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Ducks' Blake on his way to becoming honorary Finn

by Risto Pakarinen
HELSINKI -- Jason Blake is used to going for Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne's rebounds, but Tuesday, he might get a little special attention just by playing on the same line with the two Finns as the Anaheim Ducks play their last preseason game against Jokerit Helsinki, Selanne's old Finnish club.

The Finnish fans appreciated Paul Kariya a little more when he played with Selanne in Anaheim, and Wayne Gretzky even got a Finnish nickname -- “Väinö -- when he and Jari Kurri, also a Jokerit alum, were tearing up the League.

Now it's Blake's turn to become an honorary Finn.

"I wish I had learned Finnish this summer. Or the summer before," a laughing Blake said after the morning skate.

Jason Blake
Left Wing - ANA
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 32
SOG: 187 | +/-: -5
"It's a thrill to play with Teemu, who's a future Hall of Famer, and Saku is in the same category as a player. If you add our ages up, we're probably the oldest line in the League," he said.

Koivu, at 36, is the kid, and Selanne, at 41, is the grandfather. That makes the 38-year-old Blake the godfather.

What makes the line's success even more remarkable is the fact that all three base their games on speed and puck control, all of which they still have plenty of.

"Teemu's so fast that I think he makes me and Saku look slow out there," said Blake. "We work hard, we all have our skill set, and we've played in the League for a long time, so we try to use our best judgment at all times. It just works.

"We forecheck well, we move the puck, we try to give-and-go as much as possible. But we don't shoot the puck enough, we do a little too fancy plays. Saku, as the center, is the captain of the line, and I think we push each other to be better. That’s why we play well together."

Blake was traded to the Ducks midway through the 2009-10 season from the Toronto Maple Leafs, and like Koivu, he can appreciate the lower profile that hockey players can have in California.


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"Playing in a great hockey city also is fun when people live hockey and breathe hockey," he said. "But with that comes a lot of pressure. I played against Saku for three, four years when he was in Montreal and I was in Toronto and (in those cities) if you win you're a hero; if you lose, they're all over you. There's always the pressure to perform every single night, and with time, it starts to wear on you.

"In California, there are so many great professional teams in so many sports. So playing there has been a great change to me and with the group of young guys we have, we're in a great situation and I'm enjoying it."

The Hartwall Arena is sold out, and the fans are gearing up to show their respect and love to their fellow countrymen -- especially Selanne, who changed the course of the club's history in 1989 when the team had been relegated to the second division. With Selanne as the foundation, the club won the Finnish title just three seasons later.

"We know that it's huge for those guys to come here and play after everything that they've given to the game and what they've got from the game," said Blake. "The atmosphere is going to be special. We'll just get out of the way."

But there's also that game to be played. While Tuesday's game against Jokerit is an exhibition game, it's still an important checkpoint for the Ducks, and their last one before their regular-season opener Friday against the Buffalo Sabres (1 p.m. ET, TSN2).

"It's going to be exciting," said Blake. "It's a big game for both teams. Hopefully we can play a good game, but while we're not looking past this game, we're gearing up for our season and I hope this will be a good tune-up."
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