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Ducks' Tim Jackman has embraced the role of a fighter

Tim Jackman's energy and commitment to his role has grabbed the Ducks' attention

Whatever else Tim Jackman could do with his life outside of hockey is anyone's guess.

At 6 feet 2, 225 pounds, the native North Dakotan has the strength and demeanor to handle any number of tasks in the upper Midwest.

Think small-town sheriff, a rancher riding horseback over a couple hundred acres, or a bar bouncer.

But those alternatives pale in comparison to Jackman's interest in remaining an NHL player, and so in 2004, when he played just 19 games with Columbus and felt vulnerable to a demotion to another career, Jackman made a key decision.

"Columbus wanted me to fight and I wasn't fighting — never had. In college, I'd just stand there. I was scared," Jackman said.

"I just realized, 'I want to play hockey. I'll do whatever it takes to continue to do the thing I want to do.' "

Now, 10 seasons later, a 33-year-old forward closing in on his 500th NHL game, Jackman fittingly reached his 800th career penalty minute Thursday with an act that defines his role on one of the league's best teams.

The Ducks were battling fatigue in the finale of a five-game trip, trailing the Carolina Hurricanes, 1-0, and getting outshot, 25-7, in the second period.

Jackman took it upon himself to fight Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason, an entertaining scrap that resuscitated his fading teammates.

Less than two minutes later, Ducks right wing Corey Perry surged to the net, defenseman Francois Beauchemin tipping in a tying goal. And less than five minutes after Jackman's five-for-fighting penalty, Matt Beleskey made it 2-1 — the game's final score.

"It was the fight with 'Jacko' that really turned the tide," Perry said.

Jackman's play throughout this season has been an unexpected plus. A fourth-line heavy-checking player regularly connected to rugged Ducks center Nate Thompson, Jackman, with five goals, is one shy of matching his total during the last three seasons.

Beleskey jokingly called the well-liked teammate "sniper" after Jackman's dump-in from mid-ice Tuesday in Florida that bounced past goalie Roberto Luongo, a former Vezina Trophy winner.

"That was a gift," Jackman said. "I was telling the guys when I was in Calgary, we played Vancouver six times that year and the five times that Luongo played, I scored a goal each time, so he texted [Ducks center Ryan] Kesler, 'Tell Jackman I hate him. LOL.'"

Jackman's energy and commitment to his role has grabbed the Ducks' attention. He was missed after breaking a hand that kept him out of last season's seven-game Western Conference semifinal series against the eventual-champion Kings.

The career minus-60 player before this season is just minus-two through 47 games.

"I'm constantly trying to get better, to make more plays, see the ice better, talk — the little things, repeatedly," Jackman said.

He has another cause to play for now, as well. Jackman and his wife, Chelsey, are expecting a baby, with a due date in three weeks.

The team has a busy road schedule for the next month-plus, but he definitely wants to be there for the arrival as the couple has waited for the baby's gender to be a surprise at birth.

"We'll deal with it when it happens," Jackman said. "I'm real excited. Pretty big change in my life."

From hockey, Jackman understands how to pass on experience.

He's taught big first-line forward Patrick Maroon some fighting tricks, like tugging a jersey down with one hand and belting the opponent in the face with the other.

"I take pride in being there for the guys," Jackman said. "Hockey is a gift."

Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said in a departure from some other tough guys he's coached, the only time he'll sit Jackman is when the team is trailing by a goal.

"He does what we want him to do, that's why he's in the lineup a lot more than he was last year," Boudreau said. "He brings big-brother protectiveness, whether he wins [fights] or not. Shows up every night, embraces the role of limited ice time, never complains.

"Those are the kinds of guys you want on your team."

TODAY

VS. WASHINGTON

When: 5 p.m.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket. Radio: 830.

ETC.: The Ducks, now 23-0-7 in one-goal games, lost at Washington, 3-2 in a shootout, Feb. 6, but kept potent scorer Alex Ovechkin out of the net.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimespugmire

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