|After missing 17 games with a lacerated quad, Teemu Selanne returned to the Ducks lineup on Wednesday against Chicago and saw 17:41 of ice time. |
Teemu Selanne knows a thing or two about setting the NHL on fire as a rookie.
As a first-year player with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93, the Finnish Flash put together a remarkable debut with 76 goals and 132 points. Each of those figures established new league rookie records, which still stand to this day. (Who can forget Selanne tossing his glove into the air and mock-rifling it down with his stick in celebration after passing Mike Bossy’s previous rookie mark of 53 goals in a season?)
Now a veteran in his 16th season, Selanne is watching another rookie’s surging play stir up the league, his Ducks teammate Bobby Ryan. The 21-year-old has a goal in each of the last five contests, which set a new rookie club record. It was also Ryan’s 11th goal in the month of January, a number that is tied for the league lead (with Calgary’s Michael Cammalleri) and the most for a first-year player since Alex Ovechkin put together that many in March 2006.
“The way he has been playing, it’s awesome,” Selanne said. “It’s always exciting to see young players play like that. For what he’s gone through the last couple of years, this is a great payoff for him. I’m really happy for him.”
|"The way he's has been playing, it's awesome, said Selanne of Ryan. "It's always exciting to see young players play like that." |
What may have begun Ryan’s rapid ascension this season was Selanne going down with a lacerated quad during his first shift on Dec. 19 at Edmonton. Immediately, Ryan (who to that point had four goals and 10 points in 14 games) was called upon to help fill the large offensive void left in the wake of the injury. In the 17 games that followed, including that game against the Oilers, Ryan responded vehemently with 12 goals and 22 points. Within that stretch, Ryan recorded a hat trick Jan. 8 in Los Angeles, the first three-goal game for Anaheim from someone other than Selanne since Nov. 19, 2006 (when Chris Kunitz performed the feat against Phoenix).
After five weeks away, Selanne made his long-awaited return to the lineup last night and for the first time found himself beside Ryan on a forward line. The grouping of past and present flashy rookies pairs two of the most gifted goal-scorers on the Ducks and if it continues (which isn’t a certainty), it has the potential to cause havoc on opponents during the stretch run.
“I think it’s great,” said Selanne, who totaled 17:41 of ice time in his return to the lineup. “We just need a little time to get used to it. I’m very excited.”
While the Ducks held an optional practice on Thursday at Anaheim ICE, Selanne and Ryan (as well as their linemate Brendan Morrison) were among a group of 10 on the ice. After skating for roughly an hour, the 38-year-old reported nothing but positives the day after his comeback.
|"I think it's great," said Selanne of playing on a line with Ryan. "We just need a little time to get used to it. I'm very excited." |
“I feel pretty good, actually,” Selanne said. “Now, I just need to get in more games and go from there. I’m expecting improvement every day.”
Wednesday’s game was also the 616th career game for Selanne in a Ducks uniform, tying him for the all-time franchise lead with Steve Rucchin (a member of the Ducks from 1994-2004). “That’s a lot of games with one franchise,” Selanne said. “Rooch played for such a long time here too. I played with him so many great years. It’s an honor to pass him.”
Beginning with Selanne’s milestone 617th game with Anaheim on Saturday at Colorado, the Ducks will face a critical stretch that includes 10 of the next 14 games on the road. By the time the span concludes in early March, there should be a good sense of what direction the Ducks are headed in the playoff chase.
“I think this is going to be the statement for ourselves,” Selanne said. “I’m looking forward to it. We are going to take a huge step forward in those away games.”