Aging NHL Stars Thankful for a Shortened 2013 Season
The NHL is back, and though there's no hockey enthusiast that was pleased with the prolonged work stoppage, there were a few players who will benefit from the lockout-shortened 2012-13 NHL campaign.
For the most part, that group consists of veterans, who are more rested than they would have been if the season kicked off as planned in October.
Sure, it's tough for an older player to be fresh and ready to go for three games in a six-day span, but given that the season's calendar length is about half of what it would be in any other year, they will be more effective down the stretch.
Here's a look at some of the big-name NHL veterans who will end up being thankful for only having to take part in a 48-game regular season.
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As the league's oldest player, Anaheim Ducks superstar Teemu Selanne is obviously going to benefit from having to suit up for 34 fewer NHL contests than he normally would.
That being said, it's not as if the "Finnish Flash" has needed the time off, considering the former Calder Trophy winner potted 26 goals and 66 points in 2011-12, despite currently being more than 10 years older than the majority of his teammates at age 42.
Selanne's place among the greatest ever to play is far from being in question, as the three-time 50-goal man cemented his status as a slam-dunk Hockey Hall of Fame inductee years ago. But that doesn't mean that the Helsinki native is satisfied with missing the postseason last year.
He may not be the elite sniper that he once was, but Selanne is still more than capable of making an impact with Anaheim, as evidenced by the three goals he's already bagged this season.
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When the last NHL lockout ended, Vincent Lecavalier was among the game's most promising stars, as the Quebec native was coming off a Stanley Cup and MVP honors at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
However, since then, Lecavalier's stock has plummeted, and the former No. 1 overall pick has failed to exceed 70 points since registering 92 in 2007-08.
Now, the Lightning captain is looking more like the superstar center who was capable of 100-point performances not so long ago, as the 32-year-old has notched 11 points in eight games thus far.
Whether he can continue to be so productive over the long haul remains to be seen, but at least in the early going, Lecavalier is much more of a playmaker than he was when the 2011-12 campaign ended.
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The Montreal Canadiens have been patiently waiting for star rearguard Andrei Markov to return to full health, as the Russian standout has played in a grand total of 27 games during the last three seasons.
Be that as it may, the Habs are thankful for Markov's presence early on, as the 34-year-old offensive dynamo has played in each of the club's seven games thus far, and the early returns have been promising.
So far, Markov has eight points and Montreal has stormed out of the gates to a 5-2 record after finishing 28th in the league a year ago. The former All-Star has more than made up for P.K. Subban's recently resolved contract dispute.
Going forward, Markov may not be able to produce offensively as regularly as he has through the team's first seven games, but as long as he's healthy enough to suit up, the Canadiens are a much more dangerous team.
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At 36, Patrik Elias is clearly the elder statesman of the Devils offense, but that doesn't mean that the two-time Stanley Cup champion is any less critical to New Jersey's fortunes.
That's because Elias, if nothing else, is consistent.
Through the Devils' first seven games, Elias has seven points and has helped the only club he's ever known to a solid 3-1-3 start. Given his track record, there's no reason to think his numbers will dwindle as the 48-game season rolls on.
Last year, Elias racked up 78 points in 81 regular-season contests for Peter DeBoer's squad, and though he won't get to run the power play alongside former captain Zach Parise, he's still more than capable of creating offense on his own for the Devils.
Elias fizzled during the Devils' run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, posting just eight points in 24 postseason games, but after having more time to rest his battered body, he'll be much more consistent this season.
Last season was supposed to be Daniel Alfredsson's swan song, as the 40-year-old captain was coming off a renaissance performance in which he captained the Eastern Conference All-Star team, put up 59 points and, more importantly, led the Ottawa Senators to a very unexpected postseason berth.
This year, Alfredsson has been impressive early, despite not playing first-line minutes, and has helped the Sens to a 5-2-1 record through the club's first eight games.
Alfredsson has been a model of consistency since entering the league (and winning the Calder Trophy) in 1995-96, as he's never failed to hit 50 points when playing in at least 60 games. He's been an emotional leader for Ottawa through some of the franchise's darkest days.
Now, with the franchise looking more and more like a group that's on the way up, Alfredsson is gracefully passing the torch to Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Kyle Turris, which is fitting given how loyal the six-time All-Star has been to the Senators.