Ducks Radio Analyst
TORONTO – There will be no shortage of sub-plots when the Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs hook up Thursday night at the Air Canada Center.
The biggest, of course, will involve former Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who is scheduled to start for the Maple Leafs in what would be his first appearance against Anaheim since being traded to Toronto nearly a year ago.
That deal, of course, was the handiwork of Ducks general manager Bob Murray and his predecessor, Brian Burke, who left Anaheim in 2008 to take a similar position with the Maple Leafs. The take for the Ducks included left wing Jason Blake
, who is set for his initial return engagement in Toronto.
Giguere, who has been plagued by groin injuries this season, spent nearly 10 years with the Ducks, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player while leading the club to Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals and then backstopping Anaheim to a Stanley Cup championship four years later.
“Obviously, we had a long road with Jiggy,” Ducks right wing Teemu Selanne
said. “He did so much for our hockey club for so many years. It’s going to be a little different to play against him. In the game, obviously you try not to think about that too much.
“One thing for sure – there are no secrets either way. He knows where I’m going to shoot, and I know his style, too. It’s going to be interesting.”
The Ducks will also see another key member of their 2007 title team, defenseman Francois Beauchemin
, who left Anaheim to sign a free-agent contract with Toronto in July 2009.
Beauchemin, though, has already played against the Ducks once, during a 6-3 Maple Leafs victory on Oct. 26, 2009 at Honda Center. Giguere has no doubt been thinking about this scenario for more than 11 months, since the day in Tampa, during a Ducks road trip midway through last season, that he agreed to waive a no-trade clause and go to Toronto.
“He meant a lot to, not only our team, but the organization and the city of Anaheim,” Ducks center Todd Marchant said. “The first time you play against somebody, it certainly is special. I’m sure he wants to go out and play well for his team, and is going to do everything he can – same with Beauch.
“By the same token, we know what’s on the line. It’s two points. That’s the most important thing for us right now.”
Though they didn’t play particularly well, especially during the first two periods, the Ducks opened their current four-game road swing Tuesday with a 2-1, shootout victory at Ottawa. A first-period goal from Corey Perry
, the lone shootout conversion from Bobby Ryan
and a sparkling, 39-save effort from goalie Jonas Hiller
were just enough to get the job done.
“Things like that happen,” right wing Joffrey Lupul said. “It all seems to work out in the end. Sometimes you win a game you shouldn’t. Sometimes you lose one that you really felt you should have won.
“That one, you have to almost take like a gift two points, and know in our minds we didn’t do enough. Our goalie stole us two points. You can be happy with the two points, but not the way we played. We know that. We’ll play differently tomorrow.”
Finally, the Ducks must be cognizant of the challenge of playing in hockey-mad Toronto, the same type of situation they will face Saturday night in Montreal.
“Just look at the media coverage,” Coach Randy Carlyle said, surrounded by reporters, after the Ducks’ mid-day skate at the Maple Leafs’ practice facility. “It’s the center of the hockey universe, between Toronto and Montreal. That can be a distraction. I’m sure everybody, between Ottawa and Toronto and Montreal, any Canadian kid is going to have people here.
“Our focus is to play a solid game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. We know they’ve been playing much better. We’ll have to be ready.”
Among the Ducks eager for the opportunity is left wing Matt Beleskey
, who is from Barrie, Ontario and played junior hockey in Belleville.
“Growing up, I used to go to games at Maple Leaf Gardens, and the ACC, too,” Beleskey said. “I started out as a Leafs fan. It’s a pretty big deal to be able to play here in Toronto.
“I kind of told everyone at the beginning of the year to get their own tickets, because I didn’t know how many I could get. I think there might be a couple hundred people. Who knows? It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s not too big of a distraction. It’s more of an exciting time for me.”