Jokinen returns to Carolina, ready to face ex-mates
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen won't have to wait long to face the team that traded him.
Jokinen, dealt from the Carolina Hurricanes on April 3, returns to PNC Arena on Tuesday night for his second game with the Penguins. He earned a reputation as a reliable and versatile forward in four-plus seasons in Carolina, but became expendable as the Hurricanes took a steep tumble from first place in the Southeast Division.
"It's been more than four years of playing here," Jokinen said. "I have lots of really good friends on that team. The first couple shifts will be weird, but after those shifts, I will be able to settle in. Hopefully it's just another hockey game."
Jokinen endeared himself to Carolina fans shortly after joining the Hurricanes in 2008-09, scoring seven goals during the team's run to the Eastern Conference Finals. He had a 30-goal campaign the following season.
"(Former Hurricanes coach) Paul Maurice and (former assistant) Ron Francis were able to get the best out of me," he said. "They really put me in a position to be successful. That '09 [playoff] run was really special."
In Jokinen's first game with the Penguins, he scored the team's only goal in regulation, then added the lone shootout goal to lift Pittsburgh to a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers.
"I'm super excited to be part of this team right now and participate," he said. "This will probably be my best chance ever to win a Cup."
Jokinen's production dropped this season, registering six goals and 11 points in 33 games. Playing on the third line, he was part of a mix of complementary players that has struggled to contribute offense. At the NHL Trade Deadline, the Hurricanes had lost seven out of eight games. Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said the Jokinen trade was made with an eye toward the budget next season.
Since then, the Hurricanes have lost three straight. Despite the free fall, Jokinen doesn't feel his former team has given up. Nor does he blame the loss of goaltender Cam Ward, who has missed the past 17 games with a knee injury.
"Dan [Ellis] and Justin [Peters] have shown they can be really good goalies in the League," Jokinen said. "I don't think it's just the goalies, it's the whole team. I think [the goalies] have given the team a chance to win every night."
Without any relief, Jokinen said the Hurricanes are a fragile team.
"There's not much confidence in that locker room right now -- lots of frustration," Jokinen said. "There's a great group of guys there. They care a lot and they're going to do everything they can to win tonight."
Author: Kurt Dusterberg | NHL.com Correspondent