With the NHL lockout finally behind us and an extremely short training camp going on this week for every team, we can all get back to the business of hockey and begin to speculate about the state of our teams.
There are certainly some questions to be answered surrounding the Ducks opening night roster and lineup. We aren't likely to see a definitive answer until the end of the week, as there is still the possibility of the Ducks signing a free agent or promoting any of their younger players looking for a roster spot this year.
While the Ducks defensive lineup is fairly solidified, the real variables lie in their second and third lines and how those will look when the puck drops.
If Bruce Boudreau follows through with three scoring lines, he'll likely have Saku Koivu centering the third line. Koivu's 37 years old and his scoring touch isn't nearly as profound as it used to be. At this point he needs to be considered more of a depth forward than a reliable second line guy.
The major question would be whether Teemu Selanne would also be placed on the third line, who has played alongside Koivu ever since Koivu joined the Ducks.
If Boudreau decides to keep Koivu and Selanne in a second line role, it'll likely be up to either Andrew Congliano or Peter Holland to anchor Anaheim's third line.
Four time 30 goal scorer Bobby Ryan would ordinarily be thought as a sure bet to play on the first line. Though in Anaheim, coach Boudreau's tendencies to spread his scoring wealth around has usually resulted in Ryan being shuffled to the second and third lines with a fair amount of regularity.
Adding to the mystery is the fact that Ryan has proved to be a solid center when he's played there, and is more than capable of centering his own line. Should Boudreau decide to pair a youngster with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, look for Ryan to help make the Ducks second line a little more threatening.
Jonas Hiller played a lot of games last season and that's not likely to change this time around. Now well over a year removed from vertigo symptoms that kept him sidelined for several months, Hiller is the undisputed No. 1 goalie in Anaheim.
The question will be who will serve as his backup. The Ducks have intriguing young prospects in Viktor Fasth and John Gibson. Gibson is thought to be the better of the two and a likely candidate to eventually replace Hiller, however Fasth is the older more experienced goaltender.
Throw in Jeff Deslauriers and it's anybody's guess as to which of the three will grab backup duties.
As I've already stated, Ryan being on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry isn't a sure thing. If he doesn't play there, the list of possible replacements is intriguing and consists of mostly Anaheim's younger prospects.
Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem are both expected to have a strong shot at making the opening night roster. If either of them are able to crack the lineup, expect them to grab that left wing spot on the first line, at least for the first few games.
Others who have played there include Devante Smith-Pelly and Matt Beleskey.
The Ducks farm system is rich with talent, particularly in terms of their forwards. Most of the notable names are participating in Anaheim's training camp and will have an opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff.
The fact that Ducks management didn't aggressively pursue offensive options during the draft or free agency this past year shows that they have faith in their young players and intend to promote some of them, especially considering their multiple vacancies at left and right wing.
As I've already stated, Palmieri and Etem are top tier in this regard, though Peter Holland, Nick Bonino and Patrick Maroon all have a better than average chance at getting some significant playing time over the next few months.
Regardless of what happens here, we're finally set to find out for sure. Hockey is back.