Ducks counting on young forwards at Nashville

Field Level Media

As the Anaheim Ducks prepare for a four-game road trip beginning Tuesday night at the Nashville Predators, they'll continue to rely on a combination of youth and experience at the forward positions.

Max Comtois, Sam Steel and Troy Terry -- none older than 22 -- are playing major roles for the Ducks, despite combining to play just 66 NHL games before this season.

They've mixed in well with veterans Ryan Getzlaf, Adam Henrique, Jakob Silfverberg and Derek Grant, as well as a highly skilled group of forwards in their mid-20s, namely Rickard Rakell, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie.

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Together, the group has helped Anaheim surge to a 6-3-0 start.

"These guys are battle tested. They are ready," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said of the young forwards. "They are a big part of our team and they will continue to be a big part of our team."

The Predators are still relying on a core group of veterans to keep them at the top of the standings.

They recently had to reshuffle their lineup after Filip Forsberg sustained a lower-body injury in a 5-2 win at the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 15. He has missed the past two games, both Nashville losses.

Forsberg, who produced five goals and three assists in the first six games, did not practice on Monday.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette moved Kyle Turris from the fourth line to Forsberg's spot on the top line for Saturday's game against the visiting Florida Panthers. Turris scored a late tying goal, but Nashville lost 3-2 in a shootout.

Turris, 30, was happy to contribute after seeing his offensive numbers decline last season, when he was held to seven goals and 16 assists in 55 games with the Predators. He already has three goals and three assists in eight games this season, helping repair his confidence and put him in the correct mindset.

"Just focus on making plays," Turris told reporters after the loss to Florida. "Not overthinking things. Not second-guessing any decision you have to make in a fraction of a second. That's when things tend to go wrong."

Ducks coach Dallas Eakins is careful to not put limitations on his young players either.

Steel turned the puck over coming through the neutral zone against the Calgary Flames, which led to the go-ahead goal with just over 11 minutes remaining in Sunday's 2-1 loss. Eakins said afterward that he was fine with the effort and decision.

"We're encouraging our guys to make plays," he said. "We're encouraging our guys to get up in the play. That's where we'll have to find a balance."

On the defensive end, the Ducks continue to be one of the most difficult teams to score against. They've given up more than two goals just once in nine games this season, and their 1.78 goals-against average is the best in the NHL.

John Gibson has been stellar in goal for the Ducks. He made several more acrobatic saves against the Flames on Sunday.

"It's to the point, why would we expect any less?" Eakins said of Gibson's play. "That is a regular occurrence for him. That is the expectation that he has on himself, and it's always great when a young man like that has those expectations."

Nashville has been difficult on Gibson, however.

He's 4-4-0 against the Predators in his career with a 9.05 save percentage and 2.88 goals-against average.

--Field Level Media

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