Bobby Ryan, one of the NHL's prototypical power forwards, eclipsed the 30-goal mark in each of his first four full seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, who selected him with the second pick in the 2005 NHL Draft.
It would have required a herculean effort for Ryan, 26, to get there again with the 2012-13 regular season limited to 48 games, but the right wing and frequent linemate of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry slumped to the point where his output wouldn't even project to 20 goals during an 82-game schedule.
With the Ducks set to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a one-year absence, finding a way to rev Ryan's engines to previous levels would go a long way in helping the franchise win its second championship in seven seasons.
"It's been tough," Ryan told the Orange County Register after breaking through for a goal and an assist in an April 1 win against the Dallas Stars. "I think I'm maybe sometimes too hard on myself about it and I get down. One of the good things is Bruce [Boudreau, coach] has been great about it. He kind of helped me get back to those basics.
"And I think I've been upbeat the last four of five games because the chances have been there."
It isn't as if his season has been a total bust -- Ryan finished third on the team in scoring, behind Getzlaf and Perry -- and the Ducks managed to win the Pacific Division and claim the second seed in the Western Conference without getting the level of contributions they probably expected from Ryan.
A member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic team, Ryan set career highs with 34 goals, 37 assists and 71 points in the 2010-11 season. He scored 31 goals last season, but dropped to 57 points. During the offseason, rumors were rampant the Ducks would trade Ryan, a southern New Jersey native, with his hometown Philadelphia Flyers among the popular landing spots. Those rumors died down and when opening night arrived he was wearing his familiar No. 9 Ducks jersey.
Ryan has bounced around the lineup this season, at times centering the Ducks' No. 2 line as Boudreau has sought more balanced scoring. But when he's at his best, the chemistry he displays with Getzlaf and Perry gives Anaheim a trio of game-breakers to rival any team in the League.
"It's always fun," Ryan told the Register earlier in the season, after moving back to the top line. "You know you're going to get a lot of chances. With those two guys you know you're going to cycle more and that's what I prefer as well."
The Ducks just want to see Ryan put some pucks in the net -- a timely goal from him just might be the difference between an extended postseason run and an early exit.
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