|Scott Niedermayer – one of four Ducks to participate in the All-Star Game – found the back of the net, as he cut the Eastern Conference’s lead to 5-3 with a goal at 15:08 of the second period.|
The 34-year-old defenseman has only appeared in 19 games this season, as he was undecided for several months as to whether he’d ever play another game after helping the Anaheim Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007. But the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner ultimately decided in December that he would return to the Ducks.
A little more than a month later, he was in Atlanta with many of the game’s best – and he certainly didn’t look out of place.
Niedermayer – one of four Ducks to participate in the contest -- even found the back of the net, as he cut the Eastern Conference’s lead to 5-3 with a goal at 15:08 of the second period. The four-time Stanley Cup winner jumped into the play as he gained control of a loose puck in the slot and wristed it past Tomas Vokoun.
“It was fun to play,” said Niedermayer, who has 11 points since his return. “It’s nice that both teams turned it up at the end and wanted to win. It was fun to be a part of this.”
Chris Pronger couldn’t help but joke about Niedermayer’s tally, which was the second of four unanswered goals by the Western Conference. But an early 5-1 deficit was just too much to overcome, as the East came out on top, 8-7.
“Nice to see the old man contribute,” the fellow Ducks defenseman said. “It just shows the type of player he is. Everybody thinks he’s so old. He’s in good shape. He’s 34, he’s young. He just looks old.”
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It also shows Niedermayer’s enthusiasm for All-Star weekend, even if nobody – including Niedermayer himself – expected him to be in Atlanta.
“This is my fourth time; it’s not like I’ve been here 12 times,” Niedermayer said. “It’s exciting and it’s a nice change of pace in the middle of the year. I was surprised to get picked playing only 19 games, but the fact I have been around a while helped me out.”
The All-Star Game provided an opportunity for everyone on both sides to play in a relaxed atmosphere – a far cry from the rigors of the NHL’s regular season. Only seven points separate first and fourth place in the Pacific Division, which Niedermayer and the Ducks are attempting to claim for the second straight season.
Anaheim returns to the ice on Wednesday night in Minnesota in the second contest of a brutal nine-game road trip, easily the team’s longest of the season.
“It was just fun to be out there with all these guys, playing that kind of hockey,” said Niedermayer, who appeared in his fourth All-Star Game. “It’s obviously a lot different. It’s tight for most teams, and a lot of hard work has to be done. Back to the grindstone.”
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