By Adam Brady
When the Ducks were looking for someone to fill the offensive gap left when Ryan Getzlaf missed the last three games with a leg injury, they certainly couldn’t have guessed they’d get it from a guy who wasn’t even in the league three weeks ago.
But 36-year-old Radek Dvorak has scored three goals in his last three games with the Ducks, including the only two for Anaheim in a 2-1 victory over the Oilers on Monday night.
Despite a resume that included 17 NHL seasons and 1,196 games, Dvorak wasn’t signed by an NHL team coming out of the lockout. The native of Tabor, Czechoslovakia played a handful of games for HC Davos in in Switzerland’s National League A before the Ducks signed him for the rest of the season back on March 24.
“It was tough for me to leave after 17 years in the league, but that’s how it is,” the personable Dvorak said soon after reporting to the Ducks last month. “That’s life. But it’s nice to be back with a team like Anaheim, one of the best teams in the league. I’m very happy.”
Since being drafted 10th overall by Florida in 1995, Dvorak is well-traveled. He played for the Panthers, New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers and last year for the Dallas Stars. Count Saku Koivu among the Ducks teammates who were amazed Dvorak wasn’t plucked up by an NHL team sooner.
“If you look at his season last year in Dallas and the line he was a part of, the third line with (Vernon) Fiddler and (Eric) Nystrom, that was a really effective, tough line to play against,” Koivu told the OC Register. “I was real surprised to see that he didn’t get a job anywhere when the lockout ended.
“He went to Switzerland and had a few games there. But when you can add a guy like that and not lose an asset at that point of the season, I think it’s huge.”
It was in Dallas that Dvorak played with current Ducks defenseman Sheldon Souray, who has had nothing but glowing things to say about “Devo.”
“I really enjoyed playing with him last year,” Souray said. “He plays really hard and he’s a positive and upbeat guy. “I was surprised he didn’t get a contract at the end of [last season] going into this year, because he had a pretty good year in Dallas. He was one of the guys who was really consistent. And again, his attitude was great last year.
“He’s just a really good guy. He plays hard. He’s an honest player. He’s going to be a depth guy where he can fill in anywhere and play well. His attitude and consistency is as good as anybody.”
Dvorak played seven regular season games for Davos this season, as well as a first round playoff series in which they were eliminated in Game 7.
“I went over to Switzerland to finish the season there, and deep in my mind, in my soul, I was hoping to come back, and it happened,” Dvorak said. “My priority, when I went to Switzerland, was to be there and play my best to help the team win, but we lost in the first round. I was there on my own. My family stayed in Florida so I didn’t see them for seven weeks.
“As soon as I got back [to the States] I get a nice call from Anaheim and I couldn’t believe it. It was a nice surprise.”
And he’s paid the Ducks back with his recent offensive production, including Monday night against the Oilers when he punched in rebound goals in the first and third periods.
“I think Rick [Ducks Director of Player Personnel Rick Paterson] and Bob did a great job in finding this guy at the last moment here,” said coach Bruce Boudreau after that game. “Adding experience and depth to our roster where he can come in and play and make it almost a difficult decision on a nightly basis to put 12 guys in.
“Not because there’s not enough good forwards but because you have a plethora of them.”
With the postseason looming, the depth Dvorak adds to that forward corps could prove critical. During a time of the season when space on the ice is at a minimum, Dvorak “knows how to play in a tight game,” according to Boudreau.
Adds Souray, “He’s played a lot of games and has a lot of experience. For the amount of time left in the season and in the playoffs, he’s a perfect guy to have.”
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