Many have been lost in the Ducks’ ongoing battle to stay healthy.
They’ve compensated thanks to the scoring touch that forward Matt Beleskey has found.
The 26-year-old left wing is tied with former NHL most valuable player Corey Perry for the team lead in goals with 14, reshaping the identity he cast as a rugged grinder who averaged more than one penalty minute per game through the last four seasons.
He had never scored more than the 11 goals he netted as a 2009-10 rookie.
“If you’re not supposed to be an offensive guy and you’re making plays that are not working, that’s bad,” Beleskey said. “You’ve got to work until [coaches] have that confidence in you.”
This season has featured a chain of events that have transformed the Canadian from an NHL everyman into a force.
“He’s been our best winger this year,” Ducks forward Patrick Maroon said.
Watching the Ducks lose to the crosstown rival Kings in last year’s playoffs got the best of Beleskey.
After scoring a goal in Game 1 of those Western Conference quarterfinals, Beleskey suffered a season-ending abdominal muscle tear and retreated home to watch the series on a projection-screen television in his basement.
The man cave was not a happy place during the lopsided home loss in Game 7 as Beleskey, his parents and a close friend watched in despair. He spoke to some Ducks teammates on the phone and resolved to make things right this season.
“My whole goal is to not let that happen again,” Beleskey said. “I want to be there and be a part of a game like that.”
He worked with a shooting coach and learned exercises to keep the trunk of his body more limber, and coupled that with the incentive of becoming an unrestricted free agent after the season.
“Obviously, you want to have a good year in your contract year,” Beleskey said. “For someone to say, it’s the only reason … if you’ve watched me play before this year, you know I’ve played hard every night.”
The Ducks (19-6-5) have been wracked by illness and injury throughout the season, and the void at forward has been stark.
Perry missed time with mumps and is now out three to four weeks with a knee sprain. Dany Heatley suffered a preseason groin injury and doesn’t have a point. Kyle Palmieri has been back for just a dozen games after an off-season ankle sprain.
Yet, Anaheim leads the NHL in points and Beleskey hasn’t let more than four games pass without scoring a goal.
“Confidence is the majority of it,” he said. “I believe if you have a positive mind-set and positive thinking, things go your way.”
And beyond the confidence ...
“His shot is tremendous, has a tremendous release,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Just learning how to use it.”
Beleskey has formed a kinship with center Ryan Kesler on the second line that Boudreau doesn’t want to tweak. They each scored in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Edmonton.
“He’s going to the dirty area, the blue,” Kesler said. “He’s fiery. You can see the effort he gives every night … done a great job filling holes.”
Newly assigned to the power play, Beleskey skated to the top of the crease Wednesday, took a backward pass from Palmieri and blasted a high shot to score with 10 seconds left in the man-advantage. His four power-play goals are one shy of his career high.
“He’s always had the potential to be a massive goal scorer,” Maroon said. “Sometimes it takes time to overcome … whatever it is.”
When: 6:30 PST.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Etc.: Anaheim begins a five-game trip through Canada after a five-game winning streak, their last 12 victories each coming by one goal. Kesler has four goals in the last three games.