captain Shane Doan
noticed two things when center Olli Jokinen
stepped on the ice for the first time as his teammate this season.
"When we didn't play together, I noticed all the attention he received from the opposing team and that opened things up for those guys on the ice," Doan told NHL.com. "And when I had a chance to play with him, you really appreciated how well he drove to the net to open things up. Those were the two areas that really got my attention."
Jokinen has been a positive influence for a predominately young group in Phoenix. At the same time, he's relieved some pressure from Doan, who has led the Coyotes in scoring 4 straight seasons, and leads them this season with 12 points in 10 games.
"It's been great getting a chance to play with a player of his caliber," Jokinen said of Doan. "He's an unbelievable leader, really good goal scorer and one of the best power forwards in the League. It's easy to play with a guy like him."
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Jokinen was traded to Phoenix by the Florida Panthers
last June in exchange for defensemen Keith Ballard
and Nick Boynton
, and a 2008 second-round pick (which Phoenix used to select Jared Staal
). Phoenix is Jokinen's fourth team in 10 NHL seasons.
"Your first reaction to any trade is 'Who did we lose?' " Doan said. "It's part of the game you don't like, but Olli is certainly one of the top five centers in the League. He can play physical, play the point and is a proven goal-scorer."
Jokinen knew a trade was imminent; he just wasn't sure where he'd be headed.
"I wasn't surprised by the trade since I knew after the season I'd be moved somewhere," Jokinen said. "So I was prepared for it and it didn't surprise me when I got the call."
On Saturday, Jokinen will renew acquaintances with his former team when the Panthers visit at Jobing.com Arena in the clubs' only meeting this season.
"I know it's going to be weird, but I know there's been a lot of turnover for that team so it has a different look," Jokinen said. "It'll be special, though, because I played on that team for a long time. We'll try and get the 2 points out of that game, that's for sure.
"I have a lot of people coming in from Florida to see the game, so we'll have a full house. I haven't even seen Florida's schedule and don't know their agenda, but I'll definitely see a few of the guys after the game. I still keep in touch with a few of them."
The 29-year-old Jokinen certainly hasn't given any hint of nervousness entering the contest.
"He hasn't talked about the matchup too much," Doan said. "He definitely loved Florida and liked all the guys there and talked briefly about them, as everyone does following a trade. We talked about Boynton and Ballard. But on the day of the game, we'll tease him and try to take his mind off of it. Maybe we'll make him buy dinner; we'll have fun with it."
Jokinen led the Panthers with 34 goals, 37 assists and 71 points in 82 games last season, and he was third in the NHL with 18 power-play goals and 341 shots on goal. He also showed a physical side, with 78 hits and 30 takeaways. At the same time, Doan led the Coyotes with 28 goals, 50 assists and 78 points in 80 games. He also ranked first on the club with 9 power-play goals and 64 takeaways, and was second with 243 shots and 158 hits.
"If you had 20 Shane Doans on your team, you most likely would be battling for the Stanley Cup every single year. The work ethic he puts on the ice every day has been great."
-- Olli Jokinen on Shane Doan
It's no coincidence the numbers look so similar.
"We both play a similar style in that we like to hold onto the puck and create opportunities, but I still think we have a long way to go before we feel confident enough to be doing a lot more than what we've done so far," Doan said. "You're going to learn people's tendencies, what they like to do and their comfort zone. As a player, you tend to go to your tendencies and only when your teammates see those tendencies are they able to react, and that's the stage we're in with Olli right now.
"Communication becomes a little easier the longer you play together," Doan continued. "It may not be as fluid as you want it to be at this stage, but we're getting to the point where communication and support is much stronger."
With each game, Jokinen has been gaining more confidence playing with Doan.
"I know what he expects from me every night and I know where he's going to be on the ice," Jokinen said. "He keeps his game really simple and that makes it so much easier to play. If you had 20 Shane Doans on your team, you most likely would be battling for the Stanley Cup every single year. The work ethic he puts on the ice every day has been great."
Coach Wayne Gretzky
said Jokinen's addition has benefitted Doan. The fourth-year coach most recently had Jokinen centering for Doan and Peter Mueller
"Bringing Jokinen on board has really taken a lot of pressure off Shane, not only on the ice but in the locker room, too," Gretzky told the Coyotes' Web site. "Olli is a real strong, will-powered guy that works hard every day. And he wants to win and be successful and I think that's taken a little bit of pressure off of Shane, and they work well together."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.