October 06, 2011
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The NHL preseason can be a tedious grind. But for some players, it's a chance to stay off unemployment or have to ship off overseas for a gig.
Here are the top seven most heartwarming player stories from the preseason:
Hunter underwent major knee surgery last year that limited him to 11 games. Traded from the New York Islanders to the New Jersey Devils for Brian Rolston(notes) and then bought out by the Devils, Hunter resurfaced with the Los Angeles Kings on a tryout. Said Coach Terry Murray back in September:
He's going to obviously have to play very well to knock somebody out of a spot, but he's an experienced player who's got size, strength, grit to his game. He's going to score some goals. He's a big shooter of the puck and we'll just let his game unfold.
Aebischer, 33, last played in the NHL on Oct. 10, 2007. Nearly four years later, he decided to forego a return to the Lugano in the Swiss A-League to sign with the Winnipeg Jets, even though they're set with Ondrej Pavelec(notes) and Chris Mason(notes). So it's down to the AHL for Aebischer, which is just fine by him: "I got the opportunity and took it. I'm happy I had the chance to sign here. I still have a ways to go (to get back to the NHL) but I made the first step and now I have to make the second one."
The former Devils checking ace went to New York Islanders camp as a tryout and earned a 1-year deal to complete a comeback a few months shy of his 37th birthday. It was retirement or bust for Pandolfo.
The 25-year-old former standout at Bemidji State earned a spot among a crowded group of forwards for the Philadelphia Flyers, not only sticking around but having no less an authority than Bob McKenzie picking him to win the Calder.
The checking winger came to San Jose Sharks camp as a tryout and earned a preseason-high 18 penalty minutes. He also took a 1-punch knockdown from Aaron Volpatti during a preseason game. So yeah, he earned the spot.
Sykora won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2000 playing on a line with Patrik Elias(notes). He was an invitee by the Devils this preseason, reunited with Elias. The result? An unlikely return of Sykora to the red-and-black, as he earned a one-year deal.
The heavily-hyped Swede never lived up to it with the Dallas Stars, and found himself attending Detroit Red Wings camp on a tryout basis after rejecting their contract offer three years ago in favor of the Stars. He worked his ass off, impressed the coaches and earned a chance to skate on a Cup contender — all while swallowing his pride.