When right wing Mikael Samuelsson arrived in Sunrise six games into the young season, there were a lot of question marks surrounding what was left in the NHL veteren. Filling the void left by David Booth (who spent all of his five-year career with the Panthers) was no easy task, but recently the 35-year old Swede has proved he still has something to offer.
Samuelsson didn’t make his debut until Dec. 8 in the Panthers’ 2-0 shutout win in Boston, over a month after the trade went through, due to lasting complications from a sports hernia surgery he received last May. Just 12 days later when the Panthers faced the Coyotes at home, Shane Doan laid a forceful shoulder-check on Samuelsson that knocked him hard into the boards and put him out an additional five games with a concussion.
In the 16 games that Samuelsson’s been active in the lineup, he’s tallied 13 points in five goals and eight assists. He came out of the All Star break with a lot of energy, lighting the lamp twice in the crucial game against the Caps on Wednesday. His pair of goals (one of which was from 88 feet out) lifted the Cats to a 4-2 victory and enabled them to regain the coveted first place spot in the division.
Samuelsson hasn’t been a consistent goal-scorer, but he has been hot as of late. In addition to his two against Washington, he netted a goal in the loss to the Flyers on Jan. 24, amounting to three goals in his last two games. While it doesn’t count statistically, he was also the hero in the seven-frame shootout against the division rival Jets on Jan. 21. After Scott Clemmenson denied Alex Burmistrov, Samuelsson sealed what was only the Panthers’ second win of the month by beating Ondrej Pavelec top shelf.
Playing in South Florida was no unfamiliar job for Samuelsson. He has 37 games with the Panthers under his belt from the ’03-’04 season, which for him, was also saddled with injuries. In his first go-around with Florida, he accumulated nine points while only averaging 12:15 of ice time.
Since being drafted in 1998 by the Sharks in the fifth round (145th overall), Samuelsson has played for six different teams. After a mere four games with San Jose started his career, he has suited up for the Rangers, Penguins, Red Wings and Canucks in addition to the Panthers. In his four-year stint with Detroit he won one Stanley Cup (2008) and played in back-to-back finals. Though the rematch between the Wings and the Pens didn’t go his way the following year, he joins the likes of Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and John Madden as current members of the Panthers’ roster who have their name engraved on Lord Stanley’s cup.
In his first season with the Canucks just two years ago, he hit the 30-goal mark to contribute to his 53 total points that year. He’s scored 139 goals in his career, but has only surpassed 20 one other time (’05-’06 with Detroit). Last year, he scored 18 goals and played in his third Stanley Cup Finals series with a Vancouver team that was plagued by a struggling Roberto Luongo.
While he isn’t known for being a key offensive threat, he has definitely been regarded as a role player. The Panthers have always prided themselves in young talent, so having a tenured player come in with 10 years of experience and a Stanley Cup can add something very valuable. Samuelsson brings in playoff experience and the wisdom of both winning and losing in tough situations. If he can parallel that with a continuation of his recent offensive contributions, his value would multiply tenfold.
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