Captain Olli Jokinen recognized the voice Monday on the other end of the telephone. It was an old friend and former Panther teammate.
Mellanby, the Panthers former captain now retired and living in St. Louis, called Jokinen to congratulate him on a number records the Panthers current captain will be breaking in the following weeks.
“I wanted to congratulate him on what was going to be happening in the next few weeks,” said Mellanby Tuesday from his home. “It’s a great accomplishment for him.”
Jokinen entered Tuesday’s game in Montreal one point shy of breaking Mellanby’s Panther record for most points (354). He will also play his 300th consecutive game, tying the mark set by former defenseman Robert Svehla. The veteran center is also one goal shy of tying Mellanby’s mark for most goals as a Panther (157).
“I wasn’t even thinking about it,” said Jokinen of the possibility of Mellanby calling him to pass the torch. “But that just shows you the kind of guy (Mellanby) is. He’s a very classy guy.”
Mellanby, who played with the Panthers between 1993-2001, played with Jokinen during his last season in South Florida, said the records are “a great accomplishment for Olli.”
“When I talked to him he was proud of what he was doing, but he made it clear he wants to be in the playoffs,” Mellanby said. “Hopefully, he’ll stay a long time (with the Panthers) and keep getting more points and more goals.”
Jokinen said the phone call from Mellanby meant a great deal.
“He was a player’s captain,” Jokinen recalled of Mellanby. “He was always there for the younger guys. If there were any issues, he was there. You learn and love to watch guys like that, working hard. He was not one of those guys (worrying) about goals and assists. He was a team player. Scott was proud of what he did in his career, and you could never find a guy who would say he was a bad teammate. He was a good teammate and a great captain. And the passion he brought to the rink…
“Besides winning the Stanley Cup and stuff like that, that’s the biggest thing. He is a guy you respect.”
Jokinen, who will play this evening with Richard Zednik and Ville Peltonen, has two goals and four assists. His goal Saturday against the Lightning cemented a 6-4 victory.
When asked about his 10 NHL seasons, starting with being drafted by Los Angeles and then coming to Florida in a trade from the Islanders, Jokinen said; “To be quite honest, I would never have thought I would be leading any franchise or holding records or stuff like that. I don’t think there are any players in the league that think that way.”
“I’ve been lucky to play with good teammates,” he added. “Even though there’s been changes, there’s always been good linemates to support me because you can’t score goals by yourself. You can’t get an assist if your linemates don’t score.
“Hopefully, I’ll stay long enough to keep going. There’s guys like Nathan (Horton) and Stevie (Weiss), they have longterm deals. I have to hope I’m still healthy when I’m 45 and playing like (Chris) Chelios).”
Anthony Stewart will get to play his first game this season with the Panthers. Stewart was called up Monday after scoring three goals and an assist in five games with the Panthers’ American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. Stewart was one of the finals cuts during training camp. He is expected to play this evening alongside Brett McLean and Gregory Campbell…The Canadiens will use captain Saku Koivu on the first line with Michael Ryder and Christopher Higgins. Alex Kovalev will start the game with Bryan Smolinski and Tomas Piekanec…Smolinski on playing the Panthers: “(GM and coach) Jacques (Martin) wants a high-tempo game but good defense, too. Jacques wants guys to be creative. His teams are always hard-working, and they have a solid goaltender (Tomas Vokoun).”…