Teemu Selanne got the royal treatment Saturday from the Kings.
Fresh off a three-assist performance the night before, the Ducks’ future Hall of Famer was draped by Drew Doughty every time he got near the puck. Selanne absorbed some hard hits and barely made an impact; maybe the Kings should have done the same to Nick Bonino. He only found the scoresheet by potting an empty-net goal late in the third period.
The Kings’ game plan for Selanne was a sign of deep respect, and there was plenty of that to go around Saturday.
“He’s more than shown what he can do in this league,” Kyle Clifford said. “I remember playing against him in a couple charity games in the lockout. it’s amazing how well he’s been able to maintain his high level of play.”
Now 22 years old, Clifford was 20 months old when Selanne made his NHL debut with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992. His first Selanne memory? “I remember hearing his name a lot growing up. I don’t necessarily remember all the highlights, but I remember seeing a lot of him on Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em with Don Cherry.”
Near the end of the lockout, the Kings and Ducks skated together in a larger group to make it seem more like a regular practice. Jeff Carter was part of that group.
Asked if he could imagine doing what Selanne’s doing at his age, Carter said, “Not what he’s doing. He’s pretty amazing. He obviously keeps himself in great shape. He looked like he was 20 years old put there, wheeling around. Obviously, you know he’s a great player, but to see him out there, he’s got more free reign to pull some moves. He’s pretty special.”
No one on the Kings’ bench knows Selanne better than head coach Darryl Sutter, the head coach during Selanne’s two-and-a-half years in San Jose. To him, Selanne looks like the same player.
“The reason he’s still a top, top player,” Sutter said, “is because there’s a great desire to be a top player still and he loves the game.”
“He was a pleasure to coach because everyday he wanted to be a better player.”
If it looked like Sutter had pored over game film of Selanne in order to devise the Kings’ gameplan, you’d be wrong.
“I haven’t gotten to the film,” Sutter said. “I know Teemu. It doesn’t change.”