June.

He was hampered by a pelvis injury in the second half of the season. Strome said he was able to avoid surgery in the summer, but added that it isn’t 100 percent yet. Of course, players are rarely 100 percent at most junctures of the season. But the right-shot center was able to make a meaningful impact almost immediately with a three-point night (one goal, two assists) in the Ducks’ 5-4 come-from-behind win in overtime against the visiting Seattle Kraken on Wednesday, The Ducks’ two other free-agent acquisitions were impactful also – defenseman John Klingberg had two assists and forward Frank Vatrano scored once, set up by Strome.

In-game, Ducks coach Dallas Eakins tweaked the top six against the Kraken and placed Vatrano with Strome and Troy Terry, which quickly paid off. It is a Plan B option worth having.

“We were looking for anything in that last game that could jump-start us or just give us a different feel,” Eakins said. “Frank certainly brought that. We won’t start the next game with it (the trio), but we can certainly move to it.”

The first impressions set by Strome, Vatrano, and Klingberg were notable.

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“I think it’s huge. When you come in, and knowing those guys as much as I know them now, they’ve got high standards and they want to be difference-makers on the team,” Eakins said. “When you’re new, you want to make an impression right away and even though they’ve been here for a number of weeks, that was the first game.

“That was officially the first game. For them to have an impact on the game, offensively, certainly does great things for them to be feeling good about themselves. It sends a message to the rest of the team, that, hey, these guys can contribute.

“The worst thing that can happen is if you come in new, and suddenly you find yourself with a bunch of zeroes through the first handful of games.”

After all, they’ve all got to keep up or stay ahead of Ducks goaltender John Gibson, who assisted on Troy Terry’s overtime winner. It was the fifth assist of Gibson’s career and some of the players were joking about Gibson being on a point-per-game pace.

“That’s a guy that does it all for this team,” Terry said. “I can’t imagine how he was feeling (in overtime). I know how I felt it on that last one. He was battling there all night.”

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