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Timonen backs European play

Sunday, 01.27.2008 / 3:52 PM / 2008 NHL All-Star Game

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Defenseman Kimmo Timonen of the Philadelphia Flyers, who once played in Japan as a member of the Nashville Predators in 2000-01, would relish the opportunity to play an NHL game in Europe.
The announcement that the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins will open the 2008-09 season with games in Prague and Stockholm was welcomed by one of the NHL’s many European stars.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman, Kimmo Timonen likes the concept of the NHL expanding overseas. Timonen made his third All-Star appearance at All-Star Weekend – his first as a member of the Flyers.

”Five years ago, I went to Japan as a member of the (Nashville) Predators to play Pittsburgh,’’ Timonen recalled. “Getting there was easy; it’s the trip home that really gets to you. But you eventually adjust to it. I feel the League is doing the right thing by doing this. The only way you can promote the game is by having as many people see it as possible. I feel it’s a good idea.’’

The Predators opened the 2000-01 NHL season with two games in Japan against Pittsburgh, with each team winning once in front of the largest crowds ever to see a hockey game in Japan.

Special times –  Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who made his fifth All-Star Game appearance and second with the Coyotes, admits the experience never gets old.

”There’s not one All-Star Game that I can honestly say was my favorite,’’ Jovanovski said. “I’ve looked up to all the guys playing in these games. I was recently watching a game on NHL Network of a past All-Star Game that had Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mark Messier playing in the same game. That’s pretty unique and special. Maybe, someday, someone will look back on this game and say the same thing.’’

Jovanovski was a member of the Vancouver Canucks when he made his three consecutive All-Star Game appearances from 2001 through 2003.

Keith stays calm – Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks is the only first-time defenseman playing for the Western Conference All-Stars. Yet the 24-year-old Canadian didn’t appear the least bit nervous.

”If feels great to be here, but I have no real expectations,’’ Keith said. “I’m not going to kill myself, but it’ll being out there with the best of them.’’

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Keith, in his third NHL season, feels it shouldn’t be long before teammate Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, is an All-Star participant. Kane participated in Saturday’s YoungStars contest.

”It’s hard not to be surprised with his ability since I see him every day in practice,’’ Keith said. “Even though he’s 18 years old, I’ve certainly learned that he is the real deal because he works extremely hard.’’

Reward by itself – Should the winning conference in the NHL All-Star Game be awarded home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final?

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer doesn’t think so.

”I think the emphasis should be on the regular season,’’ Niedermayer said. “If a team performs for 82 games and is at the top of the standings, then that team has earned the right to have home-ice advantage. You shouldn’t have to rely on something like an All-Star Game to determine that.’’

Major League Baseball awards the team of the winning league home field in the World Series.

”The All-Star Game is for entertainment and while the intensity may not be there, there are a lot of goals, which is what most fans want to see. If you want to see goal scoring, now’s the time to sit back and enjoy. It’s fine to talk about improving the game – but at the same time, we players would like to go out and enjoy ourselves as well.’’

Friendly foes – Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic (6-4, 220) and New Jersey Devils right wing David Clarkson (6-4, 220) were teammates for Saturday’s YoungStars Game. That didn’t stop Lucic from reminiscing on a previous engagement with Clarkson.

Back on Dec. 13, Lucic and Clarkson went toe-to-toe late in the first period, giving fans in Boston quite an exhibition.

”I talked to Dave on the way over to the media center,’’ Lucic said. “What happens on the ice, stays on the ice. There’s a respect that players have for one another and we’re here to have a fun weekend and display the other side of our game. We’re here to win as teammates.’’

Lucic, however, did get one final jab in before ending the conversation.

”I do feel I won that last fight against him, though – because I got the last punch in before it was broken up.’’

Quote of the Day

It's a big milestone for me and I'm happy to help my team with lots of good teammates. It's fun.

— Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, who on Wednesday became the ninth Russian-born player, and ninth Red Wings player, to score 300 NHL goals
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