ANAHEIM -- When rumors surfaced last summer that the Anaheim Ducks sought to trade Bobby Ryan, most of the attention focused on where the four-time 30-goal scorer would land.
What wasn't talked about as much was what Anaheim was looking for in return: a second-line center to play with Teemu Selanne. The organization was looking to transition Saku Koivu into a third-line role, a natural evolution but also reflective that the chemistry between Selanne and Koivu never completely developed as much as the club wanted.
Anaheim has experimented this season with Peter Holland and Nick Bonino, who haven't quite fit the role.
Is Matthew Lombardi the answer?
Center - ANA
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 8
SOG: 42 | +/-: -2
The Ducks have a small window to find out after they acquired Lombardi from the Phoenix Coyotes at the NHL Trade Deadline.
"Once he gets right [and] vested with the group and everything and we get him on the same line all the time, and I think you can see his capabilities," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's a smart hockey player. You can tell he's been around and done some really good things. In the first two games I haven't put him in the best position to succeed, and I'm going to have to change that a little bit. You can tell that he does a lot of good things."
Boudreau hasn't been able to plug in Lombardi where he wants because captain and top-line center Ryan Getzlaf has missed the three games Lombardi has been with the Ducks with a leg injury. Getzlaf was expected to return Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche.
But there have been some positive signs in that three-game sample.
Lombardi looked good on the power play in his Anaheim debut April 5, with at least two solid setups for teammates. He played with Selanne and Emerson Etem on April 7 in a very physical game against the Los Angeles Kings. Lombardi took Getzlaf's place Monday and centered Ryan and Corey Perry, who combined for 10 shots on goal.
"There's definitely a bit of a learning curve, but it's good coming into a team that's had success all year," Lombardi said. "They've got a great team. I'm just trying to come in here and help out any way I can. They definitely helped me out and haven't put pressure on me to figure it out here overnight. It's been good so far."
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Considering its organizational depth, Anaheim did not have to sacrifice much for the expiring contract of Lombardi. They sent the Coyotes young forward Brandon MacMillan, who was stuck behind the club's bounty of prospects.
Boudreau hasn't specifically said Lombardi would slot right into the No. 2 center spot, but it seems natural for the club to try him there to get Selanne going. The 42-year-old has four goals and one assist in his past 22 games, one of which was an empty-net goal. He also carries a surprising minus-7 rating.
Lombardi likes the opportunity.
"It's pretty cool playing with him," he said. "Obviously, it's Teemu Selanne. He's a guy who I've watched playing when I was younger and I'm on a top team playing [with] him. I was amazed at what he can do out there. I have a lot of respect for him. At the same time, he's a really good guy and pretty approachable, so it's been good."
Lombardi acknowledged that "I'm a new guy coming in, and it's going to take some time. But the good thing is the team has had success throughout the season."
He is like a lot of Anaheim's other veterans in that he hasn't seen the Stanley Cup Playoffs much recently. Sheldon Souray and Radek Dvorak last played in the postseason in 2005-06. Lombardi missed the playoffs four of the previous five seasons while playing with four teams.
He still has a lot of years left at 31, but an opportunity like this doesn't come around a lot. And the Ducks might not be able to re-sign Lombardi this summer after the big-dollar extensions given to Getzlaf and Perry, so it's full steam ahead.
"It's definitely exciting," Lombardi said. "It's a great opportunity. You can see the potential, so it's fun to be a part of something like this."