Prior to Game 1 of the Anaheim Ducks’ opening round playoff series Thursday night, veteran winger Tim Jackman was doing a lot of pacing.
It was reminiscent of a time only a little more than a month ago when he was pacing hallways, except this time it was the hallways of the Honda Center, and not a maternity wing of a hospital.
After 481 regular season NHL games, Jackman was finally about to play in a playoff game for the first time in his career. Outside of the Ducks’ dressing room, he could already hear the crowd roaring and the intensity of the atmosphere beginning to build. And he felt the same jitters he had felt back on March 9, when his wife, Chelsey, gave birth to their first child, a son named James.
"I was excited and nervous at the same time," he said. "I was actually a little nervous yesterday before the game and just trying to enjoy it and trying not to let my nerves get to me."
It’s been a whirlwind month of firsts for the fourth-line winger, and coming off of his first career playoff game, Jackman was practically shaking with excitement. It was so much fun, he said, that he wanted to play another on Friday.
"You could hear the crowd gearing up before warmups," he said. "They were chanting and getting going. And then the anthems, I thought, just the electricity and the build-up. As soon as the puck dropped it was loud and just, game on. And then they came out buzzing and it was physical and then we got some big hits, kind of stood up for ourselves. And it was a good game."
And it was exactly the type of game that Jackman likes to play: Fast and physical with big hits and big plays.
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"I’ve been inserted into the lineup when we have had physical teams to play against and physical games," he said. "I got to play against Winnipeg during the regular season, all the games. Yeah, I feel like I can help out and hopefully just play a simple game and be physical and try to wear down their defensemen during the series."
But Jackman was close to having to watch the postseason from his couch, yet again. Last year, the first year he had even played on a playoff team, he broke his hand right before the playoffs began. And this year, he suffered a knee injury right before the trade deadline and missed 16 of the final 18 games.
The one silver lining of the ailment was being with his wife for James’ birth. Still, another spring injury seemed like a vicious circle that he was unable to break, but between some fortunate timing and the work he put in, he was able to get back on the ice and cleared before the end of the regular season.
"I was like, ‘Oh man, I don’t want to make this a trend.’ I’m thankful for the time that I did get injured because it allowed me to come back," Jackman said. "When you’re injured, you hit these plateaus sometimes. Like, ‘Man I’m not getting any better and it’s not what it’s supposed to be.’ So that gets a little frustrating and you have to battle through that. But to be back now, I’m feeling really good."
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He’s also feeling very well-rested, as he and Chelsey have worked out a deal to let him sleep downstairs by himself in their extra bedroom during the playoffs.
"She’s letting me get rest. She wakes up with him every three hours to feed him and take care of him. It’s kind of nice," he said. "It’s our first baby so we’re both rookies and the timing was great that I got to experience it all and be there for him. I’m thankful for that."
While he doesn’t expect their baby duty arrangements to last, he can expect to continue playing as long as the Ducks are still alive.
"We see the same thing every night from Tim. He plays hard, he finishes checks, he’s not going to take off shifts, he’s going to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful," said coach Bruce Boudreau. "I’m glad he played, he’s a good part of our team and we seem to play better when he’s in the lineup. We’ll keep him in the lineup, he’s a good player."