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Morrison joins familiar faces with Ducks

by Dan Rosen
It's not as if Brendan Morrison is going home, but can you blame him if it kind of feels that way?

Morrison signed a one-year contract Tuesday with the Anaheim Ducks, reuniting him with both Brian Burke and Dave Nonis, the two general managers he played for during his seven-plus seasons in Vancouver.

"There's no question that the comfort level is there, and it's not like going into a situation where you don't know anybody at all," Morrison said. "Both Dave and Brian are straight shooters. They were honest with me right up front, telling me what they need and what they expected. I feel I can still bring that."

Morrison said Burke, the Ducks' GM, told him coach Randy Carlyle will likely slot him in as the team's No. 2 center behind Ryan Getzlaf. That would fill a void Anaheim has had since Andy MacDonald was traded to St. Louis in December to create some salary cap space to bring back defenseman Scott Niedermayer.

"I think a veteran player like Brendan, who's a made a good living at this game, is trying to achieve something, trying to win and play the game the way he likes to play it," Burke said. "Randy's style is Brendan's style. We emphasize speed, puck pressure and puck movement. I think a combination of all those things."

Morrison admitted that he did indeed leave a couple of multi-year contract offers on the table -- some of which were even more lucrative -- to sign a one-year deal with the Ducks.

He did it with a purpose.

Morrison has never played beyond the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs; but Anaheim still has many key pieces remaining from the squad that won the Stanley Cup in 2006 -- including Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

"They have a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup right now," Morrison said. "With Niedermayer coming back, it solidifies the group. They have the checking line, the top line, and when I spoke to Burkie and Nonis early on in this process, they said they need a guy to fill that second-line void. I think I'm a good fit for that right now.

“I hope they get (Teemu) Selanne back and I get a chance to play with him. I bring versatility. I can play on the power play and can kill penalties."

Right now, though, Morrison can't do any of those things. He's in the middle of his rehab from an April surgery to repair a torn ACL, an injury he suffered March 26 in a collision with Colorado's Ruslan Salei.

Burke said he isn't concerned about Morrison's health, and Morrison confirmed that he is on target to return to the ice in August, which should allow him to be in top shape entering training camp in September.

"He has to pass a physical like every free-agent player, so we're not worried about this," Burke said. "He's been a very durable player through his career until the last 12 months."

Before a wrist injury sidelined him for three months this season, Morrison had played in 542 straight games from 2000-07. It was the NHL's longest active streak before the wrist problem forced him to sit.

"I played seven straight years without missing a game. I like to think my time was up because I was dodging bullets for a little while," Morrison said. "I'll be fine, but it's my responsibility to go out and prove I am fine."

Morrison had his best years under Burke, who brought him to Vancouver late in the 1999-2000 season in a trade that sent Alexander Mogilny to New Jersey.

The Morrison-Burke marriage lasted four seasons, and the player didn't miss a single game, scoring 86 goals and 166 assists in 340 games while playing to a plus-54 rating. Morrison had at least 22 goals and 60 points in three-straight seasons before the work stoppage wiped out the 2004-05 season.

When the League returned, Burke was in Anaheim putting the pieces of a Stanley Cup champion together. Morrison returned as one of the Canucks' most important veterans and continued his ironman streak.

He played in all 82 games and topped 50 points in both the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, but was finally felled by injuries this past season, when he played in only 39 games and had just 25 points.

"There's no question that the comfort level is there, and it's not like going into a situation where you don't know anybody at all. Both Dave (Nonis) and Brian (Burke) are straight shooters. They were honest with me right up front, telling me what they need and what they expected. I feel I can still bring that."
-- Ducks center Brendan Morrison

Burke not only believes Morrison will have a bounce-back year, he sees him as yet another veteran leader in a dressing room that already boasts a plethora of them, including Niedermayer and Pronger.

"Brendan Morrison has leadership skills," Burke said. "He's not a rah-rah guy. He's a guy that does his job, works hard, practices hard, is a good father and a good teammate. I think he'll be in our leadership group for sure."

While Burke sees Morrison centering the second line, he can't yet say who will be on his wings because the roster is not set. Selanne still has to decide if he wants to return to the Ducks, or the NHL at all.

"If you look at our top six forwards right now, you'd have Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz and then you'd have Bobby Ryan, Brendan Morrison and a question mark," Burke said. "It would be pretty early to make any bold projections or predictions about what he might do until we see who we get him to ride shotgun with."

Burke said if Selanne chooses not to come back, he would look outside the organization first because he doesn't want to force a youngster into a role he may not be ready to play.

He does believe it's time for Ryan, who was selected second behind Sidney Crosby in the 2005 Entry Draft, to assume a big-time role for the Ducks.

Ryan saw time in 23 games for the Ducks this past season and registered 10 points. He had 49 points in 48 games for the Portland Pirates of the AHL, and another 20 points in 16 Calder Cup Playoff games.

"You're at an American League playoff game and here there are three, four, five or six pro scouts, GMs and assistant GMs and they run after me after the game and say ‘Boy, is he coming?'" Burke said. "I think he's earned the right to be penciled in there. I know our coach doesn't write anyone's name anywhere in ink, but I think he's penciled in there and that's where he's going to start."

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