Coach Randy Carlyle put Beleskey on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, giving the hard-nosed forward a chance to go into the corners for the stars and convert their offensive overflow. Beleskey scored a career-high 11 goals in 60 games that season.
But Beleskey's career path dipped because of injuries, then a coaching change and a horrific start to the 2011-12 season that resulted in the team missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Like his teammates, Beleskey was focused on a different season for 2012-13.
"I've kind of had a setback the last couple of years, just points-wise," Beleskey said. "I've always wanted to be a goal-scorer and a guy that can contribute offensively. Maybe not a goal-scorer, but a good power forward. You set your goals high and try to reach them."
Beleskey finally seems to be fulfilling that potential from three seasons ago. He scored in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, which resumes Wednesday at Honda Center (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS), with the Ducks and Detroit Red Wings even at 2-2.
Beleskey has been used liberally by Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who has played him on almost every line this season and on the power play. His eight goals in the regular season were his most since that 2009-10 campaign. Beleskey scored his first NHL power-play goal April 7, against the Los Angeles Kings.
"With Matt, in my mind, he's gotten better and better," Boudreau said. "He's a perfect prototype forward in today's NHL game. He plays the fourth line really well, but you can move him up. He can skate. He hits. He can fight if you want him to."
Prior to this season Beleskey last saw significant time on the power play in the American Hockey League. It's not lost on him that Boudreau has confidence to use him there at a higher level.
"If I can play on the power play and he can rest some of our top guys that play a more regular shift or maybe a little more minutes than me, it takes some pressure off them," Beleskey said. "I'm just trying to get in front of the net and cause some havoc."
He was a big scorer in junior hockey -- he had 90 points in 62 games in his final season with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League -- and has morphed into a more versatile forward. He led Anaheim with 103 hits and isn't shy about dropping the gloves, a notable asset because the Ducks no longer have George Parros or Sheldon Brookbank.
Built low to the ground at 6-feet, 206 pounds, Beleskey can shoulder his way in the corners and in front of the net. His all-round game earned him time with Getzlaf and Perry again this season, and lately with Nick Bonino and Teemu Selanne.
"He's getting rewarded for what he's doing right now," said Perry, whose brother, A.J., played with Beleskey with Belleville. "When you play with him you know he's going to get in on the forecheck and get that puck to you. You've just got to be ready for it."
Boudreau didn't come to Anaheim until early last season, but he's noticed a difference in Beleskey, who has played for four AHL teams (Anaheim did not have an affiliate for one season) and in England during the lockout.
"I think the big thing is the maturity in his game has really grown," Boudreau said. "He doesn't have the peaks and valleys that he's had in the past. He'll have bad games, but it's not like an extended period of time. He'll have more good games than bad."
Beleskey is nowhere near as sexy a name as Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan or Selanne. Even among the Ducks' younger players, the attention tends to shift to Bonino, Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem. But Beleskey looks more and more like one of those unsung players who helps a team make a deep postseason run.
First line, fourth line -- it doesn't matter to Beleskey.
"I think that's one thing that Bruce has stressed with me this year," he said, "that I'm going to be a guy that plays on every line. Sometimes he's going to put me somewhere to get the forecheck going, or bring a physical presence. I don't take it personally. If I see an opportunity, I just try to seize it."
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