If there is a silver lining to the Ducks’ myriad of injury issues, it is that Chris Wagner and Derek Grant are getting increased roles and instilling belief that they can handle them until the ailing return.
The two have been accustomed to playing fourth-line grinding roles throughout their careers, but have been elevated to the top two center spots because of the long-term absences of Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler.
In Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay, Wagner had an assist on the Ducks’ only goal, and it gave him eight points in 17 games. Before this season, the forward had only nine points in his previous 69 contests over three seasons.
Grant has taken advantage of the opportunities presented in Anaheim after failing to stick in other locales. He has his first three NHL goals this season, and his nine points are more than he totaled over four other seasons shuttling between the NHL and the minors.
“This is an opportunity for those two guys,” Carlyle said. “There was going to be positions available for people to jump and grab, and those players have stepped up. Both players have climbed the depth chart ladder in doing so.”
Being the top two centers isn’t going to last forever. Carlyle threw in the realism that once Getzlaf and Kesler return, Grant and Wagner will move back down in the lineup. But what the Ducks hope this experience does is make them better players and provide quality depth among their forward corps.
“Yes, they’re playing those minutes, but historically they’ve been more checking-type players,” Carlyle said. “They’re moved up the lineup. They’re playing with more skilled players, so they have the opportunity to create more offense.”
After going the first 10 games without scoring, Jakob Silfverberg has five goals in his last seven contests.
“I just think that he’s getting the puck in the critical areas,” Carlyle said. “If you look at where his goals have been scored, he’s a release guy, he’s a shooter, and he’s got the puck in those areas and shot the puck.”
During his season-opening dry spell, Silfverberg acknowledged that it was tougher than expected making the transition to playing with someone other than Kesler, who has started to do some light skating but still isn’t expected to be ready to play in games before Christmas.
“We’ve probably struggled with trying to find a fit, and right now Wagner seems to be a fit there,” Carlyle ssaid. “And now we’re getting…