Ducks’ line combinations come into focus as the team regains its health

ANAHEIM — After all the injuries, after all the changes to their lineup, the Ducks almost looked like themselves in Wednesday’s game against the Calgary Flames. Coach Randy Carlyle shuffled his line combinations so often in 2018-19 that he must have felt like a Las Vegas blackjack dealer.

Carlyle mixed and matched players for the better part of the season’s first dozen games or more, without settling on consistent combinations. As the Ducks have regained their health and improved their play, he’s moved closer to establishing his lines as he intended in the offseason.

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Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase could be back in the lineup sooner rather than later, which could mean the Ducks will be at something close to full strength. Ritchie has played only two games because of a contract dispute and an upper-body injury. Kase hasn’t played at all because of a concussion.

If all goes well and neither player suffers a setback, the Ducks could finally have set line combinations by Thanksgiving. Carlyle could finally have the team he envisioned back in the summer, when he and his coaching staff made plans for 2018-19.

Rickard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Eaves formed the Ducks’ top line for their 3-2 victory Wednesday over the Flames, after Carlyle reunited them midway through a 4-1 loss Tuesday to the Kings. Rakell and Getzlaf teamed up for the go-ahead goal against Calgary.

The line was dangerous on every shift Wednesday.

“We’ve tried to mesh ‘Getzy’s’ puck-distributing ability and ‘Ricky’ is kind of more of a sniper and ‘Patty’ Eaves is kind of the Swiss Army knife,” Carlyle said. “So those are the three things we looked at from the individuals. Hopefully, they can mesh together and provide some offense.”

Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg formed the second line, the so-called Shutdown Line. They helped to hold the high-scoring Flames to only two goals, blanking them in 5-on-5 play. The Flames went into the game with 52 goals in 15 games.

Silfverberg scored the Ducks’ first goal, his team-leading fifth, with Cogliano assisting.

Isac Lundestrom, Adam Henrique and Pontus Aberg made up the third line. Lundestrom, a rookie, and Aberg are likely to drop to the fourth line once Ritchie and Kase are cleared to play. Ritchie, Henrique and Kase played together last season after Henrique was acquired last Nov. 30.

Henrique scored the Ducks’ second goal Wednesday.

Carlyle then could piece together a fourth line from a group that includes Lundestrom, Aberg, Sam Carrick, Brian Gibbons, Kiefer Sherwood and Ben Street. Max Comtois (lower body) and Carter Rowney (upper body) also could fill spots on the fourth line when they’re fit to play again.

Lundestrom, Sherwood and Comtois are rookies.

INJURY UPDATES

Ritchie and Kase skated with their teammates Thursday at Honda Center, as they had earlier in the week, but there’s no timetable for their returns to the lineup. At least, there was no target date set for them that the Ducks would be willing to share.

Ritchie was injured during the Ducks’ loss Oct. 25 to the Dallas Stars, his second game of the season after he sat out the first nine because of a contract squabble. Kase was hurt during the Ducks’ exhibition finale Sept. 29 against the Kings.

MILESTONES REACHED

Silfverberg’s goal Wednesday was his 200th point in 383 games with the Ducks. … The Ducks’ victory over the Flames gave Carlyle his 461st coaching victory, moving him past Roger Neilson and into 30th place on the NHL’s all-time list of wins.

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