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Relentless on forecheck, Cogliano is Ducks' X-factor

by Curtis Zupke / NHL.com

ANAHEIM -- It's hard to believe the Anaheim Ducks once had trouble finding a role for Andrew Cogliano.

But after Bruce Boudreau replaced Randy Carlyle as Ducks coach 24 games into the 2011-12 season, Boudreau had to play Cogliano at center and both wing positions to fill holes and to try to find a place for Cogliano.

Nothing worked.

"I remember him apologizing [because] I played in different positions and it was hard," Cogliano said. "But also, for me, I don't think I played nearly as capable as I needed to in that first year, which made me one of those guys that was easy to move around. We were both on the same page in terms of I just needed to be put in a spot and be given a role and told what to do."

The 27-year-old left wing has since found a role and thrived in it for the Ducks, who will play the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference Second Round. He's one of the more relentless forecheckers in the NHL, and his speed creates chances for the Ducks.

Those attributes make him valuable in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in ways that can't be measured by statistics.

"He's a guy I count on and I have a lot of faith in when I put him on the ice," Boudreau said. "When we're down, he's usually a guy that sparks a comeback with his energy. He's going to have bad games, like other people, but it's never for lack of trying. He's out there giving it his all, all the time. I think everybody recognizes that."

Cogliano's poor games have been few and far between this season. A staple of Anaheim's third line, he is among its best at attacking the opponent, killing penalties and chipping in a goal. He scored in Game 4 of the first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets and had three assists in Game 3.

Cogliano scored a career-high 21 goals last season and had 15 this season.

"If we did put him on the power play, would he be a continual 20-goal scorer?" Boudreau said. "I think he can score because he certainly gets more chances than anybody else."

Cogliano's game is first and foremost about forechecking and defending the opposition's top lines, then comes scoring. It's a niche he began to hone during the 2012-13 season when he played with Saku Koivu and Daniel Winnik.

"Playing with Saku helped a ton," Cogliano said. "Even Winnik. Really they gave me a good base to play with, and a good two guys to learn that game from, because I was never in that situation. I just felt like things took off from there."

Cogliano, who signed a four-year contract extension in January 2014, cited last season as perhaps his best in the NHL. He had the same mindset going into this season, but it was an adjustment playing with new personnel -- he's played on center Rickard Rakell's line in the playoffs, with either Kyle Palmieri or Jakob Silfverberg at right wing -- after Koivu and Winnik departed.

That adjustment period didn't last long.

"I think it took me a little bit of time to kind of -- I don't want to say 'find myself again' -- but get where I needed to be," Cogliano said. "And I think I did that in the last half of the year and hopefully I'm [going] to continue that in the playoffs."

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