Ducks blueliners learning from the best

Veteran defenceman Francois Beauchemin is part an unspectacular but deep Anaheim Ducks blue line...

Veteran defenceman Francois Beauchemin is part an unspectacular but deep Anaheim Ducks blue line that works under the guidance of Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer (inset). (Getty Images/AFP)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:31 PM ET

The Anaheim Ducks’ extras can’t slack off on their post-practice skating drills.

Not when the man overseeing the extended sessions is assistant coach Scott Niedermayer, a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee who was blessed with one of the most effective and seemingly effortless strides in NHL history.

“Good thing I haven’t had to do any bag skates with him,” joked defenceman Stephane Robidas, who arrived in Anaheim just before the trade deadline.

“I’m pretty sure I would be embarrassed a little bit.”

The Ducks, having been staked to a 2-0 series lead with back-to-back one-goal victories over the Stars on home ice, had an optional skate Saturday in Anaheim before jetting to Dallas to prepare for Monday’s Game 3 at American Airlines Center.

The hallway leading to the Ducks’ locker-room at Honda Center is lined with reminders of good times past, including a photo of Niedermayer and soon-to-be-retired right-winger Teemu Selanne celebrating while the Ducks sipped from the Stanley Cup in 2007.

The old adage that ‘defence wins championships’ was certainly true that spring, when it seemed like either Niedermayer or big, bad Chris Pronger was always on the ice for Anaheim.

The Ducks’ current blueline brigade doesn’t have a superstar, let alone two, but their depth should be an asset this spring.

Cam Fowler, a 22-year-old who will reach superstar status sooner than later, and Ben Lovejoy typically log the most minutes.


MIKE ZEISBERGER BREAKS DOWN ALL 16 PLAYOFF TEAMS

-Click the box below for the skinny on this year's post-season


Francois Beauchemin, who was among Niedermayer’s teammates in ’07 and is now back for a second stint in SoCal, is skating with superb rookie Hampus Lindholm.

Bryan Allen, a 6-foot-5 behemoth who walloped Stars left-winger Antoine Roussel with a hard hit in Game 2, and Robidas provide a third pairing with more than 1,600 NHL games between them.

“We have some guys that have been around, and they battle hard,” said Niedermayer, who retired in 2010 and is now his second season as an assistant coach. “Beauchemin, Robidas, Allen ... Those guys, they’re not going to cheat you at all, and as a team, as a coach, when you see that, that means a lot.

“And then, obviously, the young guys that I enjoy working with. That’s maybe why I’m doing this, because I think back to when I was in their situation and the benefit I had from some of my teammates or coaches that I played with and the little things they helped me with.

“I’m just sort of passing along what I benefited from.”

As an up-and-comer in the New Jersey Devils’ organization, one of Niedermayer’s assistant coaches was Larry Robinson, the former Montreal Canadiens star who has a half-dozen Stanley Cup rings from his playing career — he has collected three more as a coach — and knows a thing or two about patrolling the blueline at the NHL level.

Niedermayer’s resume is also sparkling — four Stanley Cup championships, two Olympic gold medals, the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 2007.

“First, he brings lots of experience. At every level, he’s a winner,” said the 37-year-old Robidas. “He’s very composed, very calm, very methodical with the little things ... Even for a guy like myself, there’s a lot I can learn from him.”

“He’s a very, very smart guy, and everything he says makes a lot of sense. You don’t even have to overthink it, it just makes so much sense,” added Lindholm, who turned 20 in January. “Every small detail he can put in my game and help me out, I’m going to take it. I see this as a big opportunity to have him around.”

Niedermayer is happy to be around, but spring is the time the 40-year-old father of four admits he longs to be wearing shoulder pads instead of a suit and tie.

“The emotions are still there. You want to do well and the fun of the competition is still there, but it’s quite a bit different,” Niedermayer said. “It’s a fun time of year, so this is what you miss.”


Videos

Photos