Unless you were looking for Patric Kjellberg, you would hardly notice the Mighty Duck forward on the ice. But the steady efforts of players such as Kjellberg have helped the Ducks to one of the best starts in franchise history, five games over .500 at the Christmas break.
"The team is doing really good right now," said Kjellberg, a six-year NHL veteran and former Swedish Elite League standout. "We're getting the points that we should be getting."
Kjellberg, acquired by the Ducks from Nashville for Petr Tenkrat nearly 14 months ago, has three goals and nine points in 29 games. But big offensive numbers are not why first-year Coach Mike Babcock has him in the lineup.
After benching Kjellberg for five of the first seven games, Babcock turned to the reliable veteran and put him on a line centered by Steve Rucchin during a five-game trip in late October.
Kjellberg has been a regular top-six forward since.
"You always have to have a mix of different type of players on a line where they all do different things and I think we have that," said Kjellberg, who won an Olympic gold medal playing for Sweden in 1994 and was a Stockholm police officer before joining the NHL. "With me and Rucchin and either [Stanislav] Chistov or Paul [Kariya] ... the line becomes more dynamic when you have a guy you can set up for."
Kjellberg, who led the Swedish Elite League with 30 goals in 1997-98, has maintained his spot in the lineup by doing little things, a solid back-check or set-up pass.
"I like how this season has been going for me," he said. "It's always nice to have confidence in knowing that you're going to be playing there for a while."
After two so-so seasons, Kariya, the captain, is back to his dominating self.
Kariya tied a franchise record with three goals and nine points over his last three games and has points in eight of his last 10 games (5-9-14). With 15 goals and 35 points, Kariya has bounced back strong after scoring only 57 points last season.
But Kariya is not getting much recognition in the All-Star game voting. He is sixth among wingers in the Western Conference and the top two will be selected to the team. Fans can vote at NHL.com until Dec. 31.
Defenseman Mike Commodore was sent back to Cincinnati on Monday without having played after being recalled from the American Hockey League team on Saturday.