The defensive pairings for Wednesday night’s preseason tilt with the Anaheim Ducks have been released, and they are as follows: Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Sami Salo, and Chris Tanev with Andrew Alberts. Needless to say, this group bears a strong resemblance to what we can expect to see on opening night. Hamhuis and Bieksa, last season’s standout pair, are back together, and Alex Edler and Sami Salo, the presumed second unit, are paired as well.
But, bearing the implications in mind, there is one suspicious absence from the six-man unit: Keith Ballard, for whom a fresh start was promised. Is this evidence that the promise was somewhat exaggerated? Tony Gallagher seems to think so.
To be honest, Ballard’s absence does raise a few red flags, especially considering that everything else about this top six looks the way we expect it to come October 6th. Heck, even Alain Vigneault has to be aware of how this appears. One wonders if he’s intentionally trolling the media through his lineup decisions.
That said, it wouldn’t be wise to read too much into the pairings. The decision to sit Ballard is about the three preseason games for which he’s already dressed, not the opening night game for which he might not.
Frankly, I would be more inclined to question things if Alain Vigneault had treated Ballard like the other vets and held him out of action until tonight. A large part of Ballard’s problem last season was that he never quite got his legs under him after being slowed by summer hip surgery. Considering he didn’t play much last June, he can’t be as in need of rest as the rest of the veterans, so why not ensure that, this year, Ballard is at full speed when he gets his chance to play with them?
Keith Ballard’s front-loaded preseason schedule, like Cody Hodgson’s, has been about giving him a genuine opportunity to make the team, not the opposite.Tags: Alain Vigneault, AV hates Ballard, AV hates Hodgson, Ballard, I can't believe this has to be said, Training Camp