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Vatanen Makes the Most of His Opportunity in Game 3

Saturday, 05.10.2014 / 2:29 PM PT / News
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Vatanen Makes the Most of His Opportunity in Game 3

“He’s a warrior,” Selanne said. "He’s not the biggest guy out there, but he doesn’t avoid the traffic and he puts himself in situations where he’s gonna get hit. Plus, the way he can see the game and pass, he can make a huge difference.”

By Adam Brady

If Sami Vatanen has been overwhelmed by the journey he’s experienced over the last few days, he certainly hasn’t shown it.

The unruffled, shaggy-haired Ducks defenseman was playing with the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs as of three days ago. He was set to play Game 2 of their series with the St. John’s IceCaps when he was called upon by the Ducks on Wednesday. He endured a nine-hour flight from Newfoundland, through Toronto and finally into LAX in plenty of time to make his postseason debut in Anaheim’s crucial Game 3 on Thursday with the Kings.

Vatanen not only was thrust into the lineup for that game, but he was declared the best player on the ice by his coach in a vital 3-2 victory for Anaheim at Staples Center.

“I thought Sami was great," Boudreau said. "I got to tell you I thought he was the best player on the ice for both teams tonight."

In that game, the 22-year-old Vatanen (a fan favorite some have come to call "Vatman") flashed the skills that were on display this regular season, in which he had 21 points (including six goals) in 48 games.

“He’s a warrior,” Teemu Selanne said about Vatanen today. “He’s not the biggest guy out there, but he doesn’t avoid the traffic and he puts himself in situations where he’s gonna get hit. Plus, the way he can see the game and pass, he can make a huge difference. He’s also very dangerous on the power play, so it’s good to see him back.”

Selanne has taken a noticeable interest in the growth of Vatanen, the fellow Finn who was also a teammate of Selanne’s on bronze medal-winning Team Finland at this year’s Olympics.

Selanne, noted for his extensive collection of automobiles, has lent his Mercedes CLK to Vatanen to drive when he’s up in Anaheim.

“I haven’t seen that car for a year and a half,” Selanne joked.

“I don’t know if I like that car actually,” Vatanen said today, to a round of laughter from the gathered media. “But it’s free.”

Either way, offering the youngster something to drive is Selanne’s way of paying it forward, since countrymate Teppo Numminen helped him out when he was a rookie in Winnipeg back in the early ‘90s.

“I remember how much he helped me, so that’s why I want to do my job with the young guys too,” Selanne said. “You see how much they appreciate it and how life is easier when you have a little help here and there.

“It’s so much easier for a young guy coming up when another countryman wants to help. It makes it easier to get used to different things and get settled down. That’s a very important part of our job.”

Another Finnish Duck, Saku Koivu, has helped Vatanen away from the rink this season and last year, when he played eight games with Anaheim (and had two goals).

“You’re trying to help him get settled down and get a place to live, help with his bank account, just the everyday stuff,” Koivu said. “We helped him move in and with some of the furniture and stuff like that.”

Ben Lovejoy said yesterday Vatanen is treated more like a son than a little brother by the likes of Selanne and Koivu.

“He could be,” Selanne said with a laugh. “But mentally we are at the same level.”

During the times that Vatanen has been with the big club, he’s gained a reputation – despite his relatively reserved demeanor – as a bit of a jokester.

"I try to make some jokes with the boys and relax the feeling here," Vatanen said prior to Game 3. "Look at these boys, they're all smiling here. I think I'm the clown here."

Corey Perry, who knows a little something about being the quiet one, smiled when asked about Vatanen’s character. “It’s just Sami being Sami. That’s what I call it,” Perry said. “He’s a quiet guy, but he just has these short little remarks once in a while, and it gets guys laughing.”

Yet Vatanen is all business on the ice, something he showed again in Game 3. His focus now is solely on keeping it going while he’s got the opportunity in this postseason.

“There are some positive things that I did something right,” he said. “But I just have to forget that and start to play the next game.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 77 13 50 14 63
C. Perry 82 34 28 2 62
R. Kesler 79 21 32 5 53
R. Rakell 72 20 23 -1 43
J. Silfverberg 82 20 19 8 39
S. Vatanen 71 9 29 8 38
A. Cogliano 82 9 23 2 32
H. Lindholm 80 10 18 7 28
C. Fowler 69 5 23 -8 28
C. Stewart 56 8 12 2 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 22 9 7 .919 2.30
J. Gibson 21 13 4 .920 2.07

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