Recchi returns; Julien downplays net duel

April, 15, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- From the kid Tyler Myers earlier today to the old man, Mark Recchi. Both were born on Feb. 1 -- 22 years apart.

Myers got set to play in his first career Stanley Cup playoff game Thursday night, 19 years after Recchi played in his first, in 1991 with Pittsburgh. The 21-year NHL veteran remembers it like it was yesterday.

"Oh yeah, for sure," Recchi said. "It was a long time ago, but it was fun. It was everything I asked for. I'm sitting beside Bryan Trottier and Joey Mullen and guys like that. It was pretty cool. They had Stanley Cup rings. It was neat being around them."

It was the first of two Cup rings for Recchi, who would have to wait 15 years for his second in Carolina. He's getting set for a 14th playoff year at the age of 42, something he never would have believed had someone told him that during his rookie season.

"I never thought I'd play in my 30s, never mind my 40s," Recchi said, laughing. "This has been fun; I'm enjoying it."

The secret to his longevity?

"Red wine," Recchi joked (in all seriousness, though, he is a wine buff with a big collection).

And so, what now? The Bruins' Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy candidate isn't sure. Keith Tkachuk has retired. Mike Modano, Scott Niedermayer, Rod Brind'Amour and Teemu Selanne are mulling it over. Recchi?

"I'll think about it at the end of the year," Recchi said. "It hasn't crossed my mind yet. I'll think about it. Things went well this year. I just hope it continues now in the playoffs and we can have a good run. I'll sit down at the end of the year and figure out what I'm going to do."

Bruins coach Claude Julien has cherished Recchi's impact on his players.

"His work ethic is second to none," Julien said. "Rex's experience around the dressing room has been really useful for us this year. We do have a lot of young players, and those players have grown just by his presence."

Vanek's time

Sabres winger Thomas Vanek frustrated his fantasy owners this season by following up a 40-goal campaign with a 28-goal output. I asked him Thursday whether his four-goal night Saturday after returning from injury helped his confidence.

"It was just nice to be back, first of all, after the injury," Vanek said. "Getting the goals, that was just nice that I finally put my chances away. I didn't do anything special. I've had better games, but I finally capitalized on my chances, which I haven't done a good job of this year."

Vanek missed six games with a groin injury before the four-goal outburst and proclaimed himself totally fit for the playoffs.

"I feel good. I feel about as healthy as I have since training camp. I'm excited and ecstatic," Vanek said.

One key matchup in this series will be Vanek in front of the net battling with Bruins tower Zdeno Chara.

"It's not fun, that's for sure," Vanek said of battling Chara. "He's a giant out there. He's a good competitor, plays hard. My game is to be in front of the net and battle with him. Me and him can create some good traffic in front of Tuukka [Rask], which will hopefully help us."

The last word ...

... belongs to Julien, who didn't hesitate when asked Thursday morning about Sabres star goalie Ryan Miller having an edge over Rask in the experience department.

"Hey, who cares? Really," Julien said. "If they think it's an advantage, good for them. We feel really confident in Tuukka and we also feel real confident in the guy that's with him. We feel we've got a good one-two punch."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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