Defenseman Matt Duffy wasn't supposed to be here, competing on the blue line for the Quad-City Mallards.
But after months of uncertainty caused by illness, he's thrilled with his current situation.
Since joining the Mallards on Jan. 14 for his first action of the 2011-12 hockey season, Duffy has been a valuable asset, turning in a plus-3 performance with three points in five games.
"It's been great," Duffy said. "It's been a good opportunity for me to come help the team as best as I can. This is a great organization and Mr. Bell is a great guy. My style of game fits here."
As an attacking defenseman, Duffy's style of play fits a lot of teams, which is why he's served three stints in the American Hockey League and began this year in training camp with the Colorado Eagles of the ECHL.
However, Duffy would never play a game for the Eagles. While at the team's training camp in Colorado, Duffy began to feel ill and had no idea why until he visited a doctor and was diagnosed with mononucleosis.
Duffy developed an enlarged spleen, which meant he couldn't play hockey until he had recovered because of the risk of the spleen rupturing.
Since the Eagles had no idea when Duffy would be able to handle physical activity again, they released him. Duffy went home to Maine to recover, a process that took him about a month.
"That was really hard," Duffy said. "They wouldn't let me work out or skate because that would make the sickness go backwards. As soon as my spleen was down, I was able to work out and start skating."
Once he got back into game shape, the Mallards were interested in bringing him to the Quad-Cities. Although coach David Bell liked his team, the chance to get a veteran with AHL experience who could strengthen the blue line excited him.
"He brings stability, calmness and a big shot," Bell said. "He's not a jittery guy. He doesn't waste his time and he's very sound defensively. He's got a purpose for everywhere he goes on the ice."
The move almost didn't happen. Before the Mallards called, Duffy was considering taking the season off because his fiancee, Jenna Nappi, had become pregnant and is due in March.
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The offer from the Mallards, a team in an area that met his needs, changed his plans.
"That was a big thing, trying to find a place to play where she could have the baby and everything would be OK," Duffy said. "It was hard because I had to try to find a hospital for her and a good fit for me. The Quad-Cities is a good place for me to be and this is where I am."
Bell isn't sure how long Duffy will be here, because as the defenseman regains his form, Bell expects the AHL will again come calling. If not, though, Bell is thrilled to have Duffy.
"I truly think he's a steal," Bell said. "Right-handed big defenseman that can skate and shoot the puck don't fall off trees.
"He's a top-four defenseman, and once he gets himself rounded into shape, he could be a call-up guy, or else he's going to be a real dominant guy for us on the back end."
Either one would be just fine with Duffy, who is grateful that what could have been a disastrous setback has instead turned into a positive.
"I thank Mr. Bell for letting me come play here," Duffy said. "It was coming down to halfway through the season and a lot of the teams were full. But Mr. Bell came out of the blue with a place to play, and I thank him very much for that. I'm here to help him as much as possible."