Cross Checks: Kimmo Timonen

#ESPNplayerNHL: Best Predators player?

July, 10, 2014
7/10/14
2:01
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The Nashville Predators don't have the longest history. After all, it was just 16 years ago that the franchise was created. (Their first game was Oct. 10, 1998.)

But a short history doesn't mean there hasn't been plenty of talent to pass through Bridgestone Arena.

[+] EnlargePredators
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesDespite the Predators' short history, the franchise is long on talent.
David Legwand, the first pick in franchise history (No. 2 overall in 1998), played 956 games and posted 566 points (210 goals, 356 assists) before getting traded to Detroit this past season. Martin Erat was in Nashville for 11 seasons before requesting a trade in 2013.

You can't forget about departed defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Ryan Suter.

And what about the goalies: Tomas Vokoun and Pekka Rinne?

Last, but obviously not least, the current face of the franchise: defenseman and three-time Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber.

Weber has 131 goals and 216 assists in 607 games for the Predators.

So who is truly Mr. Predator?

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page or, if you're hitting us up from Twitter, use the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.
NEW YORK -- With the Philadelphia Flyers sorting out their goaltending situation -- starter Steve Mason declared himself out for Game 2 on Sunday (click here for the full story) -- the New York Rangers have paid little attention to what is happening on the other side of the series.

Regardless of which goaltender is in net each game -- Mason or Ray Emery, the Rangers feel no need to deviate from the plan that propelled them to a 4-1 win against the Flyers in Game 1 on Thursday night.

They have a blueprint moving forward, and they plan to stick with that as much as possible.

“We know our game plan works if we all buy into it,” said top-line winger Rick Nash.

Nash helped spark that effort against Emery Thursday night with a team-high seven shots on goal against the Flyers backup. He picked up one assist by game’s end and said he hopes to drive the net even harder in Game 2.

“We have the same game plan. To get traffic, try to shoot from all angles. No matter what goalie you’re playing, you’re going to have to out-work him to score,” Nash said.

By comparison, the Flyers’ top line struggled to create chances, with both captain Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek failing to register a shot on goal.

The team had a decent start against the Rangers in hostile territory at Madison Square Garden, but the forecheck faltered and the Flyers ended up chasing play all night.

“In my mind, we didn’t play Flyers hockey,” said veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

So what is that exactly?

“It’s more skating and hitting,” he said. “We’ve got to forecheck really hard.”

Look for the Flyers to be more aggressive in that facet of their game on Sunday, when they aim to even the series 1-1 before the best-of-seven set shifts back to Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, the Rangers will look to make some small adjustments as well.

“Five-on-five there were a couple of areas as far as getting more situations in front of the net,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said when asked where he’d like to see his team improve.

Indeed, if there was any area in which the Rangers struggled, it was the prolonged stretches in which they were kept to the perimeter.

That’s not ideal for the type of pressure they’d like to create, obviously.

Instead, the Rangers aim to attack the middle of the ice and wreak havoc in front of Emery down low.

“If that’s not where we are, that’s where we need to get,” said veteran center Brad Richards, who finished Thursday’s game with a goal and two assists.

The Rangers sealed the game with a pair of power-play goals on Thursday, but Richards admitted it could’ve gone the other way had the team not killed off a huge penalty at the beginning of the third period.

Richards said the team expects much more from the Flyers on Sunday. And the Rangers will be ready.

“This is where we have to realize the level is going to go way higher and we can’t get caught resting on Game 1,” Richards said. “It’s a whole new game. It’s going to be a whole new speed, intensity level and we’ve got to rise to that.”
There was an enthusiasm in the voice of Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux we hadn't heard much last season or earlier this season.

But when you’re on a 9-2-1 run and you've rescued a season that began 1-7-0, you’re certainly in a better frame of mind.

"Man, it's been fun," the star center told ESPN.com by phone Monday night.

No time to rest, though, because a weekend home-and-home sweep of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins is already old news and the Chicago Blackhawks are in town Tuesday night, followed by other tough tests with the playoff-desperate Dallas Stars on Thursday and visits from Stanley Cup contenders St. Louis and Los Angeles.

Quite the home stand, indeed, for a Flyers team beginning Tuesday second in the Metropolitan Division but only three points away from the danger zone.

"It's going to be a good test for us," Giroux said. "I think it's good timing for those teams to come to Philly and play us. We're aware that all of those teams have been playing well this year. We need to get those wins if we want to stay in the playoffs. They’re going to be interesting games, and good games, too."

The sweep of the Pens, albeit against a Pittsburgh team missing some key injured players, gave the Flyers an emotional boost.

[+] EnlargeClaude Giroux
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteClaude Giroux has fueled the Flyers' resurgence this season.
"I think anytime you get a couple of wins in a row against a good team, it builds your confidence, you believe a little bit more in your play," said Giroux, the pride of Hearst, Ontario. "Anytime we play Pittsburgh it's always a good game and I thought we did a pretty good job of it."

Kind of amazing this team began the season 1-7-0, right? It's 34-18-7 since then.

"Once we won a couple of games we started getting our confidence back and we started to believe again," said Giroux, who wore the early season struggles heavily as team captain, just as he did last season when the team missed the playoffs.

No coincidence that the Flyers are soaring just as their top player is, with Giroux entering Tuesday tied for fourth in NHL scoring with 69 points (23-46), playing his best hockey in perhaps two years.

A little motivated after being overlooked by Team Canada for the Sochi Olympics?

"A little bit, but I try not to think about it anymore," said Giroux, who was crushed he didn't make the team that would eventually win gold in Sochi. "Obviously, I was disappointed and wanted to go to play for my country. But now that it's over with, I had a chance to get some rest, had a vacation, mentally and physically it was good and hopefully that’s going to help me for the stretch run and the playoffs."

Led by Giroux, the Flyers have been a dangerous offensive outfit and are keeping the opposition on its heels. It’s the kind of fluidity in their game that just wasn't there earlier in the season.

"They can get up and go offensively as good as any team in the league," said Ed Olczyk, who worked a pair of Flyers games for NBC over the past 10 days. "They're playing a much faster game. Their back end, too, is playing much faster which really helps the way that they’re built. That's the one thing that's been very noticeable, they're playing a much faster game. And they're finishing their chances, earlier in the year they were real fragile and weren’t doing that.

"The strength of their team is that they can get and up and go and play a real offensive game but they can also play a slugfest, too. If they find a way to make it, and I believe they will, they become a real dangerous team. The only question I have is whether they can defend enough."

Indeed, the team's Achilles' heel remains the blue-line, although veterans Kimmo Timonen and Mark Streit are playing their best hockey of the season right now and the acquisition of Andrew MacDonald has helped stabilize things back there a little.

Still, when push comes to shove, that's going to be their weak spot.

Which is why for the Flyers -- much like the Colorado Avalanche in the West -- it’s about keeping the puck on the stick of their forwards and spending as little time as possible in their own end.

The Flyers looked slow in transition in early October, but since Craig Berube was elevated to head coach three games into the season the club has improved its ability to transition out of its own end.

And it's quite obvious the players on this team are buying what Berube is selling.

"He's good with the players, he really wants to know what we think," said Giroux. "He's really strong on the system and how we play. He's also pretty relaxed behind the bench. People may not think that because of how he was as a player but he's really calm back there."

In a season in which the Eastern Conference appears to be wide open, don’t count out this hard-charging Flyers team, folks.

Morning Links: Day 17 of the lockout

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
9:18
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  • Still recovering from offseason shoulder and wrist surgeries, Ryan Kesler must report to Rogers Arena every weekday morning and will still be paid his full salary until cleared for action. (The Vancouver Sun)
  • The NHL should begin cancelling regular season games this week with the schedule slated to open on Oct. 11. (USA Today)
  • Evander Kane has found a number or ways to combat boredom during the lockout – like going to football games and playing in a recreation hockey league – but it is the financial advisor he hired that will really help him deal with the work stoppage. (New York Times)
  • Manny Malhotra said the league’s initial offer to cut the players’ revenue from 57 percent to 43 percent still angers the players and, “it did some good for us in terms of solidarity and where we stood – that’s for sure.” (The Province)
  • Sabres coach Lindy Ruff would rather see his players in Europe than at informal skates in Buffalo. “My feeling is if you can play, play, whether you’re half a world away or not,” Ruff said. “Playing’s a good thing. You can keep your skills sharp.” (Buffalo News)
  • Flyers’ Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen were among a group of players skating in Voorhees, N.J., across from the Phantoms’ practice. (Courier Post)
  • Ryan Smyth and Taylor Hall have been skating with the Edmonton Oil Kings since most of the group they were skating with left town. (Edmonton Sun)
  • Cody Franson signed in Sweden this season, but his agent his optimistic a deal could get done with the Maple Leafs once the lockout is over. (Toronto Sun)
  • Red wings head coach Mike Babcock and assistant GM Jim Nill watched most of Detroit’s AHL affiliate the Griffins’ first practice on Monday from the stands. (mlive.com)
  • Bob Hartley didn’t hesitate in fighting to give Steve McCarthy a professional tryout with the Abbotsford Heat after watching the defenseman in the Swiss league last season. (Calgary Herald)
  • Season-ticket sales for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies are up 74 percent from last year and the team expects a 15 percent increase in attendance. (Toronto Star)
Flyers D Kimmo Timonen talks to Scott Burnside about going home down 3-1 in the series against the Devils.


Look for veteran defenseman Pavel Kubina to get back into the Flyers' lineup after being a healthy scratch in Game 1. Marc-Andre Bourdon is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury and his equipment was unused Friday morning. Kubina was brought in from Tampa at the trade deadline to add depth to a Flyers blue line that has been without captain Chris Pronger since before the new year.

“It’s always hard when you’re not playing. But I do understand it,” Kubina said Friday morning.

“Hopefully, I can help the team in the future,” he said.

***

Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen has played almost 1,000 NHL games and said he cannot recall ever winning the first two games of a playoff series on the road. But he said he has always enjoyed starting the playoffs on the road because there are fewer distractions and less pressure.

As for coming up with a second straight win to start this series, Timonen said it’s obvious the Flyers cannot replicate their start in Game 1 when they were down 3-0 after the first period.

“We all know what was the reason we had a bad start,” Timonen said.

The Penguins, meanwhile, liked their start in Game 1 but weren’t happy with allowing the Flyers to dictate the terms in the second and third periods and then win 4-3 on Jakub Voracek's overtime goal.

“We know we have better and we know what our game looks like,” Penguins center Sidney Crosby said.

***

Many of the Penguins were wearing a special T-shirt Friday that, among other things, featured a stylized captain’s "C." The "C" harkens back to a time earlier in the season when there was a local story that the Penguins wanted to name an interim captain while longtime captain Sidney Crosby rehabbed from concussion issues. The team denied that such a discussion took place, and in solidarity, the players showed up on the ice one day wearing a "C" taped to their practice jerseys.

That marked a turning point in the season for the Penguins, who ended a brief slump and began a period of winning.

It was a time when the team became closer, James Neal said Friday after an optional morning skate.

“That’s why we’re wearing it [now],” Neal said.

Coach Dan Bylsma noted that there were a couple of different items on the shirts that were made a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s not a today thing, but that’s a playoff T-shirt they made and there’s more than one or two things on the shirt,” Bylsma said.

“We’ve got a few things that have gone on throughout the year, little symbols on the T-shirt,” Crosby added.


Ryan Suter’s decision to share the news that he won’t be signing with the Predators before the trade deadline dominated discussion during Friday’s media availability with one player a little more interested than most.

Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen’s interest was piqued mostly because Philadelphia could use a replacement for Chris Pronger. But partly because he can relate.

Timomen enjoyed playing in Nashville, but his rights were traded to the Flyers in 2007 when the Predators couldn’t afford to keep him or forward Scott Hartnell.

[+] EnlargeRyan Suter
John Russell/Getty Images"I feel it would be more of a distraction than anything," Ryan Suter said of signing an extension now.
"They were going to be unrestricted free agents, demanding and worth more money than we could afford," Predators GM David Poile said.

History might be repeating. And it’s not just one franchise defenseman this time around. The future remains uncertain for both Suter and teammate Shea Weber.

"It’s not easy," Timonen said. "I’m sure these two guys want to stay in Nashville. I wanted to stay in Nashville, too. Sometimes it comes to money and business and that side of things. I’m sure these guys are talking to the team and trying to see, 'Is there any way we can work this thing out?' If not, then you have to move on. It’s a bad part of the business but it has to happen."

And if it has to happen, Timonen would love for his current team to be the beneficiary. Pronger has been ruled out for the rest of the season and the playoffs with a concussion, and the addition of Suter would come the closest to replacing him.

It would immediately catapult the Flyers back among the Stanley Cup favorites.

"Obviously if we can get one of [Suter or Weber], we’ll be happy to take them," Timonen said. "All the help you can get going into the playoffs and try to win the Stanley Cup -- we need it."

-- Craig Custance

Hossa: Rumors are unavoidable issue

Suter’s decision to put contract talks on hold will lead to a frenzy of rumors surrounding the defenseman as the trade deadline closes in.

It’s a world Marian Hossa remembers well. He made the same declaration about halting talks with Atlanta in 2008 and was traded to Pittsburgh five minutes before the trade deadline that year. Making it worse, Hossa was in Montreal on deadline day, playing against the Canadiens, a team feverishly pursuing him in trade talks with the Thrashers.

Hossa can laugh about it now.

"Lots of questions. Lots of media attention," Hossa said, smiling. "You never know what can happen; I think that’s what he’s going through right now."

Hossa managed the distraction well but admitted it becomes an unavoidable issue that teammates have to deal with.

"It’s a little bit of a distraction maybe in the dressing room," Hossa said.

The best solution was the drop of the puck.

"When I jump on the ice, I was with my teammates and didn’t think about what was going on," Hossa said.

-- Craig Custance

Campbell recalls Sabres trade

Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell went through the same situation as Suter with the Buffalo Sabres during the 2007-08 season when his contract was expiring before he was slated for unrestricted free agency. He declined to sign an extension during the season and ultimately was traded to San Jose.

Campbell said Friday that he understands the pressure and stress Suter is going through.

"It's not fun at times -- going through all that experience," Campbell said. "It should be a great time, but you never know what's going to happen. I'm not sure. Hopefully, he probably wants to stay in Nashville and have a home there. Myself, it takes time to see what develops. I'm happy. Everything's worked out great for me. I'm sure it'll work out well for him."

Weber is a restricted free agent July 1. Together with Suter, he forms the NHL's top defense pairing, and Campbell finds it hard to picture Nashville without that stud duo.

"It's kind of hard to picture [the] Nashville Predators without those two guys in the back end," Campbell said. "They realize how much they mean to that team, and it'd be pretty hard to see them not there."

-- Pierre LeBrun

Trophy Tracker: Top Norris candidates

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
4:00
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This week, we take a look at the early candidates for the Norris Trophy, and we've got a few surprises here:

1. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

Where would the Penguins be without him so far this season, given all the big names who have missed time through injury on this club? He plays in all key situations and is gold at both ends of the ice.


2. Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs

No wonder Darryl Sutter got shown the door in Calgary last season. The Leafs’ trade with the Flames from a few years ago is looking like a total steal. Phaneuf has been a demon at all facets of the game and is a big reason for Toronto’s quick start in October.


3. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Let’s face it, it’s his trophy to lose this season. Ask most NHL GMs and they’ll tell you Weber is their top-ranked blueliner. But with five points in 11 games to start the season, he has another level to go.


4. Alexander Edler, Vancouver Canucks

Edler was only one point off the defenseman scoring lead as of Wednesday morning but brings so much more than that to the plate.



5. Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers

He plays against the top offensive line from the opposing team every night and still manages to produce offensively. Underrated as ever.


Honorable mentions: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa; Sheldon Souray, Dallas; Ryan Suter, Nashville; Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit; Duncan Keith, Chicago.


Stock Up

David Legwand, Nashville Predators: With the Preds crippled by injuries down the middle, the pressure is on guys like veteran center David Legwand to answer the bell. A former No. 2 overall draft pick who has never produced the kind of offense one expects from such a coveted prospect, Legwand has points in four straight games and has hit the score sheet in six of his last seven contests (two goals, seven assists) as the Predators continue to scratch and claw their way toward a playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Andy McDonald, St. Louis Blues: If this is indeed the season of the concussion, it is nice to see Andy McDonald bouncing back after his season was marred by a head injury sustained when he fell into the knee of an opposing player in early December. McDonald has seven goals in his last 12 games and seven points in his last four games. The playoffs are a non-starter for the injury-ravaged Blues, but McDonald's ability to return to form as a skilled player in spite of the concussion has to bode well for the revamped Blues next season.

Stock Down

Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers: One of the reasons folks love the Flyers as a Stanley Cup contender is their depth up and down the lineup, and especially along the blue line. But over the past 15 games, veteran blueliner Kimmo Timonen has managed to chip in just three points (one goal, two assists), as the Flyers have tried to fight off the late-season doldrums. Timonen's dry spell may help explain in part why the Flyers' power play ranks a disappointing 20th in the NHL.

Rich Peverley/Chris Kelly, Boston Bruins: Just to show you how difficult it can be to move seamlessly from one team to another, we look at the struggles of the Bruins' two forward acquisitions at the trade deadline. Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly have 20-goal potential but between them have managed just one goal in a combined 17 games since arriving in Boston from Atlanta and Ottawa, respectively. The Bruins, meanwhile, are winless in three.

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