CHICAGO — Kimmo Timonen will rejoin the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final, his first action in more than two weeks.
The 40-year-old defenceman couldn’t stop smiling when discussing the opportunity in front of him.
“I’m really excited,” Timonen said. “I’m obviously going to trust my experience and my instincts and try to help the team as good as I can. It feels great. I can’t lie to you.”
Timonen missed the first five months of the season with blood clots and was traded from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Blackhawks so he’d have one last chance to win the Cup. The veteran Finn will retire once this series is over and is likely headed for an off-ice job with the Flyers.
Five years ago Timonen played for Philadelphia against the Blackhawks in the Cup final, which the Flyers lost in six games on Patrick Kane’s memorable overtime winner. Then a dominant top-four defenceman, now he’s a bottom-pairing player averaging 10 minutes a night when dressed.
“The role is what it is and we all have different roles,” Timonen said. “We all have to go out there and do the job, whatever the role is. It is not about me. It is about the team.”
Timonen tried to keep his focus on facing the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night, but the big picture is impossible to ignore. If the Blackhawks come back from this 2-1 series deficit to win the Cup, Timonen would get his name on the Stanley Cup.
Even though he has been a healthy scratch for the past five games, Timonen believes winning would be like a lifetime achievement award.
“I’m here to win the Cup,” Timonen said at media day in Tampa, Fla., last week. “I think about it, and it’s a reflection of 17 years and 1,100 games. In my mind, I earned it, I paid my dues.”
Timonen struggled at times in the Western Conference final against the Anaheim Ducks, lacking the quickness and puck-moving prowess that made him a four-time all-star. Injuries took their toll on the Chicago defence, which lost Michal Rozsival, but Timonen nevertheless had his minutes reduced and then he was scratched.
Now he has a chance for some measure of redemption, even if he doesn’t want to ponder that.
“I just try to play my own game and play smart,” Timonen said. “I don’t want to go out there and do mistakes and cost the team goals or whatever that might be. Only thing I can say is I’m going to enjoy the moment.
“There’s not many moments that I’m going to get like this. This is my moment.”
Down the hallway in the visiting locker-room at United Center, countryman Valtteri Filppula’s eyes lit up when told Timonen was playing — followed by the quip, “as long as he doesn’t play too well.”
“He’s been a top D for a long time in the league and especially for Finnish hockey,” Filppula said. “He’s a great guy. It’s fun to see him on the ice. That’s where he belongs.”
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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press