New Penguins acquisitions embracing Stanley Cup run
April 30, 2013 12:00 PM
Chris O''Meara/Associated Press
Penguins left winger Jussi Jokinen.
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Gene Puskar/Associated Press
Penguins center Brandon Sutter.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
To understand how much forward Jussi Jokinen appreciates the chance to join the Penguins as they head into the Stanley Cup playoffs, it's beneficial to look at the previous time he played in the postseason.
It was 2009. Jokinen and the Carolina Hurricanes advanced to the Eastern Conference final, only to be trounced in four games by the Penguins, who were on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
So how much does he like being back in the playoffs, beginning Wednesday with Game 1 against the New York Islanders?
"A lot," Jokinen said Monday after practice at Southpointe. "The last three seasons have been really tough. You play that last regular-season game and then 16 other teams start to play the playoffs and you go home. That's the worst feeling you can have as a hockey player. It's great to have a chance again to go for the Cup, for the long run."
Jokinen joined the Penguins in a trade less than four weeks ago. He has been a hit, with seven goals, 11 points in 10 games.
A couple of others who were acquired around the same time also find themselves staring at a long lost love -- the playoffs -- after missing out for a while.
Winger Brenden Morrow hasn't been in a playoff game since 2008, when Dallas made it to the Western Conference final. Morrow and the Stars missed the playoffs the next four seasons, so the spring was becoming a time just to be a spectator.
"I didn't set my alarm to watch it, but of course I'm a fan, so I'd watch games. If you play as long as I have, you have friends on different teams, so you're kind of rooting for them," said Morrow, who has six goals, 14 points in 15 games since joining the Penguins.
"It's never easy [watching the playoffs], though. I know from playing in them that there isn't a better feeling. You get nerves and butterflies every game in the playoffs. The atmosphere you're playing in, the intensity of the games -- there's just nothing that compares to it. So I'm really looking forward to it."
So is winger Jarome Iginla.
A 35-old-year future Hall of Famer, Iginla spent his NHL career solely with Calgary until he helped orchestrate a trade to the Penguins late in March. He has five goals, 11 points in 13 games with he Penguins.
Although he has played in 1,232 regular-season games over the course of 16 seasons, he has appeared in just 54 playoff games.
It took Penguins center Evgeni Malkin just five NHL seasons to eclipse that playoff game total.
In addition, Iginla hasn't been in the playoffs since 2009 and has advanced beyond the first round just once, when the Flames lost in the 2004 Stanley Cup final to Tampa Bay.
"I think as you get older, I appreciate it more," Iginla said of being in the postseason. "It's a thrill to get back in. I'm really looking forward to it. As it comes, I'll still get the excitement."
The Penguins' postseason prospects this year, as Iginla saw them, played a large role in him invoking the no-movement clause in his contract and choosing a trade to the Penguins over one that would have sent him to Boston.
That gave him "an opportunity to be in the playoffs, and I believe we have a shot to win," he said, but he's not predicting a walk-through to the championship.
"Playoffs are tough," Iginla said. "I haven't been in enough of them, in my mind, but I'm looking forward to this.
"The ones I have been in and watched on TV, it's more physical, more intense. I know you try to play that way all season, but guys always try to find that extra [gear]."
That's the kind of information that maybe Penguins center Brandon Sutter could use, but he's not pumping his teammates for advice as he heads into the playoffs for the first time.
"I'm just kind of getting myself ready," Sutter said. "Guys keep it pretty quiet around here. We just worry about what we're doing now. We don't talk too much about how it's going to go."
Sutter was acquired from Carolina in the summer in the Jordan Staal trade. His rookie season was 2008-09, but he didn't crack the lineup in the playoffs as the Hurricanes won two rounds before getting swept by the Penguins.
He has played in junior hockey playoffs and in world junior and age-group championships for Canada. He'll draw on those experiences, his wits and his hockey instincts.
"I expect the highest pace and the most intense games possible," Sutter said. "I'm excited about it. I've been waiting awhile for it. It's finally come, and I'm looking forward to it."