Two out of three isn’t bad.
Given his circumstances, former Edmonton Oiler Georges Laraque will tell you playing for a Stanley Cup for the second time in three years, this time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, is better than OK.
Having reluctantly departed Edmonton, where he still makes his home, not long after the Oilers came up short against Carolina in the 2006 Cup final, Laraque’s second chance begins Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.
Two seasons after being deemed expendable by the Oilers, Laraque is looking to keep a date with the engraver while riding shotgun for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“It’s awesome to have another chance because you never know how many you’re going to get,” said Laraque. “I hope this is going to be the one. It can happen, but it’ll be a tough task.”
Laraque, 31, prefers to look ahead at his opportunity to sip champagne rather than glance back at his last hurrah here, but the fact is there was doubt which way his career would go 24 months ago.
Facing a pay cut going into his ninth season, Laraque sought a no-trade clause from GM Kevin Lowe. When he didn’t get it, the 255-pound enforcer signed with Phoenix.
After 56 games with the Coyotes, Laraque asked to be moved at the 2007 trade deadline. Phoenix had deals with Calgary and Pittsburgh on the table. The destination was Laraque’s decision.
“When I decided to go the answer is no,” said Laraque, asked if he thought he’d be playing for a Cup so quickly with the Penguins. “When I started playing there, the answer is yes.
“I knew that within a couple years we would be a Cup contender. I’m playing with the best player in the world in Sid, although some people say the best is Malkin. We have both, so I’m not surprised.”
While Craig MacTavish didn’t see value in keeping Laraque — he was scratched for the final three games of the 2006 final — Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien has no such issues.
Therrien and Laraque hoisted the 1996 Memorial Cup with Granby, so they’ve got history.
Laraque’s played just over six minutes a night through 14 playoff games.
“It’s huge,” said fellow Oiler discard Petr Sykora, asked about the impact of having Laraque in the line-up. “I always had a lot of respect for players like that.
“For me, as a skilled player, I feel totally protected out there … we have Sid and Gino (Malkin) and a lot of skilled guys. Without Georges, the team wouldn’t be the same.”
It’ll be sweet, indeed, if Laraque gets the chance to bring the Cup to Edmonton this summer. Of course, it’ll take four wins against the favoured Red Wings to punch that ticket.
“You just want to be a contributor,” Laraque said. “If you don’t play and you lose, it’s even more frustrating. I’ve had the chance to contribute. I want to win.”