PHILADELPHIA -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Kimmo Timonen was in the midst of his first press gathering in Philadelphia since the Philadelphia Flyers traded him Feb. 27.
After seven seasons as a member of the Flyers, Timonen was asked how the crowd would react for his return to Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVA Sports).
Timonen, the stoic 40-year-old Finn, took several beats to gather himself as the memories of the past washed over him.
"I only have good memories here," he finally said. "I'm sure it's going to be good. All the things that happened here. ... I'm happy to be here."
Flyers fans likely will be happy to see Timonen, who helped the Flyers make the Stanley Cup Playoffs six times, reach the Eastern Conference Final twice and make it to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. His former teammates certainly are happy to see him.
"That guy is such a great human being off the ice, on the ice," Flyers forward Jakub Voracek said. "It's a really good example for me. I was 21, 22 when I got here. He showed me the way, how to be a better person and how to be a better hockey player. That guy's a pro every single way. ... I'm very happy for him that he's got a chance to battle for a Stanley Cup because he really deserves it."
It's been a slow start for Timonen in Chicago after he sat out the first five months of the season recovering from blood clots that were found in his leg and lungs during the summer. He played 17:29 in his season debut March 2, but in nine games he's a minus-2 while averaging 12:27 per game; that's about 10-12 minutes less than what he averaged with Philadelphia.
"First game kind of pulled my groin a little bit," Timonen said. "Next three games were about surviving. But day-by-day I feel like I'm getting better and going on the ice feeling like you can do something. It's been a process and we still got long ways to go."
Along with adjusting to new teammates and a new style of play is adjusting to new scenery -- some of it a bit unpleasant.
"Every time I go to their practice rink there's a picture of [Patrick] Kane celebrating him scoring that last goal [against Timonen's Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final] so I can't forget that," Timonen said. "I asked if we could take that picture off the wall for two or three months."
The Blackhawks hope Timonen can help them add another championship picture to the photo gallery. Coach Joel Quenneville has been balancing pushing for the highest seed possible in the playoffs while working Timonen into the lineup.
"We want to get him get some quickness in his game," Quenneville said. "He's progressed in that area. Initially he was tight in his lower body. I think his movements have been more fluid recently. He's getting conditioned as we go along here. We'd like to see him play more but at the same time every game has been tight and getting him up to speed has been what we're all about. Hopefully he can make some progress. He's comfortable with his game and we're comfortable with his game."
While things go slowly on the ice, Timonen already is making an impact on his new teammates.
"He's been gone from hockey for a long time, but the first game he played he didn't make any mistakes at all, which is a pretty big accomplishment for not playing for a year and being through what he's been through," Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "You can see why he's been around the League for such a long time. Great positioning, great stick. He always knows where to put the puck out of dangerous places. It's a lot of fun to play with a guy like that.
"When you're coming from Sweden we've always had Nick Lidstrom. I would guess Kimmo is pretty much the same thing for Finland."
Defense - CHI
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 7 | +/-: -2
Though Timonen is focused on helping the Blackhawks win, he still cares about how the Flyers are going. When he was cleared to begin skating he spoke with Flyers general manager Ron Hextall
about wanting one final chance to win the Stanley Cup. At the time of the trade the Flyers were on the fringes of the Stanley Cup Playoff race. Since the trade they are 3-4-5, including 1-4-4 in their past nine, and are 11 points behind the Ottawa Senators
for the final wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
"It's tough to see because when I got traded I wanted these guys to make the playoffs," Timonen said. "Just talking to the guys, I know the feeling when you're not making the playoffs. It's hard. But you still have to be professional. Guys are feeling better now and they're going to play hard tonight."
Not too hard, Timonen hopes.
"I have to remind them I'm still 40 years old so they don't hit me too hard," he said.
Voracek said he already sent a message to Timonen: "I texted him a couple days ago to be ready for my fat [rear end]. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a good battle."