Journeyman Brookbank now a valuable commodity

It took Sheldon Brookbank nearly 10 years of pro hockey and stops in locales such as Grand Rapids, Mich., Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Lowell, Mass., before finding a place that’s become a true hockey home.

For a journeyman who’s had to battle to stay in the NHL, Brookbank has been with the Ducks for three-plus seasons and managed to fight off competitors for his job as the team’s sixth defenseman each year after coming from New Jersey in a trade back in 2009.

Being in Anaheim has worked for the hard-nosed rearguard.

“I think maybe they’re familiar with me,” he said. “I originally signed here (in 2003) so they kind of knew what I was about when they got me. They weren’t expecting something different. They just were expecting what I am.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a place where I feel like I can be myself here a little more rather than having to be something I’m not somewhere else.”

The longest uninterrupted serving member of the Ducks’ blue line might also be playing the best hockey of his career. Brookbank has never been more valued until now.

At 31, Brookbank appeared in his 64th game Saturday night and should easily top the 66 he dressed in two seasons ago. He’s logging nearly 15 minutes a night and, for the first time in six NHL seasons, making a regular appearance on the score sheet.

His first-period goal against Los Angeles was his third in the last nine games. Before this season, Brookbank had scored only once, on March 31, 2009 against Edmonton, and went another 167 games before finding the net Feb. 17 against the Devils.

“Finally I get one and I’m getting lucky now,” Brookbank said, laughing. “I’m getting the bounces, you know. Usually I was on the other end of those bounces. I can’t complain whatsoever. I wouldn’t get used it to though.”

As he has with the rest of the Ducks’ roster, Bruce Boudreau inherited a player who was a favorite of former coach Randy Carlyle when he took over for Carlyle back on the final day of November.

In the time since, Boudreau has liked what he has seen from a player who has held his own and is often willing to stick up for his teammates.

“He’s been steady as a rock as far as I’ve seen,” Boudreau said. “His skating is suspect. He’s had a few years in the minors and the East Coast league. And when you’re afar, you’re going, ‘Geez, he must be the weak link.’

“We come in here and he’s been playing really strong.”

With career numbers of three goals and 11 points, Brookbank can certainly look for a possible small raise from his $800,000 salary this season as he can hit the free-agent market when his contract expires on July 1.

The Ducks like him but may also want to retain him at a price more to their liking or could let him walk to clear a spot on defense, possibly for touted prospect Justin Schultz. But Brookbank would rather not deal with a moving van.

“I’m a guy that doesn’t really like change,” he said. “This is a place where I’m comfortable with and I’d like to stay. Hopefully I can stay and if not, we move on.

“I definitely would like to be able to stay here.”
   Brookbank and the Ducks next play Monday at home against Edmonton.

NOTES, QUOTES

   –Angered by penalties on his team that turned into two power-play goals for Los Angeles in the Kings’ 4-2 win Saturday night, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau harshly criticized the work of referees Dan O’Rourke and Ian Walsh.    “They were some of the worst calls that I’ve seen in a long time,” Boudreau fumed. “In a game of this importance, we can’t have officiating making calls like that. I mean, there’s three penalties that weren’t penalties.” Boudreau was particularly upset at a first-period slashing call on Luca Sbisa and two second-period calls — tripping on Niklas Hagman and interference on Nick Bonino — as he said all three “were not penalties. Not even close.” He continued his blast by saying, “Everybody makes mistakes. But if we’re busting our (tail) all night long and playing our fifth game in seven nights, I mean, we need it better from them.”
   –Not only did the Ducks’ penalty killing fail them in allowing power-play goals to the Kings’ Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter in their loss, but their power play was impotent at a critical time as they couldn’t cash in any of the four opportunities they had. With the game tied at 1-1, they couldn’t score on a late power play in the first that carried over to the second period and then they didn’t deliver after the Kings grabbed a 2-1 lead on Carter’s score. Despite having the same personnel from a team that finished third in the NHL with the man advantage last season, the Ducks are a disappointing 20th with a conversion rate of only 16.4 percent. “These games when both teams are battling for the playoff spot, it comes down to little details,” center Saku Koivu said. “Special teams are one of them.”

QUOTE TO NOTE: “They haven’t been in our favor since Christmas. There’s no doubt in here that we can still make this thing happen. Our group has never stopped believing this whole time and we’re not going to now.” — Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf on his team’s odds of making the playoffs after losing 4-2 to Los Angeles.

ROSTER REPORT
PLAYER NOTES:

   –D Toni Lydman assisted on Devante Smith-Pelly’s goal against Los Angeles, giving the 11-year NHL veteran his 200th career assist. Lydman, who doesn’t have a goal this season but has 12 assists, is in his second season with Anaheim after signing a three-year contract as a free agent in 2010.
   –RW Devante Smith-Pelly tallied in the second period against Los Angeles, giving him his fourth goal of his rookie season. It was the first goal for the 19-year-old in the seven games he’s played since returning to action after suffering a broken foot on Dec. 26 while playing for Canada in the World Junior Championships.
   –RW Teemu Selanne got an assist on Sheldon Brookbank’s third career goal, giving him points in consecutive games for the first time since he had a four-game point-scoring streak from Jan. 31-Feb. 6. Selanne continues to lead the Ducks in scoring with 57 points.
   –D Sheldon Brookbank scored his third goal of the season when he tallied against Los Angeles. Brookbank had only one goal before this season and had gone 167 games without scoring until Feb. 17 against New Jersey. The low-scoring defenseman now has three goals in his last nine games.

MEDICAL WATCH:
   –G Dan Ellis will be out for four-to-six weeks after undergoing sports hernia surgery on Friday. Ellis had torn his groin muscle during a Jan. 7 practice.

GOALTENDERS:
   –Jonas Hiller
   –Jeff Deslauriers

DEFENSE PAIRINGS:
   –Francois Beauchemin, Cam Fowler
   –Luca Sbisa, Lubomir Visnovsky
   –Toni Lydman, Sheldon Brookbank

FIRST LINE:
   –LW Niklas Hagman, C Ryan Getzlaf, RW Corey Perry

SECOND LINE:
   –LW Bobby Ryan, C Saku Koivu, RW Teemu Selanne

THIRD LINE:
   –LW Jason Blake, C Andrew Cogliano, RW Devante Smith-Pelly

FOURTH LINE:
   –LW Matt Beleskey, C Nick Bonino, RW George Parros