After spending his entire eight-year NHL career with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, forward Mike Leclerc said he was a little surprised when he was uprooted shortly before training camp opened this season and traded to the Coyotes.
But it hasn’t taken the 28-year-old long to adjust to his new club. Through the first 11 games, Leclerc is tied for the team lead in goals (four) and points (eight). Three of Leclerc’s goals have come in the last two games, and two were scored Sunday against his former team.
"A lot of guys on this team haven’t played together ever before," said Leclerc, who Phoenix acquired on Aug. 23 for a conditional 2007 draft pick. "We’re just all kind of getting to know each other, trying to build that chemistry and find the combinations that work. I seem to fit in pretty well with Oleg Saprykin and Boyd (Devereaux). We’ve kind of got a good thing going."
That trio has combined for nine goals and 18 points. Leclerc had the first assist on both goals by Saprykin in a victory at Edmonton on Oct. 18 while Devereaux set up Leclerc for his goal Tuesday against St. Louis.
"Leclerc has a real hot stick of late," Devereaux said. "He plays the system really well. You can count on him to be in the right position at the right time."
That includes the defensive side of the ice also, coach Wayne Gretzky said.
"We’re asking people to be responsible defensively without taking anything away from their offensive capabilities," Gretzky said. "He’s a great example of that. . . . He’s strong on the boards and getting the puck out. He’s always in good position defensively and when we do have the puck, he goes to the net hard. That’s a sign of exactly what you want a player to do from a coach’s point of view. He’s just been a solid two-way player for us each and every night. We’re thrilled with his play."
Leclerc’s scoring totals have him on pace for 30 goals and 30 assists. His career highs in those categories (20 goals, 24 assists) both came in 2001-02, the only season he has played in all 82 games.
"You always want to set goals for yourself, but there’s no real number goals," Leclerc said. "Obviously you want to win as a team. I’d like to always get career highs. That would be my goal I guess, whatever that ends up being."
Staying healthy is just as important, Leclerc said. He played in just 10 games in 2003-04 and missed 25 games in ’02-’03 due to knee injuries
"I just want to play good hockey," Leclerc said. "It’s been a long time. . . . A goal of mine is to play every game this year, and I’m trying to contribute offensively wherever I can."