It was a close call for defenceman Keith Yandle, who was about to be scratched by the Florida Panthers ahead of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
But fortunes change and Yandle was pulled back in just when he thought he was out, thus not breaking his string of playing 866 consecutive NHL regular season games. Not only that, the 34-year-old scored his 100th goal in his 867th consecutive contest.
“I mean, obviously, just for me, it was just being ready to go and just waiting for my time to get the chance,” Yandle said. “And I think scoring that goal kind of helped solidify the work that I put in and being ready to go, and I think a lot of it was seeing the guys, seeing their reaction to it and getting real fired up for me.”
Solidifying the work put in by a dude like Yandle isn’t easy to do on paper, but the Boston native hasn’t missed one since March of 2009. He was a member of the Arizona Coyotes then and since skated in every game for 11 successive seasons, including 69 last season prior to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yandle owns the fourth longest consecutive games streak in NHL history, sticking him behind Doug Jarvis (964), Garry Unger (914) and Steve Larmer (884).
The notion of being a healthy scratch Sunday wasn’t fashionable by any means, but Florida bench boss Joel Quenneville had reasons.
“We’re looking at a lot of young guys here coming into camp,” said Quenneville. “The opportunity for him right now is a little tight right now and tough, but things could change quickly in our business. In the course of a season like this year you never know, you might have to go 10 or 11 deep on the back end. That’s where it’s at. So it’s a situation where his spot, it’s not where he wants to be.”
The Panthers were supposed to start their season against the Dallas Stars, but those games were postponed.
Florida took the win over the Blackhawks Sunday, by the way. Opening the season with a 5-2 victory isn’t a bad way to go about it and Yandle’s second period marker, the 2-0 goal, was the icing on the cake.
Pic: Getty Images