For the last two months, Ilya Bryzgalov said he’s been operating as a “full-time dad,” coaching his son’s hockey team in New Jersey, doing homework with his kids at night.
On Thursday, in his first practice with Anaheim after signing a tryout contract, the 34-year-old originally drafted by the Ducks in 2000 assessed his performance.
“I’m not going to lie to you … I wasn’t paying attention to my physical condition,” before reuniting with the Ducks, Bryzgalov told reporters in a conference call. “I need to catch up.”
The Ducks (16-6-5) can use the goaltender.
With goalies John Gibson (groin) and Jason LaBarbera (broken hand bone) out through late December at least, starting goalie Frederik Andersen has played in a career-high 13 consecutive games.
“I was driving my son from a hockey tournament [in New Jersey], my agent called and asked, ‘Do you have a desire to play some hockey? The Ducks offer you a tryout contract,’” Bryzgalov said, and then responded, “‘That’s great, it’s a wonderful place, California … a beautiful part of the country.’”
With additional health woes on defense, Andersen has been pressured by 34 or more shots in the last five outings before Friday’s game in Minnesota.
Bryzgalov, who helped the Ducks reach the Western Conference finals in 2006 and won three playoff games in 2007 when they took the Stanley Cup, said he thinks he can be in game shape within 10 days.
He said his enthusiasm about returning to Anaheim is high, regardless of how playing time shakes out.
“I was drafted here, my son was born here, I built a home here. I love this,” he said. “I don’t hope for anything. I’m only in a tryout contract. I came here to play hockey, to my best ability. The rest of the stuff, I don’t worry about.”
The colorful goalie entertained during his first stay, ordering an equipment person to paint a duck wearing boxing gloves on his helmet, once hugging a reporter goodbye after a minor-league demotion and greeting reporters upon an introduction with, “Hell-oooo, media!”
When Bryzgalov once complained about his salary, current Ducks radio analyst Dan Wood — then a newspaper reporter — asked Bryzgalov how he’d like to earn what a reporter made, telling him the figure.
“Oh! That cannot be done. That’s poverty level!” Bryzgalov said.
Asked whether he’s changed playing for Edmonton, Philadelphia and Minnesota since, Bryzgalov said, “I am who I am. Life is beautiful! You’ve got to enjoy every day of your life. Find the positive moments every day.”
With three regular defensemen sidelined by injuries, the Ducks moved again to shore up their blue line by acquiring defenseman Colby Robak from the Florida Panthers in exchange for recently demoted rookie defenseman Jesse Blacker and a conditional draft pick.
The 6-feet-3, 190-pound Robak, 24, joined the team Thursday in Minnesota.
A second-round pick in 2008, Robak played in seven games for the Panthers this season and was scoreless. He has three assists and 25 penalty minutes in 42 career NHL games.
Based on how many games Robak plays, the Ducks will send Florida a fourth-round draft pick in 2016 or a sixth-round pick in 2017.
DUCKS AT MINNESOTA
When: 5 PST, Friday.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket. Radio: AM 830.
Etc. The Wild have allowed the fourth fewest goals in the Western Conference. Off-season acquisition Thomas Vanek has a team-best 11 goals and Zach Parise has nine goals and 19 points. Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner, injured forward Dany Heatley and Bryzgalov played for Minnesota last season.