|Pahlsson missed 21 games and Sunday made his first return to action since Dec. 22.
By Matt Vevoda
After his inflamed abdomen kept him out of the Ducks lineup for 21 games, center Samuel Pahlsson returned Sunday against Detroit, albeit in an unfamiliar role.
A defensive stalwart throughout his seven-year career, the 2006-07 Selke Trophy finalist got a chance to flex his scoring chops beside Teemu Selanne and Todd Bertuzzi as the center on the second line in place of the injured Doug Weight against the Red Wings. With Weight’s strained left shoulder landing him on injured reserve on Tuesday, Pahlsson should get the chance to spend more time in an offensive capacity than he’s ever enjoyed.
“Sammy Pahlsson hasn’t played in an offensive role, I don’t think, in his career — in the NHL anyway,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We’re going to look to him to step up.”
“I got to try something new,” said Pahlsson, who hadn’t played since Dec. 22. “It’s a different challenge, but I like it. It’s fun to play with those guys.”
Pahlsson had actually moved to his familiar checking line assignment midway through Tuesday night's 2-1 win at Colorado, when he scored the game-winner with 4:21 left in the third period.
His two linemates — Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer — helped set up the goal, when Niedermayer sent the puck in front from behind the net. Moen took a shot that was stopped by Colorado goalie Jose Theodore, but Pahlsson snuck into to punch in the rebound. 700K
"I just play where he (Carlyle) puts me, and try to do the best in the situation he puts me in," Pahlsson says. "There’s not more to it than that. I’m a defensive center. I know that, but it’s fun to score goals." - Samuel Pahlsson
"I didn’t see the puck at first," said Pahlsson of his fourth goal of the season. "There were three or four guys in front. I just tried to get in there and hoped to get it on my stick, and that’s what happened."
While he may normally be a stranger to offense, having never eclipsed 11 goals or 26 points in any of his NHL seasons, Pahlsson proved he can provide a scoring touch in last year’s playoffs. En route to the Stanley Cup, Pahlsson flourished with three goals and 12 points in 21 games. He centered a Ducks checking line between Moen and Niedermayer that was outstanding throughout the postseason, combining for 15 goals and 35 points in 21 games.
For the first time, Pahlsson was nominated last year for the Selke Trophy, given to the top defensive forward in the game.
“You look at him as a possible Selke Trophy candidate type as far as the type of player he is," Carlyle said of Pahlsson. “He proved his value to our hockey club last year and well into the playoffs. That line and that grouping outscored every top line that we played against in the playoffs.”
|In addition to his defensive prowess, Pahlsson brings vaulable faceoff ability back to the Ducks. |
Carlyle elected to put Pahlsson on that second line to leave intact the checking line of Niedermayer Todd Marchant (filling in for a flu-ridden Travis Moen) and Pahlsson’s replacement, rookie Ryan Carter.
“If I would have put him back with Marchant and Niedermayer, it'd be tougher minutes than the minutes I expected for him with Selanne and Bertuzzi,” Carlyle said. “He had the opportunity to get his feet wet a little bit.”
While he may be in a different role for the time being, of most importance to the Ducks and Pahlsson is that the nagging pain in his abdomen appears to be healed. It’s a recurring injury that also kept him out of the first five games of this season.
But after the Detroit game, Pahlsson reported he “felt pretty good. I feel I'm moving better and I finally got that sharp pain that was in my abdomen gone. Better than I thought. It [stinks] being on the sidelines. It's no fun when you don't really know how long it's going to take. This one kept going for a while.”
And he's happy to play in any role that's asked of him.
"I just play where he (Carlyle) puts me, and try to do the best in the situation he puts me in," Pahlsson says. "There’s not more to it than that. I’m a defensive center. I know that, but it’s fun to score goals."