BLAKE EXCITED TO REPRESENT ISLES
It's taken some time, but Jason Blake has emerged as a premier NHL goal scorer. His accomplishments in the first half of this season have been rewarded with a trip to the 2007 NHL All-Star game to be played later this month in Dallas, Texas. But his path to the mid-season classic was no walk in the park.
"It's always special when you can be a part of something like this," said Blake to a group of reporters before Saturday's game against the Devils. "I got a late start in the league and it's been a struggle. This wouldn't have happened without my teammates and the coaching staff."
Blake wasn't given much of a chance to shine while playing in Los Angeles with the Kings for parts of three seasons. He would often play well in one game, but be a healthy scratch the next game.
It wasn't until he was acquired by the Islanders during the 2000-01 that he was given an opportunity to play on a regular shift, game in and game out. He took advantage of his time, showing the Islanders that his point production at the University of North Dakota, where he was twice a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the league's best player, was no fluke.
He jumped from 18 points in his first full season with the Islanders in 2001-02 to 55 the following season. His best season came in 2005-06, when he compiled 28 goals and 57 points, but Blake was capable of much more.
After 43 games this season, Blake is the team leader with 23 goals and 41 points. He is on pace to smash his previous high, and is being recognized by the NHL for his success this year with an invitation to the 2007 NHL All-Star game.
"It's very exciting," said Blake. "There are certain things that come along with your career, and I've been pretty fortunate up to this point. This is just another stepping stone in the direction I want my career to go. It's a dream come true. My wife and family are excited for me and it's a great honor.
"If the Islanders hadn't taken a chance on me six years ago who knows where I'd be now. Things turn out for the best and I couldn't be any happier being on Long Island and part of the Islanders organization."