Chris Kunitz appeared to have found the Fountain of Youth.
At the age of 34, Kunitz enjoyed the best season of his life in 2013-14. He set career highs with 35 goals, 68 points, 13 power-play goals and eight game-winning goals. In February Kunitz participated in his first career Winter Olympic Games and won a gold medal with Canada.
Kunitz rode that initial success into the 2014-15 season. He had a hot start, but injuries and inconsistent linemates slowed his production in the second half.
“I’d like to get healthy and go (into next year) feeling 100 percent,” Kunitz said. “We all have to do different things to get healthy. Give it a month or whatever to relax, but being a pro hockey player it’s a full year (job). There’s no off time. Fix what you can and try to go out and get better for the next season.”
THE NUMBERS: Injuries limited Kunitz to 74 games, his lowest total since 2010-11. He finished the year with 17 goals, 23 assists and 40 points.
Kunitz began the season on fire. He started the year with a five-game scoring streak (2G-3A) and posted 16 points (8G-8A) in the opening 13 contests. Kunitz totaled 20 points (8G-12A) and five power-play goals in the first 23 games of the year.
Kunitz led the Pens with a career-high 211 hits, which marked the second time in his career that he topped the 200 mark (20, 2008-09).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Kunitz was en fuegs to begin the season. He was riding high with 20 points in the first 23 games and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat from his career year in ’13-14. Then he suffered a foot injury, one he initially tried to play through. The team had him shut it down to recover.
Kunitz returned to the lineup after missing eight games and three weeks of action. He played in every game for the rest of the year, but never got back into his early-season groove.
Despite the injury and inconsistent linemates, Kunitz posted 20 points (9G-11A) to finish the season, including a three-assist night in Calgary on Feb. 6.
Kunitz remained a physical threat and didn’t shy away from contact, evidenced by his team-leading hit totals.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kunitz wasn’t happy with his production over the latter half of the season. You only have to look at Kunitz’s production in the first quarter of the year to see that he is still a productive player when fully healthy.
It was only two seasons ago that Kunitz had the best hockey year of his life. He will have a summer to let his injuries to heal. With a healthy body, Kunitz will try to replicate that career year.
“I’m getting older, but the skating ability is still there,” Kunitz said. “It’s making sure you can do things at a fast pace, the quickness that you need. Training has changed in the last 10 years, a little more specific on certain things. That’s something that I’ll focus on (in summer).”