Ryan Kesler has delivered on one of his trade missions. The more important one starts in three and a half weeks.
So far, so good, though. The center acquired to help the Anaheim Ducks match up better down the middle against Western Conference foes, specifically the rival Los Angeles Kings, put up five goals and two assists in five games against the Kings this season, with the Ducks going 4-0-1 against the defending Stanley Cup champs.
That's the first check mark on Kesler's to-do list. Was he trying to prove a point in those games against L.A.? Hell, yeah.
"I mean, it's part of the reason they traded for me," Kesler told ESPN.com on Thursday. "You want to prove them right, right? You want to do your job the best you can. I've had some good looks at the net against them. I actually think I should have had three goals last game; I just missed a couple of times. Just happy I got the last shot.''
Kesler's OT winner on Wednesday capped another incredibly entertaining Ducks-Kings game. Please, please, please, hockey gods, ensure that the Freeway Faceoff foes meet again in these playoffs.
That's the time of year Kesler was really acquired for, after all. And the 30-year-old Team USA veteran is licking his chops with the postseason just around the corner.
"It's the exciting time of year, and I missed out on it last year" (in Vancouver), said Kesler, who was acquired from the Canucks last June at the draft.
"I've been on some pretty good teams in the past, on a team that went to the Cup finals [in 2011]; this team here definitely has the capability of doing that. In saying that, we need everybody playing their best, including myself.''
Kesler is third on the Ducks in scoring with 45 points (18 G, 27 A) in 72 games, already two more points than he had last season in Vancouver, but certainly a far cry from his 70-point days as a younger Canuck half a decade ago.
But the offense, of course, is just half the story with Kesler, whose gritty, heady two-way game is what makes him important.
His puck possession numbers aren't that great this season, but again, context is required. He starts only 46.9 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, which partly explains his lower possession numbers, not to mention that he gets the toughest assignments on the team.
Let's put it this way: Any other team in the conference will tell you that after watching Kesler play his first season in Anaheim, the Ducks were incredibly smart to trade for him.
"Makes for a tough matchup when you play the Ducks now,'' a rival Western Conference executive told ESPN.com on Thursday. "It frees up [Ryan] Getzlaf. Adds to the PK. Kesler also plays with an edge -- he will challenge other top centers. It's a big addition for them.''
None other than Kings head coach Darryl Sutter, when asked about Kesler after Wednesday's game, said that he'd been "a dominant player, for sure, in these fives games against us.''
Well, that was the plan. No question the Kings had an edge down the middle in their seven-game win over the Ducks in last spring's playoffs. It makes you wonder whether that series would have played out differently if Anaheim's talks with Vancouver hadn't fallen short at last year's trade deadline. Maybe not, because the Kings seemed destined for another Cup, but it's an interesting point.
"You can tell it's two teams that don't like each other very much," said Kesler. "And I don't think it's just the teams either. I think it goes into the stands with the fans. The building is always electric, it was definitely a playoff atmosphere Wednesday night. It's intense. We play the same type of game, we're both heavy teams and both like to hit, both play that grind-it-out style. That's how the game was Wednesday night.''
There was an adjustment, to be sure, going to a new city and a new team and a new everything else after previously knowing only Vancouver during his NHL lifetime.
"It's turned out better than I expected," said Kesler. "I had high expectations coming here, the organization is top notch, teammates have been overly friendly and overly nice. We clicked right off the bat. And the family loves it here too, and that's the icing on the cake.''
Kesler's contract has one more year after this season. If the Ducks came to him this summer, one year out, to extend, he'd clearly listen.
"Yeah, I love it here, the family loves it here -- there's really no reason why I wouldn't,'' he said. "This team is going to be good for the foreseeable future and I want to be on a winning team. I have no reason not to re-sign."