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The Anaheim Ducks Mikko
Rantanen Jersey
, one of the hottest teams at the start of the NHL
season, had another promising development heading into Saturday’s game at the
Vegas Golden Knights with the resolution of a contract dispute with young left
wing standout Nick Ritchie.The signing of Ritchie to a three-year, $4.6 million
deal comes at an opportune time when Anaheim (5-1-1) has suffered a series of
injuries.Forwards Ryan Getzlaf (groin), Ondrej Kase (concussion), Carter Rowney
(upper body) and Jakob Silfverberg (finger) were unable to play in the Ducks’
4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday at Honda Center.Article
continues below ...Ritchie, who started practicing with the Ducks on Thursday,
will likely not play Saturday against Vegas or Sunday when Anaheim hosts the
Buffalo Sabres. The 22-year-old Ritchie is in the process of completing his
immigration paperwork before he can play, and he is rusty from sitting out all
of training camp and the first seven games of the season during the holdout.“My
view on Ritchie is he’s got a ways to go, that’s for sure,” Anaheim coach Randy
Carlyle told the Orange County Register. “He’s got some catching up to do. He
looks very fit.”Vegas (3-4-0) and Anaheim enter Saturday’s game coming off
impressive wins.Jonathan Marchessault scored two goals and Marc-Andre Fleury
made 26 saves for his 407th NHL victory in the Golden Knights’ 4-1 win over the
Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.Fleury tied Glenn Hall
for 10th place on the career wins list, and is 16 from tying Tony Esposito for
ninth place (423).William Karlsson scored his first goal of the season and had
two assists, and Cody Eakin scored for the Golden Knights, who won consecutive
games for the first time this season.Vegas, playing its second game of a
five-game homestand, has allowed one goal in its past two games after giving up
19 in the first five.“We played a lot better defensively,” Golden Knights coach
Gerard Gallant said. “I thought the guys competed defensively. Everyone was
important for our team tonight.”Fleury said he saw flashbacks to Vegas’
defensive performance last year, which helped the new franchise to break
expansion-team records and make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. “Our speed and
transition game, and the way our guys played defensively in our zone ,
preventing those passes in the crease or the backdoor (passes), and I think
we’ve been better in the last few games with that,” Fleury said.Ryan Kesler
scored twice to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead heading into the third period against
the visiting New York Islanders, his first multi-goal game since a hat trick on
Jan. 1, 2017, against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Ducks won 4-1 to start 2-0-1
at the Honda Center this season. They are 3-1-0 on the road.Kesler sat out the
first three games of the season while completing a lengthy offseason
rehabilitation process after major hip surgery in the summer of 2017. The injury
limited him to 44 games last season. His goals against the Islanders gave him
three goals and four points to start this season. “I’ve got a little to improve
on and it’s a long year, but it’s a good start,” Kesler said. Goaltender John
Gibson stopped 34 of 35 shots against the Islanders. He was 35 seconds from his
second shutout of the season when New York’s Casey Cizikas scored. The Ducks are
off to their best start since opening the 2014-15 season 6-1-0 en route to an
appearance in the Western Conference finals. Carlyle joked that reason for the
hot start is “just purely coaching, 100 percent,” but he knows his players have
made things click by coming together to overcome the rash of early-season
injuries.“It’s obviously the players,” he said. “We have some young guys who
have provided energy. We have some veteran people. We’ve been able to formulate
a group that’s still a work in progress. We know there’s lots of work ahead of
us.” Lou Lamoriello moved quickly to shake up the New York Islanders by firing
coach Doug Weight and general manager Garth Snow and naming himself the team’s
new GM just two weeks after taking over as president of hockey
operations.Lamoriello made the moves Tuesday that begin to reshape the
organization in his image, two weeks to the day ownership said he’d have ”full
authority over all hockey matters.” Lamoriello left the Toronto Maple Leafs to
run the Islanders and will begin the search for a new coach immediately.”It’s my
opinion that at this point there’s a culture change that’s needed and there’s
new voices needed in different areas and because of that, the changes (were)
made,” Lamoriello said on a conference call with reporters. ”There’s been a lot
of changes for different reasons, and right now is just trying to stabilize
anything, start off with a fresh face, start off with a fresh mind, a fresh
coach and just go forward.”The end of Snow’s tenure seemed inevitable after
owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin brought in Lamoriello to oversee the hockey
operations department. Snow was previous owner Charles Wang’s hire.The Islanders
missed the playoffs eight times in Snow’s 12 years as general manager Patrick
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, including the past two seasons. He has four years left
on the contract he signed when Wang still owned the team.”Both Garth, who is a
personal friend and one who I’ve known for a long time and also Dougie who
played for me in `96 and `98, I have tremendous respect for,” Lamoriello
said.This latest front-office development comes with the Islanders at a
crossroads this summer. The face of the franchise, John Tavares, can become a
free agent July 1. The team took one step toward making Tavares feel comfortable
about re-signing by planning a permanent home at Belmont Park after spending the
last three seasons playing at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but the direction of
the organization still threatens to push the superstar center to
leave.Lamoriello said Tavares’ situation ”certainly has not and did not enter
into any of the decisions that are made.”Tavares, who would be the top free
agent on the market, had a good relationship with Weight, who was his teammate
for two seasons and assistant coach and GM from 2011 until he replaced Jack
Capuano as head coach in January 2017. Weight just finished his first full
season as Islanders coach.The Islanders now have the only coaching vacancy in
the NHL. Asked what kind of coach he’d like to hire, Lamoriello essentially only
alluded to the fact that Weight was not the guy he wants behind the bench.”Not
every coach is for every team and not every team is for every coach,” Lamoriello
said. ”If we had that coach, he would be in place.”In a statement, Lamoriello
thanked Snow and Weight and the team said they would remain with the
organization. Specific roles and responsibilities for them have yet to be
determined, though Lamoriello said, ”I feel they can be valuable in me picking
their brain, asking their opinion in certain areas.”—Follow AP Hockey Writer
Stephen Whyno at
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