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ANAHEIM — Josh Manson hammered the puck into the right-hand corner from his station just inside the blue line on Monday morning at Honda Center. He skated purposefully from one end of the ice to the other. He followed along with his Ducks teammates as they went through a number of drills.
When it came time for special teams work that called for more physical contact with his teammates, Manson took a seat on the bench. Manson, a veteran defenseman, wasn’t ready for that level of competition, although his first full-speed, full-contact practice could come later this week.
It’s been nearly six weeks since Manson sprained his knee during the Ducks’ loss to the Stars on Oct. 24 at Dallas. Barring a setback, he’s likely to return to their lineup sooner than later. Certainly, he’s right in the window of their original layoff estimate of between five and 10 weeks.
Manson’s return to the lineup can’t come soon enough, as far as the Ducks are concerned. They were mired in seventh place in the Pacific Division with an 11-12-4 record going into Monday night’s game against the eighth-place Kings (11-14-2).
“We’re getting there because I saw him skating around out there with us,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said of anticipating Manson’s return to full-time duty. “When you see those steps that means all that stuff, medically, physically, fitness-wise are progressing well.
“So, him popping out there is a good step. Our fingers are crossed, but there are no guarantees.”
The Ducks have practices scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for Friday’s game against the Washington Capitals. The Capitals won a Nov. 18 game marred by a spitting incident that resulted in a three-game NHL-imposed suspension to Garnet Hathaway of Washington.
Manson’s return would give the Ducks a physical element that’s been lacking since he was injured while attempting to throw a check against the Stars’ Jason Dickinson. Manson’s injury was met with relief by the Ducks, who feared he had torn a ligament. It turned out to be just a sprain.
“All you have to do is look at our goals-against with him in the lineup and without,” Eakins said, referring to the Ducks’ 2.18 goals-against average before Manson was sidelined and their 3.63 goals-against average while he’s been out. “I think that tells a story right away.”