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Ducks veterans understand opportunity before them

by Curtis Zupke /

ANAHEIM -- There's no way Sheldon Souray could have predicted what would transpire after he walked off the ice at Bell Centre on May 2, 2006.

His Montreal Canadiens lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Another seven years would pass until Souray made the Stanley Cup Playoffs again. His career would take him to two other teams and a detour in the American Hockey League before he resurrected it with the Anaheim Ducks.

Nearly seven years to the day, Souray, 36, will get a second chance when Anaheim opens the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday at Honda Center (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

"These opportunities, especially with a team like we've got here, we have an opportunity to do something special," Souray said. "It's been a long time since we've had that opportunity, so it's going to be exciting."

Souray is one of several Ducks veterans with a rare chance to either win their first Stanley Cup or reclaim it before they ride off into the sunset.

Teemu Selanne is 42 and the feeling is this really might be his final season. Saku Koivu is 38 and would love to cap an inspiring career. Toni Lydman is 35 and his banged-up body can only withstand so many more playoff runs. Radek Dvorak, 36, went from playing overseas to catching on with Anaheim for his first playoff trip since 2006.

Selanne won the Cup in 2007. Koivu, Souray, Lydman and Dvorak have played a combined 185 playoff games without hoisting the trophy.

"This is something that I've missed throughout my career is really a legitimate chance to go all the way," Koivu said. "We've had a couple of successful runs in Montreal, but finishing high in the regular season and everybody being healthy … it's a good chance and it's a great opportunity to achieve something that you've been looking for for a long time.

"The older you get, the more mature you get, your perspective in life changes. We're all at the point in our careers where you're not here trying to make a name for yourself or show people that this is the type of player I am, knowing that there's not too many chances in front of you. Then when you're there, you try to enjoy it and you try to make the most of it."

Koivu said this is probably the tightest team he's been on since he arrived in Anaheim and probably his best vehicle for a long run. The veterans' experience combines with the development of younger players Nick Bonino, Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem to give Anaheim a unique identity that hasn't been seen since the '07 Cup run.

Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin were on that team. Getzlaf and Perry were a second-line pairing, with Dustin Penner, while Beauchemin was Scott Niedermayer's partner. Years later they are surrounded by hungry vets and fully understand what this means to them.

"You try to remember all the guys -- Sak and Shelly and the older guys, Toni -- having a chance to win it earlier in your career, you don't realize it's that hard and you might not ever see it again," Beauchemin said. "That's what you try and tell the younger guys -- this is it. This is the one chance we have and we really want to make that push because you never know when you're going to have that change again.

"Missing the playoffs last year was really hard. You play for the playoffs. You play to win. You play to win the Stanley Cup and that should be your goal every year. But it's hard. There's only one team that is doing it every year, out of 30 teams. Now we're in. We had a good season, but we can't really think about the regular season anymore."

Selanne comes back into the spotlight after a curious end to the regular season in which his ice time diminished to around 12-14 minutes a game, to the point where it's fair to wonder if he's become more of a power-play specialist. He was understandably rested at least one game in the final week.

Selanne didn't hide his feelings Sunday when he told the Los Angeles Times and that, "There's a big difference between quality shifts and leftover shifts. You want to be in that quality shifts part. I'm saying, I don't care who you are. If you play around 12 minutes a game, you can't be good. That's how it works."

Boudreau declined to comment Monday about Selanne's ice time. Those things tend to get hidden once the red jerseys start buzzing around the ice. This is the sixth meeting between Anaheim and Detroit. Since 1997, no teams have met more in the postseason.

Teemu Selanne
Right Wing - ANA
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 24
SOG: 96 | +/-: -10
Selanne summed it up for reporters in a dank corridor of the team's practice facility before his 112th postseason game.

"History is repeating itself now," he said. "But I'm expecting a really good matchup. They have been very hot lately. They have been battling to stay alive. We are ready too. I'm expecting a good, hard battle.

"Playoffs is the best time for a hockey player. Expectations for this team and myself is very high. It means a lot. [Toward] the end of the road -- you've got to take advantage of every opportunity you have. This is going to be one of the craziest [playoffs]. We have a lot of hungry guys who want to make a difference. This is the challenge we want to face together. Hopefully we can do well."

It's difficult to talk about Anaheim and Detroit without mentioning Selanne's famed overtime goal at Joe Louis Arena in Game 5 of the 2007 conference finals, widely regarded as the most important goal in Anaheim history. Detroit was seen as the biggest obstacle to Anaheim that season, and once Selanne tipped the scales by sending it back to Anaheim with a 3-2 series lead the path was paved.

"It happened so quickly," Selanne said of the goal. "The best thing was when the whole rink was like someone turned the volume off. You could hear the breathing. It was awesome. Let's do it again."

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