Will Kimmo Timonen pick retirement or Flyers?

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Will Kimmo Timonen pick retirement or Flyers?

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Kimmo Timonen has been thinking about it for a while. 

It was on his mind long before the Flyers clinched a playoff spot, and long before the New York Rangers cut his season short.

The veteran defenseman’s contract, a one-year deal worth $6 million that he signed after last year’s lockout-shortened season, is up. He’s now at a crossroads, forced to choose whether to return for a final year or hang up his skates for good. 

At 39, he’s already lasted years longer than most defensemen -- especially most defensemen his size. He has a lot to be proud of when looking back on his 15-year NHL career. But he isn’t yet ready to make a decision about his future.

“I’m going to take a few weeks here and see how I feel,” Timonen said. “I feel like, injury-wise, I’m in pretty good shape. It’s not like I can say, ‘OK, I have to go do this surgery’ and that kind of stuff, but I’m going to take my time here and see. 

“You have to be motivated to work out, get into shape, go through those 82 games again, and for myself, I put the highest standard for where I want to be when I play the game. I have to think about if I can still be there, and if I find that I can be there, then I don’t see why I’m not coming back.”

Timonen still has plenty to play for. He’s a five-time All-Star who, despite appearing in 1,092 NHL games, has never won a Stanley Cup. That drove him to return for 2013-14, and might just be enough to pull him back next season, too.

And if he does return to the league, he’ll return to the Flyers. Coach Craig Berube said after the Flyers’ Game 7 loss to the Rangers that he wants Timonen to return. General manager Paul Holmgren wants him back, too, but leaves the decision up to Timonen entirely (see story).

Holmgren said he’s happy to give Timonen as much time as he needs to decide whether he wishes to return, but would ideally like to know before the draft, June 27-28. The two have already had a conversation about it. Timonen expects to have his mind made up within the month.

“This is my place,” Timonen said. “If I get back here, this is where I want to be. I like our team. I like the team moving forward because we can get some young guys, young forwards, who can be faster. 

“I won’t get any younger, that’s for sure, and probably not faster, but I feel like I can still help the team. But again, I want to take my time and see if I can get to the level that I want to be.”

Timonen would most likely return for a lesser salary and a lesser role, if he chooses to play next year. He averaged 20:20 on the ice this season as part of the Flyers’ top pairing, but would likely take a cut in ice time and responsibility.

The issue, though, is that right now the idea of coming back another full season is exhausting. There’s the offseason training regimen, training camp and 82 regular-season games before he’d even have the chance to play in the postseason -- if the Flyers make it at all.

It’s a grind, and he knows it.

“It feels hard now, because it’s going to be another 10 months to get the point where we were,” Timonen said. “It’s a long way, so we’ll see."

Timonen elected to return for this season because he couldn’t bear retiring after a 48-game season. It wasn’t about making more money or earning any new honors. He wanted a chance to fight for the Stanley Cup.

Should he return for 2014-15, what drives him to succeed will be exactly the same.

“This year coming in, I wanted to make the playoffs and play well,” he said. “And we made the playoffs, but exited in the first round, and I’m still missing the Stanley Cup. That’s something that’s still in my mind. 

“Let’s put it this way: If I won the Stanley Cup earlier, I probably wouldn’t be here and talking to you guys. I would say, ‘OK, that’s it.’ But I haven’t won it. That’s the only thing that keeps the hopes up. It’s not money, it’s not anything else. It’s the Stanley Cup.”

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.