If there was any question how the Ducks plan to employ Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu as NHL teammates, it was answered quickly in the form of side-by-side lockers when the Ducks opened training camp at Anaheim ICE on Sunday.
In other words, it’s still early, but it looks like they’ll be sticking together.
“He’s been helping me a lot with off-ice stuff,” Koivu said of Selanne. “It’s been a lot easier for me settling down because of him. Hopefully we get a chance to play together at one point but right now, the focus is just to get the season to where we want to be, and get ready for the exhibition games. We’ll see what the lines are and if we play together.”
The two played together briefly on the same line toward the end of the Ducks’ intrasquad scrimmage. There were no highlight-reel moments, none of the “Koivu … back to Selanne … back to Koivu!!” exchanges that are expected from the two Finns.
There’s plenty of time left in the preseason for that moment to coalesce, and Randy Carlyle is going to make use of it.
“I think right now we would possibly say that they are going to start the season together,” he said, “but what happens between now and then, a lot of things can change.”
“We have four exhibition games coming up – four in four nights, which is a pretty taxing schedule your first week of training camp,” Carlyle added. “We’re going to have an opportunity to get lots of looks at people in different situations, and Koivu and Selanne are no different.”
Koivu probably drew the most attention from the fans and media in attendance Sunday, including at least one handmade sign reading “Welcome to Anaheim Saku”.
As the Ducks’ most expensive free-agent signee, there’s expected to be pressure on Koivu regardless of who he plays with. Not as much as he faced in Montreal, though, which is why Carlyle is handling the center with care.
“Any time you acquire a new player that has his status in the league … we don’t want to put a lot of pressure on the new players that are here,” Carlyle said. “We want them to come in and get comfortable first with what’s going on. Get a grasp and an understanding of how we run things, and then let them be themselves. Let them be a hockey player. The majority of these players have been treated differently than how we’re going to treat them.”
In Anaheim, Koivu is not expected to be the centerpiece. He’s hoping to be the final piece.
“I look at it like he’s a bonus for us,” Selanne said. “Obviously he has done great things in this league. He’s a great addition, same as Loops (Joffrey Lupul) and just look at all the young guys we have here, it’s awesome.”