Lubomir Visnovsky and Aaron Ward were given side-by-side lockers in the Ducks’ dressing room Thursday, in the same block as Sheldon Brookbank and Steve Eminger.
Don’t read too much into that.
“We always think about it,” head coach Randy Carlyle said when asked what the new defensive pairings would look like, “but there isn’t any earth-shattering news in that department. We’ve got seven guys, and we’re going to try to get some people together that gets us the best chance.”
The two are about as diametrically opposite as defensemen get.
In practice, Visnovsky showed off some of the skating speed and shooting velocity that have allowed him to score 10 goals in 57 games this season. He will be expected to run the Ducks’ power play and alleviate some of the minutes burden on Scott Niedermayer and James Wisniewski. Visnovsky played a similar role for the Oilers and before that for the Kings, who drafted him in 2000 and employed him until 2008.
Carlyle called Visnovsky “a power-play guy, he can move the puck, has ran power plays in the past, a good puck-moving defenseman. Smaller in stature, but very competitive and very effective moving around the ice.”
The 5-foot-11 blueliner would like to add one more thing to his resum.
“I haven’t played the last five, six years in the playoffs,” Visnovsky said. “For me, it’s very important to play in the playoffs.”
Unlike Ward, Visnovsky didn’t expect to be traded because of his $5.6 million annual cap hit.
“I didn’t believe too much that somebody would take me because of the big contract, and teams (have) no space for big contracts,” he said. “I’m very happy the Ducks took me. … I come to the locker room and I have a good feeling. I look at the names – Selanne, Niedermayer, Getzlaf, Perry – the big names, you know, and I am enjoying the first practice.”
Ward is a physical, stay-at-home defenseman who happened to score the first goal ever at Arrowhead Pond, on Oct. 8, 1993 as a member of the Detroit Red Wings.
“I got the puck from (Sergei) Fedorov on a one-timer,” Ward recalled. “I think Ray Sheppard passed it to him. It was in this blue line right by the Ducks’ defensive door. I went top-shelf. I think it was Guy Hebert at the time.
“No, I don’t remember anything about it,” he deadpanned.
Former Ducks defenseman Bret Hedican, a teammate of Ward’s from 2002-06 in Carolina, called him a “pretty simple defenseman with the occasional huge hit.” His one goal, 11 points, 138 hits and 122 blocked shots in 60 games seem to reflect that.
“The one thing I pride myself on is getting in front of shots,” Ward said. “There’s an art to doing it – proper timing and not deflecting it. … I’m not pretty out there. I strive to get the job done. Sometimes as a defenseman, the least noticed you are, maybe that’s the best game you played.”
Ward was never a teammate of any current Ducks player, but did play under assistant coach Newell Brown in Adirondack of the American Hockey League from 1993-96. He played against Saku Koivu for years in the Eastern Conference. But by now, he is probably most familiar with Visnovsky.
The two left Chicago for their new home on the same flight Wednesday night, grabbed dinner, “joked about who had it worse,” then shared a unique bonding experience.
“They lost Vish’s bag, so we had to wait another 45 minutes to find out it was left in Chicago somewhere on the runway,” Ward said.