DETROIT – The NHL’s oldest player is looking forward to facing the Red Wings Friday night for one specific reason: No Nicklas Lidstrom.
“Maybe in 20 years, he has missed one or two games I have played,” said Teemu Selanne, the 42-year-old star, who leads Anaheim with 14 points in 12 games. “In many ways, that's a relief because he was an unbelievable hockey player.”
Lidstrom was arguably the toughest defender to exploit, Selanne said.
“You know you can't beat him one-on-one because he's so smart, good skater and everything,” Selanne said. “He was a threat all the time, offensively, too, and (and on the) power play. It’s good news for other teams. But I miss him. I played against him since I was 16 on junior national team. It was a fun road to watch him play and do things on the ice because he was just magic.
“For sure the guys here and the fans and even the guys who play against him miss him. You can't hate that guy, he was so classy and he plays so fair and he has no enemies. He was just so good and fair.”
Against the Red Wings, Selanne has produced 23 goals and 58 points – the fewest goals and points that he’s totaled against all NHL teams that he’s played against at least 66 times.
On a team that currently has eight skaters who have scored at least four goals each, Selanne continues to be impressive in this his 19th NHL season. He’s had two four-point games already this season, becoming the oldest player to record four points in a game since Gordie Howe (42 days, 326 days) did it in 1971.
Lidstrom, who retired last summer after earning seven Norris Trophy honors as the league’s best defenseman, and helping the Red Wings win four Stanley Cup championships, is in Detroit this week. He was at Joe Louis Arena on Friday morning, where he was asked what it is about aging players – like himself and Selanne – who still produce for their teams despite playing at an advanced age?
“I think the most important thing is the love of the game,” Lidstrom said. “If you love coming to the rink, love playing, love being in competition, and they're all real good players, too. They have to take care of themselves in the off-season, too, to play at this level. I think the main thing (though) is the love of playing hockey.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose