LOS ANGELES — Could the Ducks manage to get through the preseason without suffering another injury to another key player?
No such luck.
Good fortune seems to be taking this preseason off and the trend continued with the Ducks’ No. 1 goalie, John Gibson, suffering an upper-body injury in the first period against the Kings. The Kings squandered a three-goal lead in the second period and reasserted themselves in the third, defeating the Ducks 6-3 on Saturday afternoon at Crypto.com Arena.
Gibson took a shot off his mask in the first period – via a blast from Kings defenseman Sean Durzi, leading to the Kings’ first goal – and looked shaken up. That was early in the first period, just 2:32 into it, but Gibson played the rest of the period as the Kings built a 3-0 lead on goals by Gabriel Vilardi, Arthur Kaliyev and Carl Grundstrom. Ducks backup Anthony Stolarz played the second and third periods.
But the Gibson issue does not appear to be a head injury and he was around his teammates in the dressing room after the game.
“He took a number of shots up high and early,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “I was impressed that he got through the period. We’ll get an update on him tomorrow.
“It (the Durzi shot) cracked him square in the mask. I don’t think he even saw it at all.”
The Ducks have been hit by a series of injuries in the preseason, starting with Trevor Zegras (upper body) in his first preseason game on Sept. 28, followed by defenseman Urho Vaakanainen’s brief hospitalization two nights later after going hard into the end boards at Honda Center.
Zegras returned to action Saturday, played 16 minutes 30 seconds, had one assist, and, importantly, appeared to get through unscathed.
“It’s nice just to get confidence in the shoulder region back,” he said. “Took a couple of bumps and it felt good, so I was pretty happy with how it went.”
Said Eakins: “It was OK. That’s what we’ve got to remember. It was literally his first (full) game. I was just glad he made it through it. Had the puck a little bit. That’s just a step in the right direction that he made it through the game.”
The Kings were also sparked by the return of a key player up front. Viktor Arvidsson played his first game since April 27 at Seattle. The Swedish forward missed the playoffs with back issues and underwent surgery in May to repair a herniated disk.
Arvidsson said he felt a little excited and nervous to get back in action. He seemed to pick up from where he left off in terms of chemistry with linemates Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore.
“It was awesome to be back on the bench,” said Arvidsson, who had two assists. “It was good to be with my teammates and around my teammates for the last week and being able to practice with them.
“It doesn’t matter who I play with – but obviously, us three as a line have been really good with each other. We talk a lot, off the ice and in practice and during the game.”
Said Kings Coach Todd McLellan: “(Arvidsson) means a lot to our team. He completes the identity of that Danault and Moore line. I thought of all the players we had coming back who had some sort of injury he probably had the most energy and polish. Perhaps that’s because we’re playing a full lineup too.
“But he had a good night. He told me on the bench he felt good, so we tried to run him a little bit more down the stretch in the game. A couple of good practices coming up and hopefully, he’s ready to play in the real matches.”
This was the final dress rehearsal for both teams and McLellan pointed out that it felt more like a “regular-season game.” Games earlier in preseason are often disjointed, with rookies trying to make an impression and veterans only ramping up the pace closer to the end.
“L.A. is going to be a very, very good team in our division,” Eakins said. “They won the majority of the puck battles and came out on top. That’s one area that we’re going to keep keying on, nonstop, and it’s a big part of our development as a group. We’ve got to check better and check harder, to a man. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re tabbed as that we need offense from you. We’re going to have no offense if we don’t have the puck.”
Ducks’ Trevor Zegras scheduled to play against Kings in Saturday’s preseason finale
Frank Vatrano gives Ducks more flexibility up front
Ducks, Kings facing tough decisions in final stretch of preseason
Ducks defenseman Beaulieu gambles on himself … and wins
Injured Kings, Ducks taking steps in the right direction
McLellan gave Vilardi an emphatic endorsement after the final preseason game. Even though Vilardi has played in 89 NHL regular-season games, this particular training camp has felt like a turning point for him. Even beyond what he’s been able to do on the scoresheet – four goals in six games.
“I think that Gabe has made the decision for us easy – he’s had that good a camp,” McLellan said. “It’s not difficult to have Gabe around. He’s played very well. He’s done a lot of real good things. Again, I go back to that three levels of player – the upper ones we don’t have to worry about, the bottom ones are probably gone already. Gabe would be in that upper category for me.”