Reinforcements for Anaheim’s blue line arrived today, as Lubomir Visnovsky
and Aaron Ward skated with the team during practice at Honda Center.
|“I come to the locker room, look in the middle [at the rug featuring the ‘D’ team logo], see the big names – Selanne, Niedermayer, Getzlaf, Perry – and get a good feeling,” said Visnovsky. “I am very happy playing with these guys because they are great players.” |
Both veteran defensemen were acquired by the Ducks yesterday in a busy trade deadline day which saw the team make five deals in all. The other new player scheduled to join the team is goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who was not on hand while he goes through the immigration process.
Visnovsky and Ward arrived in town together late last night from a connecting flight in Chicago. They joined up with their new teammates – with the exception of the seven Olympians who were taping a special episode of The Element -- this morning for about an hour-long practice. Each was more than pleased with the new surroundings.
“I come to the locker room, look in the middle [at the rug featuring the ‘D’ team logo], see the big names – Selanne, Niedermayer, Getzlaf, Perry – and get a good feeling,” said Visnovsky, a longtime King before spending the past two seasons in Edmonton. “I am very excited to come here and play in California again. I am very happy playing with these guys because they are great players.”
Said Ward, “It was good today, just what the doctor ordered. It was a good chance to familiarize myself with the team. You get an opportunity like this, you hope to run with it, be successful and really acclimate yourself to the surroundings quickly, not rock the boat, and be a contributor in the locker room.”
For both, the move to a new club pushed them up the standings significantly. Visnovsky was on the last-place Oilers, who figure to remain there with just 44 points (17 behind the 14th-place Columbus. While Carolina had won 10 of 12 games in Ward’s last days, the team is still second-to-last in the Eastern Conference standings with 57 points.
|“It was good today, just what the doctor ordered," Ward said (with assistant coach Dave Farrish). "It was a good chance to familiarize myself with the team. You get an opportunity like this, you hope to run with it, be successful and really acclimate yourself to the surroundings quickly, not rock the boat, and be a contributor in the locker room.” |
They now find themselves right in the middle of a heated playoff race with the Ducks, who are three points behind Detroit for the eighth seed with 19 games left to play. In all, the seven teams in the 6-13 spots are separated by a mere seven points.
For me, it’s very important to play in the playoffs,” said Visnovsky, who has 10 goals (tied for seventh among NHL d-men) and 32 points on the season. “I haven’t played in the playoffs (since 2002, his second season in the league). I want to do as best as I can. I’ll try to help this team. The Oilers did not have a chance to play in the playoffs this season. We have a big chance here. We’re only three points out.”
Being strong on the power play (Anaheim is currently sixth in the league at 20.35 percent) will only help matters, and that is one place where Visnovsky has thrived throughout his career.
When he led the Kings with a career-high 67 points in 2005-06, 10 of his 17 goals were with the man advantage. He followed that up with eight PP strikes (among his career-high 18 goals) in 2006-07, a season in which he was named to the Western Conference All-Star team. Four of his 10 goals and 13 of his 22 assists this season have come on the power play.
“He’s a power play guy and can move the puck,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle of Visnovsky. “He’s a good puck-moving defenseman. He is smaller in stature, but very competitive and effective moving around the ice.”
Characterized by Carlyle as more of “stay-at-home” defenseman, Ward brings championship experience (three Stanley Cups) and a penchant for stopping pucks to the Ducks. In 60 games played this season, he was first on the Hurricanes and 15th in the NHL with 122 blocked shots.
“Everybody has their niche in this league,” said Ward, who also has totaled 11 points on the year. “The one thing that I pride myself on is getting in front of shots. There is an art to doing it, with proper timing and not deflecting it. A lot of shot blocking just comes down to willingness.
“I’m not pretty out there. I strive to get the job done. Sometimes as a defenseman, the least noticed you are, maybe that is the best game you’ve played.”
Ironically, Ward’s first career goal came in Anaheim’s very first game as a franchise on Oct. 8, 1993 at Honda Center. That was one of five games he played in that season as a rookie with the Red Wings.
“No, I don’t remember anything about it,” joked Ward, before recounting the play. “I got the puck from (Sergei) Federov on a one-timer. I think Ray Sheppard passed it to him. It was in this blue line right by the Ducks defensive door. I went top shelf on Guy Hebert.”
More than 16 years later, he is now joining up with the Ducks in their heated pursuit of another postseason berth and ready to move on to the next chapter of his career. “It was a pretty large hill to climb (in Carolina),” he said. “To know that we’re in a dogfight right now this close to a playoff spot, it’s a good opportunity.”
Said Visnovsky, “I am starting a new life here and am thinking about the Ducks right now. I am very excited they picked me up.”