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    Ducks head to Boston looking to avenge Sunday’s loss
    • October 25, 2023

    After a blackout gave way to the Ducks lighting up the scoreboard in Columbus on Tuesday, they were on to Boston for a rematch with the Bruins on Thursday.

    Boston won, 3-1, on Sunday in a game that the Ducks carried in many ways, sending them on a four-game trip with a sour taste in their mouths. That gave way to the succulent flavor of Frank Vatrano’s overtime tally against the Blue Jackets, which capped a third-period rally that spilled into the bonus frame of Tuesday’s 3-2 victory, the Ducks’ first on the road in three attempts.

    Little was said after the match given various circumstances –– the widespread Columbus power outage delayed Tuesday’s start time, the Ducks had to travel eastward afterward and there was limited visiting media on hand –– and not a word was uttered about the benching of star forward Trevor Zegras.

    Zegras had just one point in six games but his expected goals numbers had been strong up until Tuesday. Zegras didn’t take any of the whopping seven penalties for the Ducks Tuesday (they killed six of them), however questionable puck management appeared to be an issue both Tuesday and Sunday for Zegras, though Coach Greg Cronin had not yet elaborated on his rationale.

    In what has been confirmed as a coach’s decision, Zegras did not skate a single shift in the third period, even as the Ducks were chasing a tying goal.

    They ultimately got that goal from their fourth line when Ross Johnston assisted on Brett Leason’s equalizer. Zegras did not play in overtime either, when Vatrano received a beautiful pass from center Benoit-Olivier Groulx before quickly transitioning from backhand to forehand and rifling in the winner.

    “Whoever it was, great pass, and I was fortunate enough to put it in the net,” said Vatrano, who was unsure if the dish had come from Groulx or Cam Fowler.

    Vatrano leads the team in goals with five and he, like Cronin, grew up in Massachusetts as a Bruins fan. Unlike Cronin, whose playing career ended after college, Vatrano wore the Bruins sweater, debuting with the club and playing parts of three seasons in black and gold. That’s one of many connections the Ducks have to New England, where General Manager Pat Verbeek also played for the Hartford Whalers. They’ll also have at least one tie to their following opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers, as they recalled former Philly defenseman Robert Hagg from the minors on Wednesday.

    While the Ducks are celebrating their 30th anniversary, this is the centennial season for the Bruins, who partied hard in year No. 99’s regular season by racking up an all-time record number of points and victories. Their lore meant something to Cronin, who spoke with the Boston Globe ahead of last week’s game. He even broke into song momentarily with the melody of the theme from the Bruins’ old UHF broadcasts. He also spoke briefly of the “rich memories” he had of the old Boston Garden, where Bobby Orr triumphed on the ice and Bill Russell ruled the hardwood.

    “I remember standing in the back row of the balcony, you know, with the iron rails, and looking down the steep stairs,” recalled Cronin to the Globe of his first Bruins game. “I remember thinking, ‘Man, if I fall, the first thing my face will hit is the ice!’”

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    From Cronin, a first-time NHL head coach, attending his first game to rookies receiving their initial tastes of NHL action, both teams will feature notable neophytes Thursday. Leo Carlsson, who did not play against Boston or Columbus as part of a measured plan for his first NHL campaign, will likely play Thursday. The plan is not totally unlike what the Tampa Bay Lightning did with Steven Stamkos back in 2008-9, when he began the year on a minutes restriction and averaged fewer than 15 minutes of time on ice for the season. Stamkos, who won two Stanley Cups and four Eastern Conference crowns with Tampa alongside Ducks winger Alex Killorn, turned out just fine.

    One rookie the Ducks have had no reservations about deploying has been Pavel Mintyukov. He has played 23 or more shifts in each of his five games, three of which have seen him record a point, and trails only Fowler in minutes played this season for the Ducks.

    For Boston, center Matt Poitras has softened the blow of losing their top two pivots from last season. He has muscled his way onto the roster permanently and has seen his role expand rapidly. He touched up the Ducks for two goals in about seven minutes of the third period Sunday, his first two NHL tallies. Then, he piled on another goal in Boston’s 3-0 shutout of Calder Trophy favorite Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday.


    When: Thursday, 4 p.m. PT

    Where: TD Garden, Boston

    TV: Bally Sports SoCal

    ​ Orange County Register