Tallinder ready if spot opens in Devils' lineup
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By TOM CANAVAN
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Henrik Tallinder remembers the phone call in January from the New Jersey Devils' medical staff.
He had been in excruciating pain, his left leg swollen. He was told he had acute thrombophlebitis. In plain English: a blood clot that would sideline him about two months.
Now it's June, and Tallinder just last week was cleared to play again. The problem is the Stanley Cup playoffs are almost over and the 33-year-old Swedish defenseman is just hoping for a shot at playing in the final round against the Los Angeles Kings.
"I'm good. I'm ready," Tallinder said this week. "I don't know, I mean, the coach has to make the call. But, as I said, I feel physically fine. I don't have any issues. I've been practicing for two, three weeks now, and I feel good. I mean, if I get the chance, it's a dream come true. This is where you want to play."
Tallinder, in his ninth season, almost made it to the Cup finals in 2006 with Buffalo. However, he broke his left arm in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the eventual champion Carolina Hurricanes.
This injury is an altogether different matter.
"When you get it and you read what it is, you are concerned about it and realize it's serious stuff," he said. "You learn about it, deal with it and move on. But when it's in your legs, you are concerned about it traveling to your lungs and it's game over."
Tallinder used blood thinners to eradicate the clot, but his comeback was slow. Even now that he is off the medication, he still has to be careful.
Taking a flight with the team to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday requires precautions.
Doctors have advised Tallinder to wear compression stockings, stay well hydrated and to get up and walk at times during the flight.
Tallinder didn't seem to know exactly how he was hurt. His last game was against Winnipeg on Jan. 17. He could have been hit by a slapshot, or slashed or simply been dehydrated and took a flight. The doctors told him his clot started as an infection in his vein.
"It hurt and I was limping," Tallinder said. "I thought I blocked a shot or it might have been a charley horse, but it never got better, just worse and worse and worse. Then it was excruciating pain and it swelled and it was huge. It could happen to anyone but it's a freaky thing that happens. Now I know how it feels and how it occurs."
Devils coach Peter DeBoer said before Game 2 on Saturday that he was thinking of getting Tallinder back in the lineup.
"I do know this: I know he's kept himself in great shape," DeBoer said. "He looks good in practice. Before he went out, he was a top two defenseman for us. You miss two, 2-2 1/2 months. It didn't hurt (Travis) Zajac coming back in. I know you're jumping into the Stanley Cup Final, not into the last week of the regular season. But (Jacob) Josefson jumped in last round against the Rangers coming off six weeks out with a broken wrist, and it didn't hurt him. You know, you hope you get the desired result, but you never know."
Tallinder isn't the only veteran hoping to get back into the finals.
Kings forward Simon Gagne is ready to go after being sidelined with a concussion since late December. The way the Kings are going, however, coach Darryl Sutter has been staying pat with his lineup.
"I have been in this league for more than 12 years, and I got close once in Philly in 2010 and I got a conference finals Game 7 three times, and close to go to the finals again," Gagne said Saturday after the Kings held a pre-game skate at the Prudential Center. "I know it's hard to win, so any chance you get to go there and any chance you get to play for that big trophy, you're going to take it."
Gagne also knows the opportunity to hoist the Cup does not come along often.
"At this point of my career, you never know, this might be my last chance to taste something like that," he said. "Playing or not playing, a lot of things happened in my career that I'm glad that I am here and in that position right now."
AP Sports Writer Ira Podell contributed to this report.
Updated June 2, 2012