First there was abdominal surgery to repair an injury associated with an appendectomy. Then there was the resolution of a contract situation, which was followed by the need for a visa in order to skate with the Anaheim Ducks. And once that was taken care of, he needed to get up to game speed.
But after nine games on the sideline to start the 2016-17 campaign, it appears Rickard Rakell, 23, is set to make his season debut.
Rakell, who signed his new six-year deal on Oct. 14, has been skating with the Ducks for the past week in preparation for his return to the lineup, and the belief is he’ll be taking a regular shift come Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.
"I think I'm ready to go," Rakell said Monday, per AnaheimDucks.com’s Kyle Shohara. "I've been skating hard with the coaches, so I feel conditioned. It's more about timing because I haven't played games in a while."
It’s been a much-anticipated return to the lineup for Rakell, as far as the Ducks are concerned, because of the versatility that he adds to their lineup. A natural center, Rakell spent much of the past season playing on a line alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and it helped Rakell produce 20 goals and 43 points, the best offensive totals of his career.
During Anaheim’s practice, though, it was another combination that seemed to catch the fancy of coach Randy Carlyle as he skated Rakell alongside Antoine Vermette and Chris Wagner. That said, Carlyle wasn’t ruling out a return of the Ducks’ top unit from 2015-16 of Rakell, Perry and Getzlaf.
"I have no qualms about putting Rakell with Perry because they played together last year," Carlyle said, according to Shohara, but the Ducks’ coach did add that he wants to maintain consistency in the lines that have been used to far. In that sense, the trio of Rakell, Vermette and Wagner, all three of whom can play down the middle, might be something Carlyle pursues.
“There is an option of putting Rakell at center or the wing,” Carlyle said. “He gives us some versatility. Vermette can play left wing, center or the right side. With both of those players, it's a dimension we're looking forward to having.”
No matter where Rakell fits in the lineup, though, he should be able to add a much-needed offensive boost. Only five teams have produced fewer goals per game than the Ducks, and adding another 20-goal man to the arsenal could help Anaheim start looking more like the Pacific Division contender they were pegged to be.
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