A Duck x 1000: Ryan Getzlaf reaches career games milestone

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — If Ryan Getzlaf had spent his career in a cold-weather hockey hotbed instead of sunny Southern California, the profile of the Anaheim Ducks’ longtime captain might loom much larger over his era in the game.

Getzlaf is perfectly happy to make his mark by the beach, and it gets bigger every year.

Getzlaf played in the 1,000th game of a career spent entirely in Anaheim on Sunday, becoming the first player in the history of this 26-year-old club to hit the mark.

The playmaking center celebrated his latest milestone in front of the family and fans who understand what he means to the city and its team. The Ducks’ game against the Chicago Blackhawks also was the 2,000th in franchise history, meaning Getzlaf had been their man in the middle for exactly half of all the games they’ve played since 1993.

”I’ve been here a long time, and it was a very warm welcome,” Getzlaf said afterward. ”I was a little emotional during the game. It was a little bit embarrassing. I’m not very good at those things, but it was great to see the family and have everybody here.”

The 34-year-old Getzlaf has spent his whole adult life in Orange County, growing from a rambunctious Canadian prairie kid into a married father who doesn’t party quite so much anymore. His four children surprised him with a tribute video before his landmark game, and the Ducks played it again when they held a pregame ceremony to honor the achievement before his 1,001st game Tuesday against Minnesota.

His parents also came into town from Saskatchewan to celebrate a milestone in a career that doesn’t appear to be slowing, even as it hits four digits.

”I think it has been a great privilege for everyone around here watching that young man grow up,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. ”He has been given much by the organization, and he has given everything that he has back.”

Getzlaf has been with the Ducks since they were still Mighty: He cracked the lineup in 2005 as a 20-year-old with a full head of luxurious hair alongside Corey Perry, his fellow member of the ’03 draft class and his perennial linemate.

Perry played in 988 games with Anaheim, but injuries and declining performance led to his departure for Dallas during the summer. Getzlaf is still in town and going strong.

Getzlaf has been a productive offensive player from his rookie season, emerging as one of hockey’s best passers while leading a series of elite playoff teams. He won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and the Ducks have been a consistent contender ever since, making the playoffs 11 times in his 14 seasons. He led Anaheim to two Western Conference finals during a string of five straight Pacific Division titles from 2013-17.

He even became the essential face of the franchise after the retirement of beloved forward Teemu Selanne in 2014. Getzlaf has handled it all with a growing maturity, but few concessions to age in his game.

Getzlaf is the 53rd player in NHL history to appear in his first 1,000 games with one team, and the eighth active player on that list.

Getzlaf scored his 934th career point with an assist against Chicago. Selanne is the Ducks’ career scoring leader with 988 points, but Getzlaf seems likely to add that record to his Anaheim trophy cabinet as well.

”Being able to play a game for a living is a pretty big honor and a responsibility,” Getzlaf said. ”I owe to it to myself and to my family to play as well as I can for as long as I can.”

CHARA’S MILESTONE

Getzlaf wasn’t the only NHL veteran rolling over zeros on his career odometer recently: Zdeno Chara, the Boston Bruins’ 42-year-old captain, played in his 1,500th career game in Montreal on Tuesday night.

Canadiens fans honored the moment with a significant ovation – which is about as good as it will ever get for one of their home team’s longest-running antagonists.

Chara is the 21st player and sixth defenseman – including former Bruins captain Ray Bourque – in NHL history to reach 1,500 games. The 6-foot-9 Slovak joins Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton as the only active players to hit the mark.

”It’s a lot of games, (but) obviously I’m feeling very humble about it,” he told reporters in Montreal. ”I’ve been very lucky, and I’m very grateful I’ve been able to be in the right place at the right time, and get to know some very special people along the way.”

Chara made his NHL debut with the Islanders in November 1997 – a month before the birth of his current blue line partner, Charlie McAvoy. Chara has been Boston’s captain since 2006, and he won the Norris Trophy in 2009 and the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Chara has no interest in retiring anytime soon, and he is still in Boston’s top defensive pairing. He is likely to hit 1,000 career games with the Bruins near the midway point of this season.

”I love this game,” he said. ”The game gave me so much. I just enjoy every day, being along with my teammates and go out there and perform. I just love competing, and I have extreme passion for the sport.”

PEKKA PERSEVERES

Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (8-0-2) became the first goalie in NHL history to post a season-opening point streak of 10 or more games at age 36 or older. Rinne turned 37 years old last Sunday, and he continues to put up superb numbers in his 12th full season in the league.

A good chunk of Rinne’s success should go toward defensemen Roman Josi (5-11-16) and Ryan Ellis (2-13-15), who have become the sixth pair of teammate defensemen since 1991-92 to produce a point-per-game pace through their first 15 contests. Josi, who just got a $72.8 million contract extension to stay in Nashville, has put up five goals and 11 assists, while Ellis has two goals and 13 assists.

The Buzzer: Elvis, Ovechkin, and others who rocked

Elvis Ovechkin three stars pht buzzer
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Three Stars beyond Elvis and Ovechkin

1. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago blowing out Toronto will lead to some hand-wringing, no doubt. Yet, as much as that was on a tough night for Frederik Andersen, give the Blackhawks some credit. Toews topped all in that game with an outstanding four-point performance (two goals and two assists).

Saturday continued what’s been one heck of a month for Toews. The Blackhawks captained pushed his January total to 15 points (5G, 10A). Toews reached that total in just eight games, scoring at least one point in seven contests.

Scratch that. Toews has been on fire for a while now. He started off ice-cold with only two points in 11 October games. Toews took off after that, and has generated an impressive 41 points in his past 28 contests.

Underrated rookie Dominik Kubalik contributed to Chicago’s win, too, with three points (2G, 1A).

2. Riley Sheahan, Edmonton Oilers

Sheahan scoffs at Toews’ slow start. The journeyman forward failed to score a point in 12 October games, and managed one in 11 November contests. Sheahan went and matched his December points total (four in 14 GP) in one contest on Saturday.

That’s right, he generated four points, scoring an empty-netter plus three assists. Connor McDavid dominated in his own right with two goals, but Sheahan helped the Oilers rout the Coyotes. Josh Archibald generated three points (1G, 2A) as well.

This just in: the Oilers have a lot of “that guy’s still around?” forwards. It’s honestly cool to see some of them have such a strong day, and maybe take a bit of the pressure off McDavid here and there.

3. Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets

It’s as though Atkinson never missed any time. After scoring a goal and an assist in his first game in almost one month on Thursday, Atkinson generated three points (2G, 1A) on Saturday. This gives Atkinson seven points (4G, 3A) in his past four contests.

Others give Atkinson a run for his money, even beyond the next section. Jason Zucker (1G, 2A) and James van Riemsdyk (1G, 2A) both contributed to their respective teams’ blowouts. Atkinson’s extra goal gives him the edge.

OK, now let’s consider Elvis and Ovechkin

Saturday featured enough strong performances that it feels better to give these two a mention. After all, they already received their own posts. Yes, these two probably rank as the “real” third and fourth stars of Saturday, or higher, depending upon your personal taste.

Highlight of the Night

Marc-Andre Fleury is suffering through a tough season, big-picture wise. “The Flower” keeps adding to his resume of breathtaking saves, though:

Comic relief

Jamie Benn provides us with a reason to laugh. At least those of us who aren’t immediately transported to our own memories of hilarious blunders.

That video summarizes the Stars’ night succinctly, as the Wild beat them 7-0.

Factoids

  • Ovechkin nabbed consecutive hat tricks to push his career goals total to 692. He passed Mario Lemieux (11th all-time, 690) and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time (692). Mark Messier sits just two goals away at eighth with 694. Ovechkin also generated consecutive hat tricks for the third time in his career. In doing so, Ovechkin joined Joe Malone (four times) and Wayne Gretzky (three) as the only players to generate consecutive hat tricks three or more times, according to NHL PR. Again, this post delves deeper into Ovechkin’s latest accomplishments.
  • Ovechkin’s teammate John Carlson reached 60 points. Carlson managed the feat in just 49 games, getting to 60 faster than any Capitals defenseman; Mike Green held the previous mark with 60 by game 57. Opinion: Green deserved better treatment from hockey folks during his peak years.
  • Merzlikins authored the 18th instance of a rookie goalie getting a shutout of at least 41 saves, via NHL PR.
  • Cale Makar scored his 11th goal, setting a new record for goals by a rookie Avalanche defenseman.
  • Dominik Kubalik reached 20 goals in his 47th game. NHL PR points out that Kubalik ranks among sixth Blackhawks to reach 20 goals in 50 games or less.

Scores

WSH 6 – NYI 4
COL 5 – STL 3
EDM 7 – ARI 3
OTT 5 – CGY 2
CHI 6 – TOR 2
MTL 5 – VGK 4 (SO)
FLA 4 – DET 1
PHI 4 – LAK 1
CBJ 5 – NJD 0
NSH 2 – BUF 1
MIN 7 – DAL 0
VAN 4 – SJS 1

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Elvis thrives: Merzlikins is on fire for Blue Jackets

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Elvis Merzlikins advanced a bold goal lately: to be more than just a funny name. He is leaving opponents all shook  up absolutely red-hot for the Columbus Blue Jackets right now.

Elvis absolutely hound-dogged shut out the New Jersey Devils in Columbus’ 5-0 on Saturday, and that 41-save performance was far from his first standout evening. Merzlikins generated three shutouts in his last four games, allowing just two goals overall. The Blue Jackets won all four of those games.

(OK, this post includes enough cheesy Elvis jokes … arguably.)

During seven appearances between October and November, the 25-year-old goalie languished with sub-.900 save percentages. Since then, he’s started to take off.

Some “too perfect” moments for Elvis Merzlikins and the Blue Jackets

Maybe Merzlikins made a New Year’s Eve resolution to dominate? Perhaps it was because Elvis asked reporters to leave him alone? Merzlikins suffered only two losses since Dec. 31, winning eight of 10 games.

The lights-out play already makes the story endearing, but there are notes of the surreal. Consider a few facts about his hot streak:

“That’s what you like about him. He’s strong mentally,” Tortorella said after the Jan. 11 Vegas shutout, via Rob Mixer of First Ohio Battery. “He’s a piece of work as far as his personality, which I like. A lot of things have been thrown at him here…but he’s handled himself really well. I’m happy for him.”

  • Merzlikins ended up making it back-to-back shutouts, as he also blanked the Bruins with a 34-save shutout. His three shutouts have upped the ante each time: first 27 saves, then 34, then 41 against the Devils on Saturday.

Tortorella deserves ample credit for creating a cocoon for his goalies, of course.

Regardless, Merzlikins is playing a big role in helping the Blue Jackets stay in the East wild-card races. Here’s hoping that our jokes rise up the charts or we might just need to leave the building.

(Sorry. I’m so, so sorry.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Hat trick helps Ovechkin pass Lemieux, tie Yzerman for ninth on NHL goals list

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An historic week for Alex Ovechkin was capped off with a hat trick Saturday afternoon during a 6-4 win over the Islanders. His three goals pushes him past Mario Lemieux and into ninth place with 692, tying him with Steve Yzerman.

Ovechkin opened the scoring and then passed Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time in the third period as the Capitals mounted their comeback. He ended his day with an empty-netter to seal the win and tie Yzerman. The Islanders led 4-1 entering the third period.

Powered by two consecutive hat tricks, Ovechkin has eight goals in his last three games and 10 in his previous six.

That’s now three consecutive multi-goal games for Ovechkin, the first time he’s done that in his career. Earlier this week he not only passed Teemu Selanne for 11th on the all-time goals list but also hit the 30-goal mark for the 15th time in his career. He, along with Jaromir Jagr and Mike Gartner, are the only players to ever record 15 consecutive 30-goal seasons.

With three goals Saturday — the third time he’s recorded hat tricks in consecutive games — Ovechkin now has 34 on the season as he eyes a ninth 50-goal season. His hat trick was the 26th of his NHL career, tying him with Maurice Richard for eighth all-time.

Next in Ovechkin’s sights? Mark Messier, who finished with 694 goals in his career.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Stars’ Stephen Johns activated after missing almost 22 months

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Dallas Stars activated Stephen Johns before their game Saturday night in Minnesota, clearing the way for the defenseman’s first game in almost 22 months.

Forward Radek Faksa was placed on injured reserve to make room for Johns on the active roster.

Johns has been out since late in the 2017-18 season because of post-traumatic headaches. The Stars have said the condition isn’t related to concussions.

The 27-year-old Johns hasn’t played since March 29, 2018, at the Wild. It was the last of a career-high 75 games in his third NHL season. Johns missed the last five games that year before sitting out all of last season as headaches persisted.

He played two games on a conditioning assignment with the Texas Stars of the AHL before rejoining Dallas on Thursday.

The return of Johns could coincide with the Stars’ first game without defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The 20-year-old standout left Thursday’s loss to Buffalo with an upper-body injury.

Johns made his debut for Dallas late in the 2014-15 season and played in all 13 of the team’s playoff games as a rookie. He has 13 goals, 15 assists and 306 blocked shots in 150 career regular-season games.