Visit to Anaheim and L.A. is a homecoming for Penguins' Dan Bylsma
Anaheim Ice, the Ducks' practice facility, is perfectly adequate as hockey rinks go. A little dim. More than a little smelly in the locker rooms from tons of sweaty hockey gear heaped on the floor every day.
Bylsma, once an earnest fourth-line forward for the Ducks and the Kings, returned to Anaheim Ice as coach of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Upbeat by nature, he was beaming nonstop all morning, greeting Ducks equipment managers and rink employees like the long-lost friends they are to him.
"I don't know if any other practice rink feels a home like this one does," he said. "Like an old shoe. A stinky old shoe."
The Penguins, who have a league-best 11-3-0 record despite injuries to Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar, arrived in Southern California on Sunday night in advance of their games against the Ducks on Tuesday at the Honda Center and against the Kings on Thursday at Staples Center. It's a trip down memory lane for Bylsma, who took over as the Penguins' coach last February after Michel Therrien was fired and who guided the team to a seven-game victory over Detroit in the Cup finals.
"It's not strange but it's very familiar," Bylsma said of his return. "We went to dinner very close to where I lived. The neighborhood, coming back here, the Pond, all very familiar. Five years is a long time in hockey. It's like dog years. I see a lot of familiar faces.
"I like coming back here. It really feels good. Most of my career was spent here in Southern California. A lot of good memories. A lot of good people. My family and I loved California."
More later from Bylsma, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, and former Duck Chris Kunitz at www.latimes.com/sports.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Pittsburgh Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma skates in a drill during the team's first NHL hockey practice of the season at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009. Credit: Gene J. Puskar, AP.