Conklin skates with new mates at JLA
Former Pens goalie among the first to arrive for optional workouts
Conklin, who will be competing for a spot on the roster after Dominik Hasek announced his retirement this summer, served as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ back-up netminder last season. And he wasn’t shy about saying what he thought was going to happen in the 2008 Stanley Cup finals.
“It was funny, I would have bet a pretty good sum of money that we were going to win last year,” the 32-year-old said. “I thought we played well in the finals too, and we got beat by maybe a better team.”
Soon after, Conklin joined the very team that beat his Penguins in five games. However, he said his transition to tending the pipes in Detroit shouldn’t be too hard.
“It was pretty easy,” he said. “I mean, you always want to win, and it’s pretty exciting to come to a team that has a record of excellence every year.”
Detroit is Conklin’s fifth team in the last four NHL seasons. After spending four seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, Conklin landed with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2006. After a trade to the Buffalo Sabres in the 2006-07 season, the goaltender signed with Pittsburgh before the start of last year’s NHL campaign.
It was in Pittsburgh that Conklin finally established himself. When the Penguins’ starting goalie Marc Andre Fleury went down with a high ankle sprain, Conklin stepped in to save Pittsburgh’s season. After spending the start of the season with the Pens’ AHL affiliate, Conklin took advantage of the opportunity, and finished the season with an 18-8-5 record, a 2.53 goals against average, and a .923 save percentage.
Even after a stellar 2007-08 campaign, Conklin knows he isn’t guaranteed a line-up spot when the Red Wings open against Toronto on October 9.
“Well I kind of approach it the same way I approach every other training camp, I have to play my best and I have to prove myself,” Conklin said. “Coming into a new organization you always have to prove yourself and most importantly prove to the guys that you can play and be counted on, and I guess I always approach it where I have to come in and earn my spot.”
Conklin joined Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kirk Maltby, and Brian Rafalski as the only Wings who participated in the first optional skate before training camp.
Conklin, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, said that he thought it was important to get onto the ice as soon as possible to start meeting his new teammates.
“Anytime you can get in here and get familiar, I needed to make sure I can get in here and get prepared for camp,” he said. “That’s what I do every year; you come to camp with the idea that you’re going to play your best from day one.”
CONKLIN ON HOSSA: Conklin said that he had no idea that teammate Marian Hossa was coming to Hockeytown. Hossa joined Conklin and the Pens at the NHL trade deadline last February, arriving from Atlanta in time to help the Pens reach the Cup finals.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t know, I didn’t talk to him or anything, but I think probably lots of people were surprised,” Conklin said.
Conklin didn’t want to speak for his teammate, but he did say that hockey players want to win, even if that sometimes means a pay cut.
“I think most guys all want to win,” he said. “I can’t really speak for everybody, I can’t speak for Hossa, but I think it’s a pretty common trend that guys want to win. I don’t know if the moneys going to be that much of a difference sometimes.”
OILER INVASION: One skater taking part in the first day of volunteer skates stood out from the rest – because he was wearing a different Western Conference team’s colors.
Edmonton center Shawn Horcoff was amongst the seven skaters at Joe Louis Arena Friday morning. The British Columbia native, who played four seasons at Michigan State, lives in suburban Detroit during the summer.
“I went to Michigan State, I got lots of friends there, I met my wife there, we have a couple children and it was just an easy move,” the seven-year NHL veteran said. “I love the summers in Detroit and it’s nice because I know the guys on the Wings pretty well, they let me skate with them and work out with them. It just works pretty good, a good fit for me, and the community.”
Horcoff, who was a Hobey Baker finalist, was drafted by Edmonton following his sophomore season in 1998. He had 21 goals and 29 assists before having season-ending shoulder surgery in February.
Horcoff said that the amount of professional hockey players living in the area makes Michigan an ideal place to live during the off-season.
“There’s lots of pros in the area, so it’s nice to be able to skate,” he said. “Obviously you want to get on the ice two or three weeks before camp, you want to get your legs going and your timing back. There’s a lot of talent here and you know you’re going to get good skates so it’s convenient for everyone.”
The former Spartan credits the hockey community for making him feel welcome on a foreign sheet of ice during the summer.
“There’s 30 teams and only about 700 guys. It’s a small fraternity,” the Oilers’ assistant captain said. “That’s one thing that makes hockey great, we’re all friends, the majority of players are friends during the summer, but once the drop of the puck comes during the season you’re competitive, and everybody wants to win, everybody wants to get to the finals and win that cup. But I think in the off-season it’s nice to be able to skate with other guys and it keeps things fresh.”