It’s been an abnormally long break between games for the Nashville Predators, and that’s given some of the veterans on the team extra time to take in the significance of their next contest.
Nashville’s next game pits them against the Anaheim Ducks, not only the No. 2 ranked team in the Western Conference, but the club with forward Teemu Selanne on their roster.
It’s for Selanne’s sake that the Predators last game of the season against the Ducks is especially meaningful. The 43-year-old Finn is playing in his self-proclaimed “final season” and the future Hall of Famer plays against Nashville for the last time on Friday night.
“I’ve played against him so many times before and he’s such an incredible player and talent. He’s like the president of Finland, they love him over there so much,” Predators forward Eric Nystrom said. “It’s an honor to play against a guy like that. He’s had an incredible career and he’s a great name in hockey.”
A Stanley Cup winner, six-time Olympian and prolific goal scorer (including 76 tallies his rookie year), it’s not the statistics that former teammates and opponents go to first, but instead an affirmation of Selanne’s great character.
“I was lucky enough to play with him as a rookie, and then I played with him my first five years. I’d have to say there is no classier guy than him. He’s just one of those guys that everybody loves,” said Nashville forward Matt Cullen. “He’s so good to the young guys. I think that’s another thing that stands out about him, he truly loves the game and has such a good time when he’s playing.”
The Predators are familiar with saying good bye to some of the game’s greats. In 2012, the team watched 20-year veteran Nicklas Lidstrom play his final game when Nashville eliminated Lidstrom’s Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs.
Although the Ducks and Predators aren’t meeting in the postseason like Nashville would probably prefer, Friday’s game against Selanne still holds a lot of significance for players up and down the Predators lineup.
Playing in the NHL for more years than some of the players on the Predators roster have been alive (e.g. Seth Jones), facing the “Finnish Flash” is not being taken lightly.
“No. 1, he’s an unbelievable player. The fact that he’s playing at such a high level at this age is pretty amazing,” Cullen said. “He’s such a fun player to watch. It’ll be sad to see him go, but it’s cool that we get to experience it so late in the season.”