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Former Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy faces emotional return to Anaheim

Ben Lovejoy returns to Honda Center for the first time since he was traded by the Ducks to the Penguins

Ben Lovejoy was as forthcoming as any Ducks player when he was in Anaheim. Upon his return to Honda Center as a Pittsburgh Penguin on Friday, he said one word that seems unbelievable.

Asked if he’s devoted any attention to the matter of why he was traded to Pittsburgh on Monday for younger defenseman Simon Despres, Lovejoy said, "No," and seemed interested in another question.

The trade hurt the 31-year-old defenseman, who for most of the season joined Cam Fowler as the Ducks' top defensive pair.

As the team skidded through a 6-7-1 slump that started in late January, Lovejoy was twice made a healthy scratch and once had a minus-three game amid rumors his team was looking for defensemen on the trade market.

The Ducks (42-17-7) acquired three -- Despres, James Wisniewski and Korbinian Holzer -- sending Lovejoy, a player General Manager Bob Murray described as “a good soldier,” back to his former team in Pittsburgh.

The goal changes now. Just four days ago, Lovejoy was pouring all of his energy and attention into Anaheim’s pursuit of a Stanley Cup. Now, he still wants it, and has a chance with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins (36-18-9).

Lovejoy returned to the beach-area home he was renting in Orange County, loaded up six duffel bags of belongings and will take them back with him to his new home.

"I'm excited to be a Penguin now, and this is going to be an emotional game for me," Lovejoy said. "I loved my time here."

He said battling against the Ducks is part of being “a professional,” saying he "still views them as the best grinding team in the league," anticipating that Friday night’s game will be more intense than the practice sessions in which he previously tried to defend Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler.

Lovejoy will wear his college number, 12, in what he called "Pittsburgh Penguins 2.0."

He expressed satisfaction with how his first game went playing with Derrick Pouliot.

"The people in Pittsburgh knew my work ethic, my personality. They have watched the things I’ve done with the Ducks and appreciated them,” Lovejoy said.

“I’m a completely different player than the last time I was a Penguin. The Penguins saw a need and felt my personality and my game and the fact I’d been there so long would be an easy fit to come back.”

That’s probably the best answer to why Pittsburgh made the deal.

The fan favorite who accommodated autograph seekers, who was kind enough to provide a smile and hello to reporters each morning, said he was emotional before arriving at the arena.

“If I didn’t have a problem touching people, because I don’t like germs, I would give everybody a hug,” he said.

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire

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