“I’ve coached some good leaders in this NHL, and one was Mark Messier,” Muckler said at Sunday’s news conference. “And Alfredsson leading the club is on par with Mark.”
Signing Alfredsson to a five-year extension before the lockout was a major move, Muckler said.
“I think it was not one of, but the best move I’ve made as a general manager in Ottawa as far as I was concerned,” said Muckler.
IMPRESSIVE RECOVERY: The hockey career of first-line Ducks forward Andy McDonald was on shaky ground after he missed the last 29 games of the 2002-03 season with post-concussion syndrome after being felled by an open-ice hit by Adam Foote.
“Two weeks before training camp started, I still wasn’t feeling 100 per cent,” McDonald on the eve of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. “I talked to a few players, like Steve Rucchin, who’d had similar injuries.
“He told me, ‘You’re never going to feel 100 per cent so you might as well give it a try.’ I started working out again and pushing through it. It wasn’t until Christmas time that season until I felt 100 per cent again. It was a tough year for me in terms of my performance, but I was extremely happy to be back playing in the NHL and part of the team.”
He wound up scoring 10 goals in 46 games, and he potted only nine in 79 games in 2003-2004.
“I felt fortunate I still had a career in hockey,” he said.
In 2005-06, he played all 82 games and scored 34 goals. He also played all 82 games this season and scored 27 times.
EARLY START: Game 1 begins at 5 p.m. local time to satisfy eastern TV requirements. Ducks coach Randy Carlyle says his team is used to the early starts.
“Obviously, it’s a little different from the standpoint of preparation,” says Carlyle. “The time frame in which you have to work the day of the game changes but it only changes about an hour or so. So, it’s really not that drastic from a rest standpoint.
“We always try to make sure we allow our players the proper amount of time to rest. Our preparation starts right after the game that we’ve just completed. You have to make sure players are doing the things necessary to replenish the fluids, to remove the lactic acid.
“It’s become famous for the Ottawa hockey club to do their interviews while their players are on the bikes. That’s one of the steps they’re taking. They’ve implemented that a number of years and it seems to be working for them.”
Neither club will have pre-game skates Monday, which changes the normal routine for players. The Senators are also playing their first game of the year in the Pacific Time Zone.
“You adjust,” said Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson. “We’re in the finals and you just do what you have to do to get ready. So that’s not a problem.”
O’DONNELL THRIVING: Being paired with Chris Pronger on the Anaheim defence has reinvigorated 35-year-old blue-liner Sean O’Donnell, who is with his sixth NHL team.
“After the lockout, I signed in Phoenix and for whatever reason, things didn’t work out there,” O’Donnell said after practice Sunday. “I was moved here at the (2006 trading) deadline and this was a little bit better fit for me, maybe a more clearly defined role for me.
“We were able to have a run in the playoffs last spring and playing with Chris Pronger has really helped me out a lot this season. I feel like I’ve responded in a good way and, if that means I can squeeze a couple of more years out, that would be great.”
LONG-TIME ACQUAINTANCES – Anaheim GM Brian Burke met Bryan Murray when Burke was playing in the AHL on the same team as Terry Murray, brother of the Ottawa coach.
“He would come down and watch games,” recalled Burke.
That was in 1977 or 1978.
“We’ve been friends ever since,” said Burke. “We’ll put it on hold for a couple of weeks.”
Murray was asked to recall those years when they met.
“Did we meet in a beer parlour or something?,” Murray said with a laugh.
On a serious note, Murray outlined his respect for Burke.
“He’s not afraid to take a chance this guy,” said Murray. “He steps up to the plate. He’s made big trades in the league. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, we all know that. And people like that you have to respect. And he’s done a real good job here.”
GIGGY’S BIGGIE: J.S. Giguere routinely gets criticized for what appears to be large equipment. And yet again on Sunday he was on the defensive, saying his equipment got smaller just like all goalies with the new rules after the lockout.
“My equipment is 14 per cent smaller,” said the Ducks goalie. “A company is not allowed to send you equipment that’s not legal and it’s got to go through the league before it gets to you. So we’re all in the same boat.”
Still, his former GM and now Senators coach Bryan Murray couldn’t resist a little humour.
“Obviously I have to complain to the league about it,” Murray said to a room full of laughter.
HEAVY HITTER: Ottawa forward Chris Neil led the NHL in hits during the regular season, and he hasn’t softened his approach during the playoffs.
“If you’re initiating and not receiving, it pays dividends in the end because it’s wearing down their defence and forwards,” says Neil. “You catch a guy with his head down and he’s going to feel it, and your team might get momentum from it.
“It gets your adrenalin going and gets you fired up.”
One factor will be paramount in determining the next Stanley Cup champion, he said.
“It’s who sticks to the system, who plays the team game best,” says Neil. “We’ve done that so far.
“We set ourselves up for a great opportunity here but, you know, you can’t take anything away from Anaheim. They’re here, too. They’ve done a lot of right things, too. It’s a game of mistakes and which team makes the fewest of them.”
He doesn’t mind being the object of fans’ disdain.
“I like getting under opponents’ skin,” he says. “A lot of guys don’t like that but it’s what I bring to the table and I try to bring it every night.”