Kyle Chipchura might be best off centering either the third or the fourth line in the Ducks’ lineup. The jury’s still out. At
least in Anaheim, unlike Montreal, the jury consists of only one coach, Randy
“It’s not like everybody you run into on the street is
trying to coach and has something to say,” Chipchura said Tuesday. “In that
sense, the personal pressure is lower.”
The 23-year-old never quite lived up to his mantle as a first-round draft pick (18th overall in 2004) by the Canadiens. After going scoreless through 19 games and watching another eight from the press box this season, the team that drafted him gave up, sending him to the Ducks for a fourth-round 2011 draft pick on Dec. 2.
Through five games in a Ducks uniform, the lack of a spotlight hasn’t translated into statistics for Chipchura. He still hasn’t scored, his time on ice has decreased (8:37 per game to 8:01), his faceoff percentage is down (53.8 to 52.0), and only his plus-minus has slightly improved, going from minus-10 with Montreal to minus-1 with Anaheim.
But statistics won’t necessarily measure Chipchura’s effectiveness.
“I see a safe player,” Carlyle said. “I see a player that has NHL skills and knows where he is out on the ice.”
“He has somewhat of a comfort zone that I’d like to see him break out of from a standpoint that I need more aggressiveness from him,” the coach continued. “I need him to be a little more involved physically, and I need to see that grit and determination that he’s been able to provide historically.”
Chipchura confessed he may have been trying “not to step on any guys’ toes.”
“I am a more aggressive player than I have been these past few games,” he said.
Carlyle said he likes the pairing of Chipchura with 21-year-old Matt Beleskey, another young, like-minded, defense-first forward. Neither started the season in Anaheim but, like Dan Sexton, Kyle Calder and, at times, MacGregor Sharp, have been given ample opportunity to shore up a forward corps that has suffered from injuries and inconsistency.
“That youth and enthusiasm is needed in our group,” Carlyle said. “If we can create more energy from some people and trusting them defensively, we’d like them to grow into their positions and maybe alleviate some of the taxing minutes that’s been placed on (Todd) Marchant and (Petteri) Nokelainen.”
Those certainly are modest goals for a former first-round pick who had already been pegged as a fourth-liner to start the season in Montreal.
Like the Canadiens, the Ducks have also struggled to meet expectationsas a team. The biggest difference is that the Habs get to play in the Eastern Conference, where a 15-16-3 record is among the top eight through Tuesday (albeit barely).
The Ducks have just two fewer standings points (31) at 12-13-7, but are 15th in the tougher Western Conference. They’re 2-0-3 since Chipchura arrived, their only regulation game a 3-1 victory Saturday in Columbus.
“It’s two organizations that take pride in themselves, pride themselves on winning,” he said. “The games I’ve been here have all been tight games. It seems like we’re right on the cusp of setting up a nice streak here.”