Flyers All-Star defenseman Kimmo Timonen had a bit of a homecoming on Friday morning in Nashville when he arrived at Bridgestone Arena.
He chatted with old friends, including his former coach here, Barry Trotz.
In five years, this is only my second time back, Timonen said. It actually feels like coming home. I have so many good memories from this rink and this team and coaching staff and everything. Its like a second home to me.
There are some players in the NHL who forget their roots. Where they're from, how they got here, and who they owe their livelihood to.
Not Timonen. He will forever be in debt to Predators general manager David Poile, who traded for his rights in 1998 when Timonen was still playing in Finland as part of the LA Kings organization.
Timonen played part of the next season in Nashville before becoming a regular on the Preds blue line, spending nine years in the organization, the last of which as a captain.
He has always credited Poile for taking a chance on a guy, who was barely 5-foot-10, but could skate with the puck with extraordinary skill. There werent many smaller Finnish defensemen at the time.
Ive said this many times, Ive got to give David a lot of credit, Timonen said. I respect what he did for me. I dont know if hes the biggest reason, but hes up there as to why I am here in the NHL.
He actually told me back then he thought I could play in this league and hed give me a chance to play. And here we are.
Poile traded Timonen to the Flyers in 2006, allowing the Flyers to negotiate a new contract with him in advance of the deal though it was not signed until after the trade.
No team in the NHL does more with less than Nashville, a club that lacks revenue, doesnt spend to the max, and doesnt have a star-studded cast like many other clubs in the Western Conference.
Very little has changed about the sixth-seeded Preds, who play the Flyers on Saturday.
The coaching staff is still the same, Timonen said. They play the same system. I see their games once in a while and it looks like they play the same way when I was here.
They check tight, they work hard, and their guy is really good in the goal. Theyre the same from 5-6 years ago.
Nashville has used 10 rookies this season much like the Flyers. Their attack is spread out as nine different players have 20 or more points, led by defenseman Shea Weber, who will be an restricted free agent this summer.
This will be an up-close-and personal look at the Preds by the Flyers, who figure to be on the trade deadline talks with Poile as to what his intentions are in re-signing both Weber, and unrestricted free agent defenseman Ryan Suter.
Most NHL general managers dont believe the Predators will keep both next season because of financial concerns.
The Flyers feel Suter is probably better suited to their style of play and two league sources say Suter is a more likely candidate to be moved by Nashville at the deadline than Weber.