Ducks' injuries give Derek Grant an opportunity to get in center of the action

Author: Mike Coppinger, latimes.com
Date: Nov 15, 2017

With great loss comes great opportunity, if someone is there to capitalize.

And luckily for the Ducks, a few players have stepped up, but perhaps none more so than Derek Grant.

With top centers Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler sidelined, the longtime minor leaguer has unexpectedly found himself playing major minutes.

It has been a struggle for Grant, a Michigan State product, to stay in an NHL lineup for an extended period of time. But there he was playing pivot on the top-scoring line.

The Canadian signed a one-year, $650,000 contract to join the Ducks this summer, hardly a deal designed for a top-line center. But Grant earned the spot, at least in the interim, with his responsible defensive play, as well as his offensive output (three goals, nine points in 17 games).

Two of the team's best scoring chances in Sunday’s defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning materialized on the end of Grant’s stick. First, there was a breakaway, and then a two-on-one dish from Corey Perry.

He finished neither of those plays, but to be in this position seemed like a pipedream just a few months ago.

“Obviously when you’re 27 years old and still unable to fully crack a lineup, those [doubts] always come into your head a little bit,” Grant said following Tuesday’s practice.

“But there’s opportunities everywhere; there’s injuries everywhere and coming here, there were a couple holes at center, especially to start the year … and I was able to come in and show what I can do.”

The 6-foot-3 center was drafted in the fourth round by the Ottawa Senators in 2008. Since then, he’s bounced around the NHL, with stops in Calgary, Buffalo and Nashville over the last two seasons (61 games between the three teams).

Now, he’s skating between Rickard Rakell (who led the Ducks with 33 goals last season) and Perry, a two-time All-Star.

Once Getzlaf and Kesler are back in the fold, Grant surely will be relegated to a less important role, but in Ducks coach Randy Carlyle’s mind that will only strengthen the squad — a silver lining amid a season clouded by injuries.

“At the American [Hockey] League level I was able to produce offensively,” Grant said, “but obviously I wanted to bring that to the NHL and so far things have been pretty good.”

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