Hampus Lindholm was taking an elevator ride recently when a conversation turned to living arrangements.
"You want to be at the beach, right?" he was asked, a reasonable question given that Lindholm might be swayed to experience the seaside fun afforded a high-potential pro athlete.
"I don't care about the beach," said Lindholm, a blond-haired Swede who turns 21 on Tuesday. "I'm here to work."
That's one of the reasons the Ducks (28-10-6) are so taken by the defenseman, a 6-foot-3 former first-round pick (sixth overall in 2012) who is averaging more than 22 minutes of ice time per game.
"What I love about Hampus more than anything is that he studies the game and wants to get better," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's not one of those guys who takes his play for granted. He's always wanting to do better, has internal goals and is real conscientious. He's going to be a real good one."
"Hampus has been outstanding," Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "Extremely gifted skater, very good with the puck, and he's been making good decisions. Being in the right position is 90% of defense.
"His confidence — he knows how to play the game. He wants the puck, wants to be on the ice, is constantly asking questions."
Last season, Lindholm was eased into the lineup alongside veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin, and contributed 30 points and a plus-29 effort as the Ducks won the Pacific Division and finished with the best record in the Western Conference. Since Lindholm's debut, he ranks No. 2 among all NHL defensemen in plus/minus.
This season, Lindholm found himself without Beauchemin, who had the mumps and a broken finger),for 18 games.
"I saw it as a challenge to myself to show I can play under pressure like that, that I can step it up," Lindholm said.
Ducks assistant coach Scott Niedermayer, a Hall of Fame defenseman, said, "more responsibility in different situations, more time on the penalty kill … having success with that gives you confidence.
"His personality, minds-et, work ethic — all those things bode well for him."
Beauchemin has been impressed by the maturity of the noticeably more muscular Lindholm, embracing a situation others might view as too taxing.
"It's important to keep that strength up, because when you get to April and May with the playoffs, that's when you need to be strong and you don't have time to work out," Beauchemin said. "He's learned that. He gets better every game."
The added strength is an answer to the experiences of last season, which ended with Kings center Jeff Carter blowing by Lindholm and other Ducks en route to a Game 7 goal and victory in the Western Conference semifinals.
"Guys are going to score, you just keep playing," Lindholm said. "A game's 60 minutes long, so, hopefully, you get it back. Keep playing. I'm just like that. I don't care about that stuff. I know how good I am as a hockey player. If I make a mistake … I know I'm going to do more good things than bad things."
Said Lovejoy: "That took me until I was about 28. He's done it at 20."
Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen was fined $3,393.82 — the maximum permitted as per the NHL collective bargaining agreement — for elbowing Toronto's David Booth in the third period of their game Wednesday. Booth seemed woozy as he was helped from the ice and did not return. A penalty was not called for the hit.
VS. NEW JERSEY
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 830.
Etc.: The rested Devils (16-21-8) returned from a four-day break to beat the Kings with three goals in a 68-second span of the second period Wednesday.