When Teemu Speaks...
Thursday, 11.3.2011 / 10:35 AM PT
He's been his team's best player, while at the same time its most outspoken critic. And after Anaheim's last game in Washington -- in which he had a four-point night that defied his age for the millionth time -- Teemu Selanne focused on nothing but the miserable result of that game.
Selanne was reportedly livid in the aftermath of a 5-4 overtime loss in which the Ducks surrendered leads of 3-0 and 4-2, and though he was more calm yesterday as the Ducks moved on to New York, his message remained unyielding. He called the defeat "very disappointing, obviously, for everybody..." and went on to define a Ducks team that has lost six of its last seven after a fast start to the season.
“I think it’s time for everybody to look in the mirror, be honest if you can be better and what you can bring for the team,” Selanne told reporters after yesterday's practice. “This is not enough. We all can play better. You have to push yourself. We have to push each other. It’s not time to be a nice guy anymore. Sometimes it hurts, but you have to do it.”
At 41 years old, Selanne leads the Ducks and is tied for fifth in the NHL with 14 points. His four points against the Caps (two first period goals and two assists) made him the oldest player to score that many in a game since 42-year-old Tim Horton had four assists for Pittsburgh against Philadelphia on Jan. 15, 1972. (Yes, that Tim Horton, co-founder of the Canadian coffee giant.)
But that production has done little lately to lift the Ducks out of this mini-slump. "You have to just learn,” Selanne said. “It’s a long season. You’re going to have highs and lows, but it’s a team’s job to find a way to get the job done. You need everybody. There’s no room for passengers right now, especially when the team is struggling. Everybody has to play their best and the effort has to be there every night. If not, it’s bad news.”
The Ducks' next chance to turn on that effort comes tonight at Madison Square Garden, where the Ducks battle the New York Rangers (the mere mention of which always makes me think of Mystery Alaska). The Rangers (4-3-3 and 10th in the East) are coming off a 5-2 drubbing of the Sharks on Halloween night. Despite the defeat, Sharks center Joe Thornton said of the Rangers, "They were probably the softest team we played on the trip. We should have had these two points." Responded NYR coach John Tortorella, "It surprised me, and I've never heard a player say that." Click here for more from him.
Bigger than that news for the Rangers is the return of embattled Sean Avery, who is back on the roster after clearing re-entry waivers. Avery, however, will not play tonight, according to Tortorella. Avery, apparently, approved of that decision. “Really, the guys played pretty good last game,” he said after his first practice Wednesday. “They had a big win, so I wouldn’t change the lineup.”
Good to know. The Ducks' lineup, meanwhile, will be altered slightly since Nick Bonino won't play tonight as he rests a hyperextended knee suffered on Tuesday night. Brandon McMillan reportedly centered the third line in the morning skate with Matt Beleskey and Andrew Gordon.
The Rangers are thinking payback after suffering a loss to the Ducks on October 8 in Stockholm, a game in which Andrew Cogliano scored his only goal of the season so far and Bobby Ryan won it in a shootout. Cogliano, by the way, didn't score a point while playing on a revamped second line at Washington, though he was on the ice for both of Selanne's goals and Saku Koivu's first of the campaign. As he tries to fill the hole left by Jason Blake's injury, Randy Carlyle was very high on how that line performed Tuesday night, and Selanne called Cogliano a "good fit" on the wing. It's expected that the trio will be intact again tonight in New York. “Now we just have to spend more time together and get the chemistry going,” Cogliano told the OC Register. “I’m very excited about this.”
What would be even more exciting is a badly needed Ducks win tonight, and whatever Selanne might have said in the last couple of days has certainly been heard by his teammates. “A guy like that talks, guys listen and he doesn’t talk a lot so it’s nice when he does," Bobby Ryan said. "A lot of guys need to step up and take charge and do what we’re paid to do or expected to do. The pressure’s that come with all the stuff that we get, we need to live up to.”
Said Randy Carlyle of the recovery from that last loss, “It’s time for us to flush that. There’s no better time than the opening faceoff here this evening.”
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It didn't get mentioned here yesterday, but Devante Smith-Pelly's appearance in Tuesday night's contest was his 10th game of the season, meaning if he were sent to juniors this season (and thus wouldn't be eligible to return) the Ducks have burned a year off his entry-level contract. The 19-year-old winger can't be sent to the AHL because he is under 20. The next significant plateau for Smith-Pelly is the 40-game mark, which would start his clock toward his first year of free agency.
Said Bob Murray about Smith-Pelly, "So far he's doing fine. He hasn't regressed at all. He continues to not look out of place out there. Yeah, there's a 10-game decision. But to me the 40-game thing, such as what happened with Luca Sbisa, is as important a decision."