By Adam Brady
Like most athletes, Brandon Pirri
has fought his way back from injury before, but his return to action Wednesday night took on an added significance.
Pirri wasn’t physically ready to play when the Ducks acquired him in a deal with the Florida Panthers at the February 29 trade deadline, sending a sixth-round pick to Florida for the 24-year-old winger. Back on February 13 in a game against Nashville, Pirri suffered an ankle injury on a scary play while chasing the puck behind the net. He slid skate-first into the boards, causing his foot to twist in a way feet aren’t supposed to twist (viewer discretion advised on the cringe-worthy video).
“It was pretty gnarly, right?” Pirri says. “My foot was going the other way. Just watching the video, it looked pretty bad. I was just thankful it wasn’t anything too serious. It’s a freak accident. I mean, that play happens all the time.”
The injury caused him to miss a little more than a month of game action but looked like it could have been much worse. It was a difficult time for Pirri, who had already been struggling a little bit offensively (and had even been scratched for a few games) as the deadline loomed and he was a frequent subject of trade rumors.
“It was frustrating, especially at that time, not playing, not being around the guys,” Pirri says. “Then the deadline happens and a lot’s going through your mind.”
Pirri had a breakout campaign in Florida last season, when despite missing some time with a concussion, he scored 22 goals in just 49 games. (Not to get overly math-y, but that’s a 36-goal season when calculated over an 82-game season.)
“I got a realistic shot and I just ran with it,” he says. “That’s the way it is, when you get hot, everything is going in for you.”
Oddly enough, he had just two assists that season, a 22-2 stat line that made NHL history and caused many to joke that he was the league’s Cy Young award winner. “It was just one of those things,” Pirri says with a chuckle. “It was comical. I couldn’t buy an assist, and then everything was just going in. It’s not a bad thing to have happen to you.”
Pirri wasn’t on quite the same pace this season, scoring 11 goals and adding 13 assists in 52 games before the injury. He also had five goals in six shootout attempts, by far the best success rate in the league. But the Panthers decided to move him while he was still on injured reserve.
“You never want to be traded, but it’s a business and you’ve got to deal with it. But I was really excited when I found out I was coming here and getting into a situation like this where we have a really good shot at doing big things."
“You never want to be traded, but it’s a business and you’ve got to deal with it,” says Pirri, who was acquired by the Panthers in a trade with Chicago for draft picks two seasons ago. “I had a great time in Florida. I became a full-time NHL player there, and I have nothing but good things to say about that organization.
“But I was really excited when I found out I was coming here and getting into a situation like this where we have a really good shot at doing big things. It’s a whole new level of commitment and expectation here, so for me it’s really exciting, and I just want to buy in right away and jell as quickly as possible.”
Pirri’s debut was solid but scoreless Wednesday night in a game where the rest of the Ducks didn’t get much going offensively either, suffering a 2-1 defeat to the Rangers.
“It was really exciting,” Pirri says of his first game in Anaheim. “I was probably a little nervous, because you want to show your team you’re here for a reason. Especially when you’re the new guy, you want to prove yourself right away.”
He had a good scoring chance on his very first shift, one of his two shots in 15:30 of ice time, and he was among the six attackers on the ice when the Ducks scrambled to get a late tying goal that never came.
“At the end, we didn’t win, so I would probably chalk it up to not being such a great night,” he says. “It’s frustrating, but it’s just one game. We’ve got a lot more to play this year.”
Indeed, the Ducks will look to Pirri to provide some scoring punch during the remaining games of this regular season and into what they hope will be a lengthy playoff run. Away from the rink, he’s still toiling in the same hotel room he checked into when he first arrived in Anaheim (along with fellow deadline acquisition Jamie McGinn), and he’s looking for a change.
“Hopefully after this road trip I’ll find something with a kitchen,” Pirri says. “It’s tough eating out every night. It gets old really quick. Also, my room’s starting to smell a little bit, and it wouldn’t be bad to do a little laundry.”
The odor apparently hasn’t carried over to Ducks dressing room. Pirri has a corner stall next to another high-scoring winger with a similar-sounding surname, Corey Perry, and he has been well-received by the entire team.
“It’s been great,” says Pirri, a Toronto native. “The team was on the road, when I first got here, so that was kind of tough just sitting around on my own. But the guys have been awesome. It’s a fun atmosphere here, and I was welcomed with open arms.”