Flyers' Timonen nears (birthday) NHL milestone

Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

 NEWARK, N.J.  _ When he was sent back to the minors in 1998, defenseman Kimmo Timonen never thought he would one day be approaching an NHL milestone: playing in 1,000 games.

Timonen will play in his 998th game Wednesday when the Flyers face the host New Jersey Devils in a meeting of scuffling teams battling for playoff berths.

“It’s been a long journey and I’m a couple games away,” he said after Wednesday's morning skate. “….There’s been all kind of ups and downs in the middle, but that’s part of the game. I’m going to be the sixth Finnish guy to do it, so it’s a great honor.”

Timonen will turn 38 on Monday, which happens to be the same day he is expected to play in his 1,000th game, at Tampa Bay.

Timonen played eight seasons in Nashville before being traded to the Flyers, along with Scott Hartnell, for a first-round draft pick in 2007.

Yes, it was one of the better deals GM Paul Holmgren has made.

This is Timonen's 14th NHL season, which is quite an accomplishment when you consider Los Angeles didn’t draft him until the 10th round (250th overall) in 1993.

Timonen will be the 282d player in NHL history to reach 1,000 career games. The Flyers will honor him before a home game at an unspecified date.

“I'm not a big stat guy,” Timonen said. “I'm more worried about this time of my life and my career. I'm more worried about the team and how we're going to get wins, how we're getting into the playoffs. It doesn't matter if you score 100 points and you don't make the playoffs. Who cares?”

Added Timonen: “It's not the reason why we're here. We're here for winning the Stanley Cup, and I've got a lot of things to worry about what's going on with this team. How are we getting into the playoffs ... how we start winning these tight games.”

Thirty-eight players who spent time with the Flyers have reached 1,000 or more games. Bobby Clarke is the only player who played in 1,000 games or more for the Flyers (1,044).

At almost 38, Timonen is still going strong. He is tied for second among NHL defensemen with 19 points, and he is fourth with 16 assists.

Bryz, again. Ilya Bryzgalov (12-11-1, 2.77, .899) will face Devils backup goalie Johan Hedberg (4-7-2, 2.97, .879) on Wednesday night at 7:30. Bryzglaov will be making his 26th start in 28 games.

Gagne regaining form.  Simon Gagne has two goals in his six games with the Flyers and is rounding into form after being used sparingly in Los Angeles.

Gagne is excited to be reunited on a line with Danny Briere Wednesday for the first time since 2010.

"When Danny came here as a free agent (in 2007), both of us were talking over that summer about playing on the same line," he said. "We had a chance to do that a couple of times that year, so having a chance to play with him again tonight will bring some good memories. I know him as a player and he knows me as a player, so that can help and hopefully we can do something good to help the team tonight."

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.