|Ducks on a roll heading into visit to Vegas|
The Anaheim Ducks, 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.
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."