LOS ANGELES — The Ducks couldn’t have been more emphatic if they’d used a skywriter.
They did not care where they finished in the Western Conference dogpile this season. Not as long as they were among the Hateful Eight that reached the playoffs.
Well, they didn’t say it in the season-ticket renewal brochure, but they told everyone else.
No doubt the home-ice advantage has done Anaheim little good over the years. And the Ducks have said such things before. But how do you calibrate the banshee effort required to make the playoffs and the nagging feeling that it just doesn’t matter?
You can’t. Hockey won’t let you. The Ducks, thanks to a black plague of injuries, came into Staples Center Saturday night three points out of the third spot in the Pacific Division and also three points out of the second Wild Card. Twelve West teams are merging into a six-lane playoff grid. There will be collisions.
So the Ducks traded Sami Vatanen to New Jersey for center Adam Henrique on Nov. 30. Those who scratched their heads at the time, wondering how General Manager Bob Murray got such an essential player for such a limited defenseman, are drawing blood by now.
Henrique may have just nine points in 18 Ducks’ games, but he has been able to move up and down the lines and give the Ducks flexibility down the middle. Now healthy, the Ducks can now play Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Henrique and Antoine Vermette at center, and they still can move Rickard Rakell and Chris Wagner there if needed.
Every edge is necessary because Anaheim has only 17 points in Regulation/Overtime Wins (ROW), lowest of any Western contender. That’s a tiebreaker. A poor 2-5 shootout record has not helped.
Henrique has a history of adjusting to talent. In 2009 and 2010, he was often the first-line center on a Windsor Spitfires juggernaut that won 102 games and both Memorial Cups. The left winger on that line was Taylor Hall, who became a first overall pick in the NHL draft and is now with New…