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Blues' Arnott set to play in 1,200th NHL game

by Louie Korac
ST. LOUIS -- The landscape of the NHL has changed so much for Blues center Jason Arnott, that his own teammates were taking playful jabs at him Thursday morning.

"I think he fell off his dinosaur when I was born," defenseman Barret Jackman said of Arnott. Jackman is 30, Arnott is 37.

To which a laughing Arnott said, "I'm sure there are a lot of jokes going on here about that."

It's playful because Arnott will reach another milestone tonight when the Blues (15-9-3) host the Anaheim Ducks (8-14-5).

Tonight marks Arnott's 1,200th game in the NHL, making him the 89th player in League history to reach such a milestone and sixth active player behind Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom (1,520), Washington's Roman Hamrlik (1,334), Philadelphia's Jaromir Jagr (1,295), Anaheim's Teemu Selanne (1,286) and the New York Islanders' Brian Rolston (1,209).

"It's remarkable to play in the League that long," said Selanne, who has 646 goals and 1,367 points in his career. "You have to do a lot of things right with your body and have a lot of luck, too. … Obviously it's a combination of looking after yourself and staying healthy. You just appreciate that you're able to play for such a long time."


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Arnott, a native of Collingwood, Ontario, didn't realize it was game No. 1,200, but took it all in perspective.

"It's been a fun ride," he said. "A dream come true. Any kid that wants to play hockey in Canada in a small town growing up just dreams of playing one day, one game in the NHL. I've had the opportunity to play 1,200, it's been a heck of a ride. I've enjoyed every moment.

"The fun never gets out of the game. You always want to play as long as you can. You enjoy it that much more, you enjoy coming to the rink that much more. You just take it all in a lot more than you do when you're younger."

Arnott has 917 points, including 404 goals, in his career. He was a first round pick (No. 7) by the Edmonton Oilers in 1993. He's played for six teams, including New Jersey, Dallas, Nashville, Washington and now St. Louis.

"It's a great accomplishment," said teammate Scott Nichol, who was with Arnott in Nashville when he played in his 1,000th game. "Even just a thousand games. Just getting to that is the true testament of his character. He just perseveres every year.

"You think how many kids get drafted every single year and there's only four center spots. You're always one of them for the last 1,200 games. You're doing something right. You're a pretty elite athlete if you can play that long, especially in a physical sport like this."

Added Blues coach Ken Hitchcock: "No. 1 for me is health. When you get into those numbers, you're talking about being able to have healthy seasons. He's had consistent offensive seasons for a long time and he's been able to play most of the games.

"Your role changes. You don't just all of the sudden become an elite player and then just fall off the map. But he's found usual niches in places like Nashville, Washington and here. I remember (Detroit's Steve) Yzerman, at the end of his career when he was still effective, he was a third- and fourth-line player, but he was a very effective player and scored big goals at the right time."

Arnott was 18 years old when the Oilers drafted him, and unlike today's game where 18-year-olds are a common element in the game, it was a totally different game for younger players trying to break in back then.

"It's a big flip-flop," Arnott said. "There were very few of us that were 18 that got the opportunity to play back then. Now it seems like everybody's 18, 19, 20 years old.

"Some of these guys in here I feel like (their) dads. It's crazy to see the young faces … that was me at one time. I got the opportunity to play with older guys when I got started. It was very enjoyable and I owe a lot to them. I played this long probably because of them. I learned a lot from them."

If fans don't think players appreciate games-played milestones, consider Selanne's reaction when asked Thursday morning:

"I think 1,000 games is a major milestone. I think it's bigger than 500 goals … at least for me," Selanne said. "I think at 1,000 games, you're in an extraordinary group. So many things have to happen to achieve 1,000 games. In this League, it's tough.

"Players know how big it is. He can be very proud of that. I am."
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