Ducks star flying high

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

There was no epiphany that brought Scott Niedermayer back into the fold.

No shining light, no act of God...

No defining moment.

"It was just that feeling -- the instinct after a few months away, it was time," the Anaheim Ducks star defenceman said after practising yesterday at the Corral. "There was a lot of things. You make lists or have different reasons in your head, but that never really seemed to work.

"For me, it just came down to a feeling I had. That feeling I had just got stronger and stronger that I should be here, and for all the reasons everybody can probably think it."

Nor did the decision come down to a family vote. It was his decision to make alone, and instead of riding into the sunset as one of the most successful players in league history, he returned.

"Of course you talk with your wife especially, parents, different things like that," Niedermayer said. "The kids had different ideas about things. They wanted me to go back so they can get bubble gum in the dressing room after games, so I don't know how much stock I could put in that."

Seeing as the Ducks arrived in Calgary for tonight's clash on a four-game winning streak, you can be sure that organization is thrilled with the turn of events.

"For whatever reason -- and I wish I had the answer to why we spent so much time (in our own zone) before -- the addition of Scott Niedermayer seems to have elevated our whole mantra as a group," said coach Randy Carlyle.

"If you're around Scott Niedermayer, he's so unassuming you wonder how does that happen? But it happened, and we're thankful."

No kidding. A team strong on the blueline already with Chris Pronger, Mathieu Schneider and Francois Beauchemin became embarassingly wealthy with Niedermayer's return this month.

After all, we're talking about the Conn Smyth Trophy winner from last spring and the top-scoring defenceman in the league last season.

Team-wise, Niedermayer's return has been a boon.

Personally, he said his game is still rounding into form.

"When you're out there with nine other players moving around and you're comfortable out there, you know where to position, you know where to look, your anticipation -- you're not even thinking, you just know what to do -- and I just don't feel there's that last five per cent. That's what you have to polish up," he said.

"I'm not lost out there, but just to feel that's coming without thinking, it does take time."

Still, if any player can jump into the fray mid-season, it's Niedermayer. When he plays the game, it seems so effortless, almost like the 34-year-old could play forever.

"I think the way I play, maybe it looks a little easier than it is," said Niedermayer, who is averaging 21 minutes and 42 seconds of ice time in his return.

"I don't know, I don't really watch a lot of video of myself, but people seem to have that impression. It doesn't feel easy."

After practice, Niedermayer had a muscle stimulator working his sore groins. You can be sure, though, come playoff time, the four-time Stanley Cup champ will be ready.

"Obviously this is a situation I chose to go, so I have to try and deal with it and make it as smooth as possible and prepare myself as best I can to overcome the obstacles that will be there, for sure, because there will be some," he said.


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