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Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler finds comfort zone after lineup changes

ANAHEIM — Cam Fowler spent the better part of his nine seasons in the NHL playing his natural spot as a left-handed shooting defenseman. But when the Ducks traded Brandon Montour and Michael Del Zotto at the trade deadline Feb. 25, changes were in order for their revamped defense corps.
General Manager Bob Murray acquired Brendan Guhle and then recalled Jacob Larsson from the San Diego Gulls of the AHL, two left-handed shots. Murray didn’t wish to break up his top pair of Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson after reuniting them following the firing Randy Carlyle as coach Feb. 10.
So, Murray and assistant coach Marty Wilford asked Fowler to shift to the right defense spot in order to allow the less experienced Guhle to man his more comfortable spot on the left. Fowler stayed put when Guhle suffered an injury and Larsson replaced him in the Ducks’ lineup.
So far, the transition has been seamless for Fowler.
“Talk about a total buy-in,” Wilford said. “He’s played the left side his whole time here, but he’s adjusted well to the right. His words were, ‘I’ll do what’s best for the team.’ It looks like he’s creating more offense. He’s done a good job of adjusting to that, too.”
Compared with all that’s happened this season, swapping sides of the ice would seem to be as simple as a leisurely skate with friends on a frozen pond. But nothing has been that simple this season for Fowler or any of his Ducks teammates.
For starters, Fowler suffered broken orbital, cheek and jaw bones when he was struck by a puck during the Ducks’ victory Nov. 12 over the Nashville Predators at Honda Center. He underwent surgery to mend the fractures and was sidelined for nearly two months.
With four goals and 16 points in 46 games before the Ducks played host to the Kings on Sunday, Fowler was on pace for career lows in each category. His plus/minus defensive rating of minus 13 was his worst since he finished with a career-worst minus 28 in 2011-12, his second NHL season.
It also was the last season in which the Ducks missed the playoffs.
A late-season turnaround, following a coaching change, hasn’t been sufficient to allow the Ducks to rejoin the playoff race. But it has rallied the Ducks emotionally heading into the final weeks of the season. Going into Sunday’s game, the Ducks had won six of 13 games.
Smiles have replaced frowns at last.
“It has been fun,” Fowler said. “When you’re winning hockey games, things are always going to be a lot better than when you’re losing. We’ve done too much losing in the first half of the season. Unfortunately, we’ve put ourselves in quite the spot.
“All we can focus on is the present. At this point, we’re playing well and we’re playing against teams who are fighting for playoff positions and who are fighting for points. We’re displaying the same sort of urgency they’re displaying and that’s all you can ask for.”
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Youthful enthusiasm could account for some of the Ducks’ improved play, after they lost 19 of 21 and tumbled out of the playoff contention and prompted Murray to fire Carlyle and assume the coaching duties himself. Rookies Max Jones and Troy Terry have assumed key roles recently.
“It’s been huge,” Fowler said, in particular, of the play of Jones and Terry since they were recalled from San Diego last month. “Those guys have stepped in and played some big roles for us recently and brought a lot of energy to our team, which has helped out a lot.”

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