ANAHEIM – Corey Perry received a renewed appreciation for longtime Anaheim Ducks linemate Ryan Getzlaf when he was anchored to his couch during his bout with the mumps in November, and again in recovery from a sprained knee last month.
Perry specifically remembers the detailed, two-goal game that Getzlaf had against the Ottawa Senators on Dec.19.
"Even though we lost, individually, he was still producing," Perry said. "Those individual-type plays, sacrificing for your teammates, those are big things that stick out in my mind."
It was during Perry's 14-game absence that Getzlaf, the Ducks captain, re-asserted another case for the Hart Trophy. Getzlaf had six goals and 13 assists without Perry on his wing, and he entered Wednesday against the New York Rangers (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN) third in the NHL with 44 points.
Getzlaf led the League with 20 points in December, and his run without Perry included an eight-game point streak playing with different linemates almost every night.
"It's pretty nice to see," Perry said. "They always classify us as the Twins. Some people might not think we can play without each other, but what he did in December, to lead the League in points and be First Star, those are tremendous honors. It just shows the character that he has."
This run isn't surprising given that Getzlaf was runner-up for the Hart last season, but a closer look at his statistics shows his leadership on display. Getzlaf has three overtime assists this season. His career plus-117 rating is second behind Teemu Selanne (plus-120) for best in Anaheim history.
Part of Getzlaf's success is related to Anaheim second-line center Ryan Kesler taking pressure of Getzlaf, who doesn't have to take as many defensive-zone faceoffs as in the past. St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock coached Getzlaf for Canada in the 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi Olympics and points to one aspect of Getzlaf's game that separates him from others.
"He has another gear that very few players in the League can obtain," Hitchcock said. "The gear is a gear that has speed in it, which you see sometimes. When he's really dialed in, he plays at a tempo. But he has another competitive gear that not many players can keep up to."
Getzlaf doesn't like to talk much his individual play or his ability to carry a team, even without Perry on his side, because he doesn't see it that way.
"It's never about me consciously thinking about putting things on my shoulders and doing things," Getzlaf said. "I've just got to out and play. I try to play the same way when he's in the lineup and try to make him better and try and help him push me. That's just the way we've always been. I try and do the things that I do every night. There are some adjustments I have to make but that's the way it goes."
Getzlaf does allow that he's in a good place, mostly because the Ducks have not only managed 238 man-games lost to injury but thrived with an NHL-best 58 points.
Center - ANA
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 31 | PTS: 44
SOG: 101 | +/-: 8
"I enjoy it every day," Getzlaf said. "This is a great time in my career right now. I feel good. Other than that, I haven't really accomplished anything, so I'm not throwing myself any parties. It's a situation where we're building something here. We're trying to build toward another championship, and that's all that really matters."
Getzlaf senses that Ducks, now healthy, can begin to fine tune for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For all their regular-season accomplishments so far, the Ducks said before the season that their main goal was getting into the postseason and going from there.
When that time comes it will also mark Getzlaf's 30th birthday, on May 10.
"It's been quick," he said. "I know a lot's changed over the years. The time has flown by. It's been a little bit of a shock."
Getzlaf struggled with his captaincy when it was first given to him, partly because of new off-ice family responsibilities. But he found balance and had his first daughter and third child, Willa, last April. Three young kids usually doesn't translate to a well-rested captain, but Getzlaf has help.
"You kind learn to deal with things in different ways," he said. "My wife [Paige] takes a lot of pressure off me with those things. Sleep's never been a strong point of mine, without kids or with kids. I've been able to kind of adapt with that aspect."