By Kyle Shohara
Fans of Teemu Selanne will get their final chance at seeing their favorite player compete against his former team tonight as the Ducks host the Winnipeg Jets to begin a three-game homestand.
The 43-year-old began his career in Winnipeg when the Jets selected him in the first round (10th overall) of the 1988 NHL Draft. Selanne came into the league during the 1992-93 season, and broke Mike Bossy’s 15-year-old record of rookie goals in a season (53). Selanne scored his 54th goal in a hat trick performance on March 2, 1993 in Winnipeg. It was in that game when Selanne tossed his glove up into the air and pretended to shoot it with his stick, becoming one of the most iconic goal celebrations in NHL history. Selanne finished his rookie season with 76 goals, 56 assists and 132 points (also a rookie record).
Now, in his 22nd (and final) season, Selanne has one last chance to face the team that gave him a shot in the NHL.
“I try to take this as a normal game,” Selanne said. “Obviously, I know it’s the last game, so it’s always special. I’ll try to enjoy it.”
Selanne says right now it’s about generating momentum for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“It’s just one game. The mode right now is to build a peak for the playoffs,” he said. “There’s no way we can take the last games off and turn the switch on in the playoffs. That’s the main focus right now.”
Selanne found a spark when head coach Bruce Boudreau placed him on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Now, he’s finding chemistry on a line with Mathieu Perreault.
“It was great to play with those guys,” Selanne said. “But, you never know what the lineup is going to be [laughs].”
Boudreau says his eldest player has renewed energy as of late, and his recent play (four points in his last four games) is proof of that.
“He’s really been energized,” said Boudreau. “I think he’s been doing fine. He’s definitely not looking as tired as I thought he would look at this stage of the season.”
ON THE JETS
The Jets are on the outside looking in, and the odds of them making the postseason are slim. Winnipeg is nine points out of the second wild card spot with only seven games to go, but they’ve played Anaheim tough in the two games thus far. Remember, it was Winnipeg that ended the Ducks’ impressive home point streak to begin a season. The Ducks were the fourth team in 40 NHL seasons (since 1973-74) to record points in each of their first 22+ home games of a season (20-0-2).
“I expect them to come out and play as hard as they can,” said Boudreau. “This is pretty much their last hurrah if they want to make it. They play in Phoenix tomorrow night, so it would be the start of a good week for them.
“They have the confidence that they played a great game in our building last time, and won the game.”
PERREAULT ON A ROLL
Mathieu Perreault continues to set personal records with every passing game. The 26-year-old is currently on a career-long eight-game point streak (6g/3a) and has been plus-or-even in all eight games (+6). Perreault is also on a career-long three-game goal streak (3g/1a), has 13 points (9g/4a) in his last 16 games and 20 points (11g/9a) in his last 24.
“He’s been doing pretty well,” said Boudreau. “It alleviates a little bit of pressure off of Getzlaf and Perry when other guys can score on the team. When you get everybody contributing, it really helps out.”
EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Jakob Silfverberg-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Patrick Maroon-Mathieu Perreault-Teemu Selanne
Daniel Winnik-Saku Koivu-Andrew Cogliano
Matt Beleskey-Nick Bonino-Kyle Palmieri
Francois Beauchemin-Stephane Robidas
Luca Sbisa-Hampus Lindholm
Bryan Allen-Sami Vatanen
Frederik Andersen is expected to make his second consecutive start tonight. The rookie netminder is 17-5-0 this season, and ranks first among rookie goalies in wins (17), second in GAA (2.20) and SV% (.926) (min. 10 games).
Anaheim and Winnipeg conclude a three-game season series tonight at Honda Center. Both teams have earned a 3-2 victory in 2013-14, including a Ducks win on October 6 at the MTS Center and a Jets victory on January 21 at Honda Center. The Ducks are 8-7-1 all-time vs. the Jets/Thrashers franchise (3-4-1 in Anaheim) Prior to the January 21 contest, the last time a Winnipeg team had visited Honda Center was April 14, 1996 when the Ducks skated to a 5-2 victory over the original Jets club.