Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne

Teemu Selanne on returning this year: “I look at this as my last year”

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When Teemu Selanne announced today that he was returning to the Anaheim Ducks for “one more year” it turns out he really could mean just that.

During this afternoon’s conference call with Selanne to talk about his return to the Ducks on a one-year contract worth $4 million, PHT asked Selanne if he was going into this season thinking that this would be his last year in the NHL. Selanne was honest about how he’s heading into this season and his future. (Full transcript of that call here)

“I know I’ve said that the last five years. But you’ve got to stop somewhere, and I’ve always approached this whole thing by saying it’s my last year. I think that’s really worked well for me. Again, I look at this as my last year and hopefully it’s going to be a good one.”

So you’re saying there’s a chance this won’t be the last season? All right!

All kidding aside here, at 41 years-old Selanne won’t have too many seasons left if this isn’t his last year, but we have to take him at his word and look at this season as his last one regardless. After all, he’s coming off knee surgery this summer and the health of his knee is the big thing for him in being able to come back. Selanne has said in the past that it was how his knee holds up that determined whether he came back this year or not. The passion and the fire to win is there, but if his knee couldn’t get it done he wasn’t going to play. Selanne says his knee is good to go.

“I really feel like I can still play at the same level I played at in the past. If you can’t do that, you can’t enjoy the game as much, and there would be no way I’d come back. The main factor for me is that I can be healthy, my knee is okay to play at this level, and I can use my speed and play at my level. That’s one reason it took so long to make the final decision, because I really wanted to make sure I could play at this level.”

As for whether or not Selanne entertained the thought of playing his last season in Winnipeg now that they’ve again got a NHL team in Manitoba, the Jets front office certainly did their due diligence to find out if Selanne would come back and end his career where it started back in 1992.

“They [Winnipeg front office] called my agent and asked if I was interested in coming back. But when you have four kids and a couple dogs and a couple horses and stuff, so many things to move, there is no way I can move anymore. But like I said, Winnipeg has been a special place for me and I’m very excited to go back and play there again.”

Selanne will get that chance, likely the one and only time this season unless the two teams meet in the Stanley Cup finals, on December 17th. Selanne said the chance to play again in Winnipeg as well as the Ducks opening their season in Finland for the NHL Premiere series didn’t have an effect on his decision.

“Those things weren’t a factor in me coming back. I looked at them both as really nice bonuses for me and great experienced. Both places are very important places in my life and I’m extremely excited about playing in both places. It’s going to be fun.”

For Selanne, getting to go back to his home country and his first home city helps to set this season up as one fantastic way for an all-time NHL great to ride off into the sunset… That is unless he decides to give it one more year after this one.

 

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.