Flyers defenseman Lasse Kukkonen played another strong game last night in a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders in Philadelphia. Kukkonen, one of the top defenseman in Finland before he made the jump to the NHL, has returned to the lineup following an injury to defenseman Matt Carle and has impressed Flyers head coach John Stevens with his poised play with the puck. The Flyers are home for the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
Posted on Wed, Dec. 10, 2008
Kukkonen strengthens his case
Thrust into the lineup because of a back injury to Matt Carle, Lasse Kukkonen has given a strong account of himself on the third defensive pairing.
“He’s been tremendous,” coach John Stevens said before last night’s game against the Islanders.
“He seems to create offensive opportunities for our team, and he doesn’t get [many] scoring-chances-against when he’s on the ice.”
Kukkonen, 27, played in his fourth straight game last night and was paired with Luca Sbisa early in the contest. He had been a healthy scratch in 11 of the first 22 games.
“He pushes the pace in practice every day and has great enthusiasm,” Stevens said. “He kind of sets the example for the guys who are out of your lineup – that if you do the extra work and stay ready, you can come in and be a good player.”
Sitting out so often “is tough mentally, but at the same time, there are so many things in this business that you can’t control,” Kukkonen said. “You can’t control your ice time or whether you’re going to play or not. All you can do is try to be ready and try to be in shape.”
Kukkonen is a lame duck of sorts. Having already cleared waivers, he probably will be sent to the Phantoms when Carle and Randy Jones (hip) return from injuries. Both could be in the lineup by Tuesday.
“Those things pop in your mind once in a while, but you have to put it behind you,” Kukkonen said. “If something happens, it happens. I just try to do my job when I get my chance.”