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Francois Beauchemin couldn't make it with Habs but now a star with Ducks

The Montreal Canadiens couldn't find a spot for Beauchemin after drafting him, and at one point he was demoted from their AHL farm team to the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the ECHL.

On Monday night, when the Ducks won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final 3-2, Beauchemin's ice time of 29 minutes three seconds was exceeded only by teammate Chris Pronger. He has a wicked slapshot on power plays and also kills penalties.

The 26-year-old native of Sorel, Que., has certainly come a long way. Obviously, patience and perseverance are staples of his personality.

Didn't he ever get discouraged, want to throw in the towel?

"Absolutely not," he says. "Every year I was getting better, getting closer to the NHL. Every training camp I was doing some better things and feeling better on the ice. I knew at one point I would make it."

He thought he had it made when Montreal drafted him, 75th overall, in 1998. It was the dream of every kid in Sorel to pull on a Habs sweater.

He would spend the next two years with the AHL's Quebec Citadelles, and a month during the second season in the third-tier ECHL.

"That was tough," he recalls.

He was with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs for the next two seasons. The Canadiens called him up for only one game, and he'll never forget it.

"It was a Thursday night at home against Minnesota," he recalls. "We lost that game but I ended up playing a decent game and played about 17 minutes. It was my first NHL game. It was a good experience for me. All my family was there. I was pretty excited."

He was quickly back in Hamilton.

"There were always guys ahead of me," he explains.

Mike Komisarek and Ron Hainsey would be the defencemen getting the call-ups.

"I was third on the list and I didn't get a chance," says Beauchemin.

The Columbus Blue Jackets claimed him on waivers from Montreal, but he played the NHL lockout season in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch.

He started the 2005-2006 season with the Jackets, returning to the big league nearly three years after that single game with the Habs, and he appeared in only 11 games before being traded with Tyler Wright to Anaheim for Sergei Fedorov and a fifth-round draft choice.

"That was a shock," he says. "I didn't expect that. Getting traded for a guy making $6 million and who won Stanley Cups was quite a thrill. I was battling for a sixth or seventh spot on the defence and trying to stick in the NHL but the trade happened and I got here and things ended up pretty good."

No kidding.

Being paired with Scott Niedermayer on the Anaheim defence did wonders for him.

"He's one of the best so I don't think you can ask for more than that," he says. "Just being at his side on the ice gives you confidence and you make better plays just like that."

His cannon of a point shot has made him a valuable weapon on power plays. He began to draw acclaim last spring when the Ducks went to the Western Conference final.

"That was my first NHL playoffs experience," he says. "We had a decent run. It was a great experience for all of us. We learned from that and we built off of that for this year."

He's one of the NHL's biggest bargains at US$500,000 this season. Recognizing his increased value, the Ducks will pay him $1.65 million each of the next two years.

To get to the next level, he knows he has to limit his mistakes.

"Everybody makes them, but I have to limit mine," he says. "I have to make better decisions with the puck. In the defensive zone, I still have a tendency to try to move the puck in the middle instead of along the wall."

He has the potential to become one of the top scoring D-men in the league.

"Maybe, but I just want to focus on what I have to do every day," he says. "I'll work on being better and we'll see what happens."

What has happened so far has delighted if not surprised coach Randy Carlyle.

"To say that we would have thought that he would be the type of player he is, I would be incorrect," says Carlyle. "Yeah, we thought he would be a good defenceman but he's turned out to be a player that you can rely on for the tough minutes."

He's scored some big goals for the Ducks and shown a willingness to drop the gloves if need be.

"He's a tough kid," adds Carlyle.



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