It all happened so fast, as most trades do, but when Jiri Sekac landed in Orange County and saw the sun shining over the palm trees one week ago, he found some momentary comfort in his new surroundings.
The first item of business was changing his jersey number. As a member of the Montreal Canadiens, Sekac wore No. 26, but in order to exorcise some of the demons that seemed to plague him there, he chose No. 46 in Anaheim, a more meaningful number.
"The number (26) did not have any meaning for me and I did not have any good memories with it so I changed," he said. "My dad was born in 64 but since I don’t really like the high numbers I just go with the 46."
Next up was finding a line. In the first game, it proved difficult. He saw time on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry — a compelling idea for a new young winger — and some on the second with an equally-exciting prospect in Ryan Kesler. Nothing seemed to work for either Sekac or the Ducks that night. It was a difficult day that culminated in a difficult shutout loss to Ottawa.
The day was over, behind him in the rearview window. Sekac could move forward as an Anaheim Duck and begin the slate anew.
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In his fourth game as a Duck, he finally could write something on that nice clean slate: One assist. And what a big one it was.
On Wednesday night, facing his former team in his new home of the Honda Center, P.K. Subban chased a puck into the corner of the Habs’ zone and was promptly slammed by his old teammate. Sekac plowed into him like a semi-truck and gave him another shove on the ice, jarring the puck loose.
Hampus Lindholm collected it and sent it to the net. Sekac jabbed at it and Rickard Rakell sliced the rebound right past Carey Price. Rakell celebrated his sixth goal of the season a little; Sekac is probably still celebrating his third point as a Duck.
"I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty good feeling," Sekac said. "Nothing gets better than beating a team that you used to play for."
The 22-year-old winger played only 50 games for the Canadiens, struggling to adapt his game from the KHL. His skill-set wasn’t quite suited for a club that’s rooted on defense, the scrutiny of the media and the pressure from the fans in Montreal only magnified the struggles.
Now, he’s found himself on a line with two others who are also still trying to prove themselves in ways. Center Rickard Rakell seems to have locked up his roster spot after spending the better parts of the last two seasons and part of this season in the AHL. Winger Emerson Etem, the local out of Long Beach, has seen plenty of time on the AHL ice this season.
Put them all together and they create a third line that seems to be the missing piece to the puzzle.
"That was the first time all year that we’ve had a four-line match," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought he settled in well, handled the puck and made good plays. Except for a couple times, that line was pretty responsible defensively."
Before facing Montreal, the adrenaline was pumping through Sekac. Anxious, excited, nervous and everything in between, this was the game he was waiting for.
"The start was pretty tough for me because I was way too excited and didn’t make plays at the beginning," he said.
Sekac feels wanted on his new team and fully intends to repay them for being so willing to give him a chance. Cast off by the Habs, he showed his former team exactly what they’re missing out on while validating the decisions made by his new one.
"A lot of things are changed right now, but I’m getting a lot of opportunities here," he said. "Everyone believes in me and I’m trying to work as hard as I can and do the things that they got me for."