Whether it's the opponent's top scorer or the
A confluence of greater maturity and an appreciation of the disparity between Lovejoy's prior
"He can skate, defend, plays hard all the time," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "When we play a team with a No. 1 line that's very fast, he's always against that team — might be the only one who can catch 'em.
"He's brought a lot of stability to our defense."
The 6-foot-2 Lovejoy, 30, is also undeniably smart, his Ivy League education (Dartmouth) shining not only in the heat of games but when he is called upon by reporters for frequent state-of-the-team updates.
"Most of us think what he says, but he always says it best, exactly what's going on with us," said rookie defenseman Hampus Lindholm, with whom Lovejoy is currently paired. "Same thing out there [on the ice, he] always knows what's going on."
Lovejoy was dealt to the Ducks in February 2013 from the talented
"Every mistake I made, I knew it'd cost me the next game, if not more," Lovejoy said. "I had to become a student of the game. If I made a mistake, my night was over."
When Ducks General Manager
"With that, and playing for guys like Bruce and [Ducks assistant] Bob Woods, I knew, here was the NHL opportunity I've been waiting for," Lovejoy said.
The Ducks saw enough of Lovejoy in 32 games last season (10 assists, 29 penalty minutes, plus-six) to award him a three-year contract extension and pair him with 22-year-old
"Ben has been a good fit for us," Murray said. "Works hard, is a character player, has a positive, upbeat attitude every day."
Lovejoy has led the Ducks with more than 200 hits. He ranks second in blocked shots and is poised to establish a career-high points total as his team seeks to clinch a second straight
Some pro athletes are just like the rest of us, waiting for that door of opportunity to crack open. When it does, will we kick it open wider or shrink from the pressure?
"I always thought and hoped I could do more there, but didn't know," Lovejoy said. "I'm so lucky to have been given a chance to play on a regular basis and get comfortable and not be afraid to make mistakes."
You could argue there hasn't been a more obvious gaffe for the Ducks this season than Lovejoy trying to smack a puck up ice in overtime against the
Taking full account, Lovejoy was at his locker, answering reporters' questions immediately afterward.
And Boudreau put Lovejoy back in there the next game for 24 minutes, 53 seconds in the Ducks' 1-0 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lovejoy is plus-22 on the ice this season, saying he particularly enjoys games against the Ducks' fiercest
Diving forward and extending his stick, he stopped San Jose's
Days later, the self-deprecating Lovejoy kidded after a two-goal game to beat Edmonton that it took "a perfect storm" of events to let that happen, given his weak slapshot.
"In so many ways, it's been different here," Lovejoy said. "I'm relied upon. I don't have to prove myself."
His chemistry with Fowler has been a testimonial to teamwork.
"I want Cam to be really good," Lovejoy said. "I tell him all the time, 'I never need the puck.' We've elevated each other.
"We all want to be
"I just turned 30, this is my seventh year pro. I know now what I need to be a successful NHLer."
AT EDMONTON OILERS
When: 5 PDT.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Update: It took three third-period goals for the Ducks to edge the