Ducks get Fowler back at practice; return date not set
By The Associated Press
Cam Fowler has returned to practice with the Anaheim Ducks, and the All-Star defenseman could be on target for a quick return to the Stanley Cup contenders’ lineup.
Nearly three weeks after injuring his knee, Fowler skated with his teammates Sunday at Honda Center when they returned from a three-day break after sweeping Calgary out of the first round of the postseason.
“Anytime you can join the team back in practice, it definitely beats going on the ice and skating by yourself,” Fowler said. “I’m happy to be progressing in the right direction, so it was a good day.”
Fowler has been out since April 4, when Calgary captain Mark Giordano hurt him with an unpenalized knee-on-knee hit. Fowler missed all four games of the Pacific Division champion Ducks’ series with the Flames, but he has been skating regularly for several days.
“I feel like everything is responding the way it should be, and we’ll just take our necessary steps to make sure we’re not rushing into anything,” Fowler said. “But everything felt good. I didn’t have any tweaks or anything like that.”
Fowler had 11 goals and 28 assists this year, posting his highest-scoring season since he was a rookie in 2010-11. After offseason trade rumors had swirled around him, Fowler responded by firmly establishing himself as an elite NHL defenseman and a cornerstone of the Ducks franchise.
Although Fowler said he feels strong, he will be further evaluated before the Ducks commit to a firm date for his return. Coach Randy Carlyle said Fowler is “a possibility” for Game 1, and he is hopeful to have his entire corps of defensemen available.
Fowler expects to see some contact in practice before he gets back in the lineup, and the Ducks have at least two more days of practice coming up. Anaheim still doesn’t know when its second-round playoff series with Edmonton begins, but Game 1 won’t happen before Wednesday at the earliest.
“Obviously there wasn’t a whole lot of physical contact out there [Sunday], but I expect everything to hold up just the same,” Fowler said. “We still have a few days here before anything happens, so we’re going to take the necessary steps to make sure everything is ready.”
The Ducks did shockingly well while playing largely without two of their three best defensemen in the first round. Puck-moving power play stalwart Sami Vatanen missed three games in the series with an upper-body injury.
Youngsters Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour teamed up with German veteran Korbinian Holzer to plug the gaps in Anaheim’s lineup.
In his second career playoff series, the 21-year-old Theodore had two goals and three assists to match Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell for the team scoring lead. Montour was solid in his first career Stanley Cup experience, picking up an assist.
Fowler is just 25 himself, but the U.S. Olympian is a grizzled seven-year NHL veteran compared with the Ducks’ young duo.
“They did a great job,” Fowler said. “I thought both guys played with extreme confidence and poise for their age. They’re going to be great players for many years, and they showed why in that series for sure.”
Los Angeles promoted associate head coach John Stevens to become their next head coach.
Team spokesman Mike Altieri said the team will introduce Stevens at a news conference Monday.
Stevens replaces Darryl Sutter after serving as an assistant to two Los Angeles head coaches over the past eight seasons, which included the franchise’s only two Stanley Cup championship runs. Los Angeles has won just one playoff game in three years since its title in 2014.
Stevens was the team’s interim head coach for four games early in the 2011-12 season after Terry Murray was fired and before the hiring of Sutter, who became the winningest coach in franchise history and the only coach to lead them to a title.
Los Angeles fired Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi nearly two weeks ago in a remarkable housecleaning after the regular season ended without a playoff berth.
But owner Phil Anschutz’s organization subsequently promoted the two most likely internal candidates to replace them, preferring stability with Stevens and longtime assistant general manager Rob Blake over an extensive franchise overhaul.
“We believe John has the ideal qualities to lead our hockey club,” Blake said in a news release.
“His wide array of coaching experience, including success as an NHL head coach and his inherent knowledge of our players and those in our development system, is very appealing to us. We are confident he is the best person to lead our hockey club forward.”