Guessing you may have heard by now that Teemu Selanne is making his final (barring a meeting in the Western Conference final or a cross-over match-up) appearance as a player at MTS Centre tonight as the Winnipeg Jets host the Anaheim Ducks at 7:05 p.m.
We’ve got wall-to-wall coverage again today. Columnist Paul Friesen handled the morning web story, sports editor Ted Wyman had a two-page spread in Sunday’s paper and online at www.winnipegsun.com, while I was inside the arena grabbing video reaction for our live blog available here:
It’s not uncommon to ask players about the opposition, but when it comes to Selanne, there’s a different tone in the answers, given what the 43-year-old means to fans in this community.
Glowing praise was being heaped on The Finnish Flash by most members of the Jets.
“He’s a freak of nature, there aren’t many guys that can do what he’s done, (for) as long as he’s done it,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. “He’s been the model of consistency and he’s someone that a lot of guys look up to, especially guys who play forward. We know how tough the game can be on your body, on your mind. He’s been doing it a long time. It’s impressive.”
Wheeler just laughed when asked if he saw himself playing into his 40s.
“I don’t know, that’s hard to imagine,” said Wheeler. “I’m hoping I can still stand up, let alone play hockey. It’s pretty cool what he’s doing.”
Jets D Mark Stuart was equally impressed with what Selanne has done, is doing.
“It’s amazing,” said Stuart. “I don’t know if you’re going to see that much anymore. I don’t know him and I’ve never met him but playing with guys who have played with him, I’ve heard nothing but good things. You can see how the fans still adore him. It’s cool to see. A lot of (fans) on our side are going to enjoy this tonight, seeing him again.
“A guy like him, you respect him a ton and appreciate what he’s done for the game, what he’s done in his career and what he did in this city, for a short amount of time. It’s nice for him to come back.”
Jets rookie C Mark Scheifele was back in the Ontario Hockey League with the Barrie Colts after his seven-game audition the last time Selanne played in Winnipeg, so he’s impressed to go up against him.
“I can’t wait to see the ovation the crowd gives him,” said Scheifele, who has a goal and two points in two games this season.
As usual, Selanne was gracious with his time and spoke for about 12 minutes after the Ducks’ optional skate.
He tackled a variety of subjects, ranging from his famous return video (the one with him throwing his golf clubs in the water), his time in Winnipeg, his close friend the late Don Baizley and quickly disputing the claim made by Jets C Olli Jokinen on Friday that Selanne might play another four or five years (“no, no,” Selanne said, making it clear he was at peace with the decision to hang up the blades following this season).
At the end of the availability, I asked Selanne if he saw himself staying involved in hockey as a coach or GM after he retires and this is what he said:
“Something,” said Selanne. “But I don’t really know what it would be yet. There’s going to be some options.”
Selanne himself conceded it’s going to be tough to match the emotion and response he got in December of 2011 when he made his NHL return with the Ducks but he also said it’s going to be a special night nonetheless. He’s hoping to play well, maybe score a goal as a send-off.
Tough to forget that Chris Mason absolutely robbed Selanne the last time he was here, Selanne likely hasn’t forgotten either and he’d love to score at least one goal at MTS Centre before he retires.
One thing’s for sure, Selanne won’t be throwing his glove up in the air and shooting it down if he snipes one this evening — though it would be hilarious if he did. As he did last time he was here, when mentioning breaking Mike Bossy’s rookie goal record, he called it one of the highlights of his time with Jets but was a bit embarrassed about the celebration.
The Jets did make a roster move on Sunday, activating D Grant Clitsome from injured reserve and shipping D Adam Pardy to the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League.
Jets head coach Claude Noel confirmed that Clitsome is in the lineup and is “ready to go. 100 per cent” — that was the quote when I asked him if the blue-liner needed to be eased into things.
Clitsome met reporters and said he’s eager to get back into the lineup after suffering a setback in Banff, Alta. last week for a lower-body injury he sustained in the second-last pre-season game against the Boston Bruins.
“First of all, it will be to keep my shifts short. That will be key,” Clitsome said when I asked about the keys for him as he gets back into action and plays his first regular-season game. “Just getting into it early, getting a hit or getting the puck early. I’m really looking forward to getting in and getting going.”
Noel said D Toby Enstrom would be a game-time decision but he is expected to go, making Paul Postma a likely healthy scratch.
Although Chris Thorburn stayed on the ice late for some extra work, he’s still expected to play. If Thorburn doesn’t, Matt Halischuk or Anthony Peluso would be the other forward options.
Since the Ducks held an optional skate and Enstrom is a “game-time decision” there could be some changes to the projected lineups that are posted below (I’ll update them after the warm-up):
Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane-Mark Scheifele-Devin Setoguchi
Eric Tangradi-Olli Jokinen-Michael Frolik
James Wright-Jim Slater-Anthony Peluso
Toby Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien
Grant Clitsome-Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba
Ondrej Pavelec (Al Monotya)
Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf-Teemu Selanne
Dustin Penner-Mathieu Perreault-Jakob Silfverberg
Andrew Cogliano-Saku Koivu-Daniel Winnik
Patrick Maroon-Nick Bonino-Kyle Palmieri
Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin
Bryan Allen-Sami Vatanen
Cam Fowler-Ben Lovejoy
Viktor Fasth (Jonas Hiller)