It's not that Peter Douris would rather pound some poor sap into the boards with a brutal check than score a pretty goal that winds up on the late-night highlight reels. He simply understands the value of such mundane tasks as checking.
Let others fly up and down the ice, slipping deftly placed shots past goaltenders. Douris, a right wing, takes pride in doing the little things well: solid checks, strong defense and mucking in the corners.
As the Mighty Ducks continued to struggle Friday against the Vancouver Canucks at The Pond, Douris again provided bankable play. As usual, he wasn't flashy, but merely reliable. That's not a bad label to carry as the Ducks bob and weave, trying to avoid new troubles seemingly at every turn in their second season.
"Peter has been one of the few stable players for us this year," winger Stu Grimson said. "I've said all along that Peter's the example we all need to follow. He's a very dependable guy. The one thing he brings to the table is that he's strong in his own end. He's never suspect."
Douris had three goals and one assist going into Friday's game. Last season, he established career highs with 12 goals and 22 assists in 74 games.
"He's very dependable, very reliable," Duck Coach Ron Wilson said. "When things aren't going well, he's the kind of guy you rely on."
Drafted by Winnipeg in 1984, Douris learned his craft with the Boston Bruins, admiring the steady play of center Dave Poulin. For the most part, Douris was a bit player in the Bruin system, spending much of his four seasons in the minors. The Ducks signed him as a free agent in 1993 and liked his style immediately.
"I was tutored by a good organization," Douris said. "Boston teaches discipline and what it takes to win. I try not to worry about stats. Goals, assists are peripheral things. I think guys should take pride in the little things.
"I've had lousy games when I've scored a goal and two or three good games when I haven't had a point."
That style of play can make a player almost invisible to all but the most knowledgeable fans. But Douris believes it can be a hit with coaches and general managers.
"You hope it gets noticed," said Douris, whose best season in Boston was 1991-92 with 10 goals and 13 assists in 54 games. "Coaches know the game. They should see these types of things."
It's not as if Douris doesn't know what to do with the puck when he gets an opening. Edmonton goalie Bill Ranford found that out when Douris broke free on a breakaway in overtime earlier this season.
Taking a pass from Patrik Carnback, Douris steamed toward the net, faked once, then swept the puck past a helpless Ranford, giving the Ducks a 5-4 victory that ranks as one of the season's few highlights.
Douris on the Ducks' transition from plodding, defensive-minded skaters last season to a more skillful offensive team this year:
"We're still going to look like a bunch of plumbers when we don't have the puck. We can go flying when we do have the puck, though."
Stats of the week: The Ducks had given up a league-high 448 shots going into Friday. Their opponents had 40 shots or more in five games. The Ducks had 20 shots or fewer in five games.
There's no doubt that Paul Kariya is the Ducks' star attraction and a strong candidate for rookie of the year honors. But is he big enough to contend for the title of the NHL's most marketable young player? The Sports Business Daily thinks so. The newsletter recently asked a panel of 25 hockey experts: "With the exception of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, who are the top young marketable athletes in the NHL?"
Kariya finished third, trailing Pavel Bure of Vancouver and Eric Lindros of Philadelphia. He was ahead of such established stars as Sergei Fedorov, Jaromir Jagr, Jeremy Roenick, Adam Graves and Brian Leetch. Kariya was the only rookie named to the list.
Said one panelist: "Disney built him. The following will come."
You won't be seeing many Kariya ads for now, though. He wants to establish himself on the ice first and the Ducks have agreed. But they signed him to an agreement that essentially says the Ducks get first crack at promotional deals when he is ready. The only exception is for a stick endorsement, and Kariya signed what was called "a major endorsement deal" just before the season.