Jason Chimera plays his 1,000th NHL game on Friday in Detroit. This will only be his 49th in an Islanders uniform but for the 37-year-old and his family, it’s starting to feel like home after a tough start to the season for himself and his new team.
“It took a lot longer than I thought,” Chimera said after practice on Thursday and before the Islanders headed to Detroit to face the Red Wings. “You don’t realize how much — the kids, the wife. We were in Washington for seven years, you get accustomed to having the same people around. The same people to watch the kids when you need it, the people your wife leans on when you’re on the road. Everything’s new here and you don’t always realize how much stress that puts on you. I’m certainly not looking for excuses but I think me and Andrew (Ladd) would tell you we wanted success to start a little quicker here.”
It’s certainly starting to come around for Chimera, who had only one goal in the first 20 games this season. He’s scored nine in the last 28, five in the last nine games and has contributed the way the Islanders thought he would when they signed him to a two-year, $4.5 million deal.
His 20 goals last season with the Capitals came with a bit of an increased role on that President’s Trophy-winning team. His 10 goals through 48 games this season have come with 1:20 less per game of ice time and zero power-play time.
“It’s taken time for both (Chimera and Ladd) but they’ve both found their comfort level,” coach Doug Weight said. “When you come to a new team you want it to happen so quick, to just prove to everyone about a new contract or new surroundings. It doesn’t work like that. But it’s been a great month for both those guys.”
Weight is one of the few hundred NHLers to play 1,000 games. In addition to having a productive forward to put into his lineup every night, he knows it’s an accomplishment.
“The longevity is special,” said Weight, who was captain of the Oilers when Chimera was called up to Edmonton and played his first NHL game, in the 2000-01 season. “To crack these lineups in a salary-cap era at his age, you’re fending off 18, 19, 20-year-old kids for a roster spot. He’s great in the room, always in a good mood, but he’s a professional. He’s an integral part of what we’re doing here.”
Chimera appreciates the long, winding road to 1,000, for which he’ll be honored by the Isles before Saturday’s game at Barclays Center. Drafted by his hometown Oilers, five seasons with the struggling Blue Jackets, seven with the perennial playoff disappointment Caps and now on the Island. Only two 20-goal seasons and two 40-point seasons, but six career game-winning playoff goals.
“I’m not going to go down in history for goals or assists, so this is a pretty cool number,” he said. “You think about all the people who helped you along the way, I owe a lot to a lot of people and to the game. It keeps me young.”