NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With…" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk:
Kevin Shattenkirk is in a good place.
But it wasn't the smoothest ride getting to this point.
The Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman had both uplifting and down moments this summer. His son, Connor, was born on July 2. The New York Rangers bought out the final two seasons of his four-year contract (worth $6.65 million annually) on Aug. 1. Four days later, he signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Lightning, where he's on the top defense pairing with Victor Hedman.
Shattenkirk has 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 20 games for the Lightning (11-7-2). The New York native had 51 points (seven goals, 44 assists) in 119 games the past two seasons with the Rangers.
He has plenty left to give in hockey, not just for himself but for his four-month-old son, as well.
"I think one of my goals is to be able to play long enough for Connor to see me play and know what's going on and realize what the NHL is and the rest of it," the 30-year-old said. "That's what I'm focused on now, and obviously landing in Tampa has just been an added bonus. To play with these guys and be on such a great team, it's a lot of fun."
Here are Five Questions with… Kevin Shattenkirk:
So how much are you enjoying being partnered with Hedman?
"I think the first few games, it was a bit of an adjustment because he plays defense, really, like no one else in the League. In playing with him and trying to read off him, he's able to cover so much ground on the ice, in terms of sweeping across defensively and almost killing rushes before they even start. And then even in the offensive zone, the aggressive kind of routes he takes in the offensive zone, to just go skate at a puck below the goal line when it's loose, his ability to get from A to B is so quick and so fast. It's allowed me to be a little more patient and realize he can recover on a lot of plays. But I think we think the game pretty similarly, and that's the fun part about it. I think offensively, we read off each other pretty well."
Video: NYR@TBL: Shattenkirk scores in 2nd period
You played for the St. Louis Blues from 2010-17 and against them on Nov. 19 with the Lightning. How happy were you to talk with some of your former teammates about winning the Stanley Cup?
"It was fun. Being able to go through and see Pat [Maroon, now with the Lightning] get his ring at the game, it was very cool for us teammates to see him enjoy that moment. But getting to talk with some of the guys on the team, it was obviously a big moment for them, and even just talking to some of the people that I knew who worked at the arena who got rings and sharing the excitement. Everyone had their own story to tell. I think I knew how much the city was looking for a Stanley Cup and to be able to finally get back there and sit down with those guys, just [to hear] about how special it was to be in St. Louis afterward, was something that was fun to hear them talk about."
You became a father in July. How life changing has that been?
"Yeah, it's a pretty amazing effect. You know, it just puts a lot of things in perspective. Obviously going through everything in New York, there were some tough years there. It just kind of made me realize that this job that we do, it's a lot of fun and you can't take it for granted. But there are bigger things. Coming home to him and seeing him smile and seeing him develop. And as a player, coming off road trips and coming home from practice, it allows you to kind of get away from the game a little bit, get home and focus on your family. Yeah, it just changes you. As soon as he was born, it put me into a different mode as a human being. The amount of love you feel for him is unreal. It's just endless. It's a lot of work, but again, it's something to take your mind off, maybe a bad day, a bad game, something like that. It definitely helps you to come home and get over it quickly."
Speaking of that, how much did being a new parent help you deal with the buyout?
"Yeah, it helped a lot. That whole period, it happened so fast. You find out that you're bought out and then a day later you start talking to teams. In a way, that helps you kind of focus on the future and it was obviously a tough pill to swallow. But I think the way the summer went, I was ready to get back to work this season, no matter where it was. And when that happened, it was kind of, move along and prepare yourself for a new season. Obviously, I knew that I had to have a big year and there's another guy at home that I have to provide for."
Video: TBL@BOS: Shattenkirk snipes go-ahead goal by Rask
Do you feel like the Lightning are turning the corner?
"I think we're definitely confident we can do that. I think there's been an identity battle the first 10 games or so of the season, figuring out who we are as a team. [With] what happened last year during the regular season and how successful they were, everyone talks about how they got a lot of breaks and a lot of stuff went their way. I think we realize that this season is different and we're going to have to work for opportunities and all those things that help you get wins. We're starting to realize now what it takes to win games and how to play, and I think [the 4-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 22] was a great example. They're obviously a very skilled team in Chicago and we were able to just play a very sound game defensively, especially on the road in a very hard building, and we saw the benefits of it. We know we have a lot of skill. We want to make sure we're building that foundation of working in the right ways and playing a good structure game and allowing our skill to take over. It's starting to pay off more and more recently. We have to make sure that we keep that consistency the rest of the year."