D-man lovin' life in playoffs

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

There are times when Danny Groulx still feels like he's living a dream.

Groulx, who was acquired from the Grand Rapids Griffins just before the American Hockey League clear-day roster deadline, has fit in nicely with the Manitoba Moose.

And when the North Division final with the Rochester Americans resumes tonight at the MTS Centre, you can be sure that Groulx is thanking his lucky stars he was loaned to Manitoba.

If not, he'd be shining up his golf clubs since the Griffins missed the playoffs.

"I've been more than happy with the way things have been going, I kind of got a second chance and you don't get that too often in a season," said Groulx, who has a goal and an assist in seven Calder Cup playoff games. "I went from a team that didn't make the playoffs to a team that has a chance to win everything."

Groulx, who has been paired mostly with Moose captain Nolan Baumgartner, admits there are times he has to pinch himself.

"I think about it every day and I'm grateful for it," said Groulx, who was the tournament MVP in 2001-02 when Victoriaville captured the Memorial Cup. "I'm still buddies with some guys (from the Griffins), they call me and say 'you're one lucky guy. Make sure you know that.' I'm very fortunate."

Paired with top prospect

With Grand Rapids, Groulx spent a good chunk of the season paired with top prospect Niklas Kronwall, who was named top defenceman in the AHL last month. But when head coach Danton Cole was fired and replaced by Greg Ireland, Groulx found himself on the outside looking in.

Enter Moose general manager Craig Heisinger, who was still looking for a defenceman to help fill the offensive void left by the departure of Kirill Koltsov, who returned home to Russia to play for Omsk Avangard in late December.

Baumgartner and Groulx had a communication breakdown in Game 1 that led to Danile Paille's game-tying goal, but the duo have formed a formidable pairing that logs plenty of ice time.

"The biggest thing is that he's a good puck-moving defenceman," said Baumgartner. "When you've got a partner like that, you make the first pass and you're out of the zone. Some games you find that you don't spend much time in your own end, which is ideal. It was an easy transition. He's very skilled and he reads the play really well."

Moose head coach Randy Carlyle says Groulx has been a welcome addition.

"We tried to give him the opportunity to do the things that were natural for him," said Carlyle. "He's an offensive guy, a puck-moving guy that can play the point on a power play. He has a big shot. And our expectations are for him to be able to defend."


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