Burke bounces back

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:55 PM ET

The Edmonton Oilers ruined Sean Burke's historic night.

Or more appropriately, the line of Ryan Smyth-Ales Hemsky-Shawn Horcoff.

But considering how quickly his career was sinking just two weeks ago, life isn't too bad.

While Burke was saddled with a 4-3 loss to the Oilers in his 800th NHL game last night, at least he's been rescued from a helpless situation in the AHL, where he was a third-string goalie in Springfield.

"I didn't play very well (in the minors) and didn't adjust to the game at all down there," he said of his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning's chief affiliate.

"And they have two young guys that they are trying to develop (in Springfield).

"I found it tough some days to imagine that my career was going to end - toiling around down there with not even playing or being able to contribute. That was frustrating."

His goaltending career had fallen so far that he had become the colour commentator on some of Springfield's games on the radio.

But a rash of goaltending injuries in Los Angeles - Dan Cloutier (hip), Mathieu Garon (finger) - led the Kings to pluck Burke from deep water, taking a risk he could still be productive at the age of 40.

"When I broke in (with New Jersey in 1987), my partner was Bob Sauve. He was 30 and retiring that year," remembered Burke.

"When I came into the league I thought: Hey, I'm 21. If I can play until I am 30 that is great."

The Kings' lifeline this month also gave him a chance to become just the 13th goalie in NHL history to play in 800 games.

"When you play a long time you just try to come to the rink everyday ... give it what you have and at some point you look up and see that you have been around a while," said Burke, who turns 40 tomorrow.

"But nights like (last night) - where it is a big game on Hockey Night in Canada - and you don't come out with the win, it is hard to look at anything else."

Defenceman Rob Blake is happy to know he'll have the veteran between the pipes for the rest of the year.

"It is great for us because he gives us that stability in the net that we haven't had all year," commented Blake.

"He's definitely a calming factor on our team. He is going to be a big part for us down the stretch."

And as an extra incentive for Burke for the rest of the year, he doesn't have to listen to teasing from 20-year-old teammates in the minors.

"They called me grandpa. I would have appreciated father," said the 18-year NHL veteran.


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