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Patrick Eaves could be just what Ducks need

Forward having career year should help ignite struggling power play

by Lisa Dillman / NHL.com Staff Writer

It has been a long, winding and an often injury-riddled journey between 20-goal NHL seasons for Patrick Eaves.

Eaves was a fresh-faced kid, a highly touted prospect when he scored 20 goals and added nine assists in 58 games in his rookie season with the Ottawa Senators in 2005-06.

Eaves also played for the Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings and even had a brief turn with the Nashville Predators before he arrived in Dallas in 2014-15.

At 32, Eaves is a father of three, and the face, adorned with an eye-catching beard, isn't nearly as fresh. By trading for Eaves, the Anaheim Ducks can negate Joe Thornton and Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, at least in terms of the caliber of beards in the Pacific Division.

The Ducks acquired Eaves from the Dallas Stars on Friday in exchange for a conditional second-round draft pick in 2017. If Anaheim advances to the Western Conference Final, and Eaves plays in at least half of their games in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Stars get the Ducks' first-round pick in the 2017 draft.

Video: Patrick Eaves Traded to Anaheim

Eaves has carved out one of those heartwarming stories of determination. Not only is he playing in the NHL -- which seemed in question during some of his past injury woes -- but how often does someone lift their game to have a career season at 32?

With first-line minutes, Eaves had 21 goals and 16 assists in 59 games with the Stars, and will have the chance to enhance those numbers with the Ducks in the stretch run.

Ducks general manager Bob Murray acknowledged that he paid a premium to acquire Eaves, and it was largely because his contract was relatively modest. Eaves, who is making $1 million this season, will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

"Patrick making what he was making was a huge bonus for us," Murray said on a conference call on Friday. "It's tough when everything is dollar for dollar. Teams are right up against the cap and we don't know where it's going next year."

Murray was blunt about the recent performance of his team. He said he had been looking for an Eaves-type player all season.

"Without naming names, we have a few players that have to play a lot better if we're going anywhere, let's not kid around," he said. "We have some players that have not had good years. … There has been no consistency except inconsistency. That definitely has to get better. We have time to turn those things around.

"Hopefully our players understand, for some of them time is running out for having more chances to win. You hope they get that."

There is the inconsistency and need of help for their struggling power play, which has fallen to 14th in the League (19.5 percent) after leading the NHL last season (23.1). Eaves has 11 power-play goals this season, tied for fourth in the League, three behind leader Brayden Schenn of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Video: CAR@DAL: Eaves buries his second goal on power play

"We didn't acquire him for his penalty-killing," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.

Like Ducks center Ryan Kesler, Eaves can park himself in front of the net on the power play. He has good hands and has managed to steer clear of injuries this season, the ones taking big chunks out of his career.

"I've gotten a lot of good opportunity this year, being on the power play and playing a lot of good minutes 5 on 5," Eaves said on a conference call. "Fortunately, I haven't been hit by any pucks this year that have done any damage.

"All those things together have helped me put up the numbers I have this year. Hopefully I can continue on the path I am with the Ducks here."

Said Carlyle: "I remember him in Detroit and I know he's been able to put up offensive numbers with good players. He can be a guy that can fit in with everybody."

Eaves was in the middle of his afternoon hockey nap when he received word of the trade. He had to rush to catch a flight to Southern California because the Ducks are playing the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Saturday afternoon.

"It got me out of bed real quick," Eaves said. "Your world gets put upside down real quick."

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