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DUCKS REPORT

Rob Niedermayer finally finds his touch

June 09, 2007|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

The sight of Scott Niedermayer holding Lord Stanley's Cup high into the air was nothing new, especially to his younger brother.

Before this week, Scott had done it three times, each time becoming a brighter star, and Rob each time returning to his own NHL career, forging his own reputation as a gritty player.

"I've played for it three times and, you know, I wasn't able to touch it," said Rob, a forward who in his 13-year career had chased the Cup with the Florida Panthers and the Ducks in 2003.

That, of course, changed.

And now one thing is undeniable: Rob, who played brilliantly in the Ducks now-vaunted checking line, is no longer in Scott's shadow.

As big brother handed the Cup to him that night, Rob was awash in emotion.

"I couldn't have written anything up better than this," he said.

A top-five draft pick of the Florida Panthers, Rob scored 26 goals in his third season with the team. But then he went to Calgary and was put into a niche that didn't stress scoring.

A target of boos by unhappy Flames fans who had expected him to score a lot, Niedermayer saw things change when Darryl Sutter took the coaching reins in the middle of the 2002-03 season.

"When Darryl took over, I think he was pretty black-and-white about what I was supposed to do," Niedermayer said. "He said, 'This is your role.'

"When the coaches kind of spell it out for you, you have to accept it."

It was Bryan Murray, coach of the just-defeated Ottawa Senators but then the Ducks general manager, who saw Rob's real value. Murray made a deal to bring Rob to the Ducks at the trade deadline in 2003.

Niedermayer became a two-way tower of strength along the boards in that postseason. And he chipped in three goals and 10 points as the Ducks advanced to the Stanley Cup finals against the New Jersey Devils, Scott's team.

Murray recalled being criticized in the media for that move.

"They were kind of laughing at us for making the trade and taking the $2-million contract," he said. "But Rob Niedermayer is a huge man, strong on his feet. Good skater. Very willing to do whatever the coach asks him to do. And playoff time, that's when he's most noticed."

That was true again this postseason. The winger was a force throughout, joining linemates Samuel Pahlsson and Travis Moen in shutting down opponents' high-scoring lines.

Rob, 32, also had five goals and 10 points, including a goal in the Cup-clinching Game 5.

"April and May are Rob Niedermayer's months," Ducks General Manager Brian Burke said. "His whole career, he's been a money player. When the game is more important, he plays better."

Little brother Rob is no longer the "other" Niedermayer, though big brother never viewed him that way.

"At the same time, I'm sure it's difficult at times," Scott said of living in someone's shadow. "But, you know, at the end of the day, we're brothers and we want the best for each other. I know I do for him and I'm pretty sure he does for me as well."

*

The Ducks took care of two of their pending free agents Friday by re-signing Moen and winger George Parros to two-year contract extensions, Burke said.

Moen, 25, had seven goals and five assists in the playoffs after posting a career-high 11 goals and 21 points during the regular season.

Parros, 27, recorded one goal and totaled 102 penalty minutes in 32 games after coming over in a trade with Colorado last season. He had no points in five playoff games.

--

eric.stephens@latimes.com

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