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Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen beefing up Ducks' defense

The Anaheim team heads into its first game of the season Saturday in Vancouver with the veteran players, who add experience, size and strength.

January 16, 2013|By Lance Pugmire
  • Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller blocks a shot by Sheldon Souray during practice.
Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller blocks a shot by Sheldon Souray during… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

The Ducks finished 19th in goals-against average in the NHL last season, with grit and experience lacking.

That's why the team invested $21 million over three years in veteran defensemen Sheldon Souray, 36, and Bryan Allen, 32.

"They just wanted to be more heavy in their own end, a little more sandpaper, a little more harder to play against," said Souray, who is 6 feet 4. Allen is 6-5. "What Bryan Allen and I bring is not only size … we let goalies see shots, let forwards think twice about coming to the net, creating space for teammates. That's going to rub off."

The 237-pound Souray is a three-time All-Star who owns an impressive hockey resume that includes being teammates with defensive greats such as Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens, and being coached by Larry Robinson and Jacques Lemaire.

Souray also possesses a devastating slap shot that has been clocked at 106.7 mph, a weapon launched from the blue line that Coach Bruce Boudreau cracks, "I'd never stand in front of."

When Souray — who scored six goals with 15 assists in 64 games with Dallas last season — unloads his cannon, Boudreau expects it to distract defenders who should be watching the Ducks' offensive stars, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

Souray scored 26 goals for Montreal in 2006-07, and 23 for Edmonton in 2008-09. He said he has recently transitioned to being more of a shutdown defender, learning how to "manage your game."

"It's not how heavy you're shooting it," Souray said. "It's getting it on net, creating some chances for rebounds."

For now, the plan is to pair Souray with 22-year-old Luca Sbisa, and Allen with 21-year-old Cam Fowler, who expressed deep appreciation for the perspective and wisdom of both new additions.

Although Souray and Allen have experienced the backlash of injuries from their play, they are sound heading into the abbreviated season that begins Saturday in Vancouver.

"We feel we've definitely upgraded, we're bigger and stronger," Boudreau said. "The bigger you are, the harder it is to get through you. It narrows, shortens the defensive zone."

Allen's gift is as a skilled irritant to swarming forwards. The fourth pick of the 1998 draft by Vancouver blocked a staggering 188 shots last year for Carolina.

"Just being aware on the ice, being in position … when you have the puck, knowing what you're going to do, thinking a step ahead," Allen said of his mind-set.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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