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Bryzgalov hopes to play for Ducks 'within 10 days'

by Curtis Zupke / NHL.com

ANAHEIM -- Ilya Bryzgalov admits he hasn't been staying in optimum playing condition. To hear him describe it, he's been in shutdown mode, living in southern New Jersey and coaching his son's hockey team.

He was driving his son to a hockey tournament when his agent called him with a suggestion.

"[He said] 'Maybe you should stop coaching and maybe you [should] have a desire to return to the NHL and play hockey,'" Bryzgalov said.

The agent told him his former team, the Anaheim Ducks, were interested in giving him a professional tryout contract, and Bryzgalov was excited at the opportunity to come home. He skated at Honda Center before he spoke with reporters by phone Thursday.

The Ducks have had injuries to goalies John Gibson and backup Jason LaBarbera. Gibson has a groin injury and won't return until later this month at the earliest, and LaBarbera is out 2-3 weeks with a broken bone in his hand. No.1 goalie Frederik Andersen has started a career-high 13 straight games, the most for the Ducks since Jonas Hiller's 32-game run in 2012.

How soon Bryzgalov could join the Ducks is unknown. Bryzgalov said he hasn't faced NHL-caliber shots since he was in training camp with the Minnesota Wild in October.

"I'm not going to lie to you," Bryzgalov said. "After my training camp in Minnesota, I didn't do much. I was just home, dropping the kids at practice, doing homework. I was a full-time dad. I didn't pay much attention to my physical condition. Right now with [Anaheim strength coach] Sean [Skahan] and [goaltending coach Dwayne Roloson] we'll create some program to get myself to game shape as soon as possible.

"I hope it's going to be within 10 days. That's the plan, as soon as possible. You never know how you're going to feel each day. I had a great workout today. There is lots of excitement. We'll see how I feel tomorrow. I need to catch up because the team has already played lots of hockey. It's tough to say, but I don't think it should take more than 10 days."

This is Bryzgalov's second stint with Anaheim and his third team in 13 months. Bryzgalov played for the Edmonton Oilers last season and was traded to Minnesota in March. He has not played an NHL game since May 13.

Bryzgalov holds a special place in Ducks' fans hearts, primarily because of his run of three straight shutouts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2006, a franchise-record he shares with Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Then-general manager Brian Burke let Bryzgalov go to the Arizona Coyotes so he could have more playing time.

Did Bryzgalov think he would be back in Anaheim?

"To be honest, no," he said. "It was a big surprise for me. It's a great place to play. I remember once sitting with [former teammate] Teemu Selanne and he said, 'Believe me, this is the best place to play hockey.' After a few years in hockey, it's true. This is one of the best places to play hockey."

Bryzgalov is known for his quirky personality, which sometimes overshadowed his stellar play.

"He was always a fun guy," Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf said Wednesday. "He enjoyed what he did. Obviously things got a little carried away here in the last few years with the media attention and everything that was given to him. I thought that obviously he [was] misquoted a few times and made people laugh. But ultimately that's all he is. He likes to joke around and have fun."

Bryzgalov confirmed as much when asked if he's changed much.

"I don't think so," he said. "I am who I am. Life is [too] beautiful to be sad, to be depressed. You've got to enjoy every day of your life. The sun comes up every day and it's beautiful. You've got to enjoy it. You've got to enjoy the positive moments in your life every day."

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