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DUCKS REPORT

Season turned on his return

January 17, 2008|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Numbers have never truly defined Scott Niedermayer's impact on a team, but there is one set that is the clearest gauge of what he has meant to the Ducks since he ended his dance with retirement.

10-2-2.

Before the defenseman's return, the Ducks were an inconsistent bunch stumbling along with a 15-15-4 record that had them sitting outside the Western Conference playoff picture. Since the return of Niedermayer, the Ducks sit one point out of the Pacific Division lead.

Niedermayer had a goal and two assists to tie a career-high of three points in Tuesday night's 4-2 victory over Dallas that lifted the Ducks into second place.

On one picturesque goal, Niedermayer led a rush out of the Ducks' end and started a textbook display of passing with Todd Bertuzzi and Corey Perry that ended with Niedermayer working himself into position to receive Perry's one-touch pass.

Niedermayer topped that in the second period when he stripped Dallas forward Niklas Hagman of the puck in the defensive zone and started another rush up ice that led to a scoring chance by Ryan Carter and a wraparound rebound goal by Todd Marchant.

Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle is past being surprised at what Niedermayer can do, calling him a "special player."

"It's the best game he's played this year," Carlyle said. "Is he there yet? If he continues to play them all like that, we'd be very happy. Now he's in trouble because we're going to expect it."

Marchant said Niedermayer's ability to lift his teammates to a higher level is his best quality.

"He wouldn't be as successful as he's been, wherever he's been, if he didn't do that," Marchant said. "Because you can't do it by yourself."

Niedermayer is humble about his impact.

"All I can really comment on since I've been here is the guys have been working hard and trying to play the way we need to as a team," he said. "Just trying to build something here."

The Ducks were killing penalties at a 78.8% rate before Niedermayer; they're at 88.3% in the 14 games since as they've moved from 24th in the NHL to 19th.

Niedermayer has two goals and nine assists. But it's the number of wins that the Ducks care about.

"There's a reason why he won the Conn Smythe trophy last year," Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "He's the reason why we won the Cup, the main reason. He makes everybody better on the team. We're sure glad that he decided to come back."

The Ducks' top offensive players have been piling up numbers of late.

Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist against the Stars to extend his career-high point streak to 11 games. In that span, Getzlaf has five goals and 10 assists.

Bertuzzi has scored goals in his last three games and has eight points in his last four. Since Dec. 12, Bertuzzi has seven goals and 16 points.

Perry's three-game goal-scoring streak ended Tuesday, but he has seven in his last 13 games. Perry's 24 goals rank fourth in the Western Conference behind Calgary's Jarome Iginla, Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg and St. Louis' Brad Boyes.

--

TONIGHT

at Nashville, 5 PST, FSN Prime Ticket

Site -- Sommet Center.

Radio -- 830.

Records -- Ducks 25-17-6; Predators 22-19-4.

Record vs. Predators -- 2-1-0.

Update -- Checking forwards Rob Niedermayer and Samuel Pahlsson made the trip but remain day-to-day because of injuries. Niedermayer has a strained groin and Pahlsson continues to be bothered by abdominal inflammation. The Ducks rolled to a 5-2 win over the Predators at home last week but lost, 4-2, in Nashville on Dec. 8.

--

eric.stephens@latimes.com

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