Ville Peltonen isn’t particularly loud or flashy, but his fingerpints are all over the Panthers’ current surge in the standings and their wave of good fortune over the past week.
What? You haven’t noticed him? Take a closer look.
Who’s stopping the Hurricanes on Halloween from clearing the puck out of their zone that eventually leads to Nathan Horton’s goal? Peltonen.
Who’s battling along the boards Nov. 3 against the Hurricanes and setting up Jay Bouwmeester’s goal? Peltonen.
Who’s creating traffic Monday evening in front of the net and tying up a Lightning defenseman on Olli Jokinen’s goal? Peltonen.
And who’s scoring his third goal of the year Monday on a pretty shot from the high slot? Peltonen, Peltonen, Peltonen, Peltonen.
“One of the smartest hockey players I’ve ever played with,” said Jokinen of his linemate and teammate on Finland’s World Championship teams. “He’s a very important player for our team. He does everything, plays special teams, and he’s a very good team guy.”
Truth be told, said GM and coach Jacques Martin, Peltonen “isn’t flashy and doesn’t have exceptional speed.”
“He kind of goes under the radar,” Martin added. “But he’s an extremely committed individual who you can count on every night. As a coach and general manager, you recognize the work he does.”
Consider this: Despite making his return to the NHL last season after a five-year absence, and missing most of training camp and the first month of the season with a shoulder injury, Peltonen still scored 17 goals and pitched in 20 assists.
“No one mentioned him last year when we had a tough start,” Martin said. “But even though he was coming back to the NHL and got hurt in his first preseason games, even though he missed the month of October, he still got 17 goals. If he hadn’t have missed any time he would have been a 20 goal scorer.”
Peltonen had played in San Jose and Nashville between 1995-2001 before returning to his native Finland. He was signed by the Panthers as an unrestricted in June of 2006 and has been one of the Panther’s biggest contributors, albeit underrated.
Peltonen, one of the last player’s off the ice during Tuesday’s practice, deflects credit to his teammates and linemates, Jokinen and Horton.
“It’s the line,” Peltonen said. “It’s having a sense of where everyone is and having trust. We’ve begun reading off each other and trying to do whatever we have to. I’ve changed my game a little to suit those guys.”
Peltonen admits his return to the NHL last season was a “big adjustment.”
“It’s a different game here than in Europe, and I missed all that time in training camp,” he said. “It was a tough start. But from December on I felt I could play to my strengths.”
Peltonen has carried that momentum over to this season.
“I felt like I was getting more chances early this year than I did early last year, but in the first 10 games I wasn’t really helping the team in putting any away,” he said. “But I feel now like I have another step. I don’t know why I just do. I’m shooting a little faster, getting a little stronger on the puck. Maybe it’s coming now. Maybe a little later, but I feel better.”
Defensemen Bryan Allen (laceration) and Cory Murphy (leg) did not skate Tuesday and are day-to-day, according to Martin, going into Wednesday’s game in Tampa. “We’ll wait to see how they are tomorrow,” Martin said. Martin has options if Allen and/or Murphy don’t play. He can slide Steve Montador, who’s been playing on the fourth line, back to the blue line or call up veteran defenseman Jassen Cullimore from the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester, N.Y…Click Here
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