That’s hardly enough to trouble Teemu Selanne. His enthusiasm for hockey undimmed at age 36, the Anaheim Ducks forward is having a fun time in the playoffs.
“When you get older, you know you have to try to take advantage and enjoy every minute of it,” Selanne said.
Asked if he still feels as if he’s in his 20s, Selanne grinned and said, “Most days. But some mornings, it’s a different story.”
As the Ducks prepared to open the Western Conference finals against the Red Wings in Detroit on Friday night, Selanne’s face was a bit lumpy but mostly healed from the recent whacks.
He caught a puck above the eye during warmups in an earlier series; got high-sticked a couple times in other games; and slit his forehead again when he ran into teammate Chris Pronger’s stick.
“It was a good time to be off, get healthy, even for the old guy,” Selanne said, alluding to the Ducks’ break after wrapping up their series against Vancouver last Thursday night.
Rejuvenated since returning to Anaheim in August 2005, Selanne led the Ducks with 48 goals and 46 assists this season. He finished third in the NHL in goals and posted his highest total since he had 52 for the Ducks nine years ago. His 94 points ranked 11th in the league, and were his most since he had 107 for the Ducks in the 1998-99 season.
Selanne has three goals and three assists in 10 playoff games this year.
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle, who was a Winnipeg defenceman when Selanne made his NHL debut with the Jets 14 seasons ago, said there’s only one major difference between Selanne now and then.
“He has a lot more money,” Carlyle said, smiling.
Selanne, a six-foot, 204-pound speedster from Helsinki, had been slowed by an injured left knee, and his career seemed on the downside a couple of years ago when he was with San Jose and Colorado. But he underwent successful surgery in 2004, and afterward appeared as agile as ever.
“When you can skate without pain, that’s the biggest thing,” he said.
Carlyle said Selanne looks just as quick as earlier in his career.
“That’s his biggest asset, his ability to get away from people,” the coach said. “When he gets a step on people, same as then, they can’t catch him.”
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit’s four-time Norris Trophy-winning defenceman, is well aware of Selanne’s speed.
“He’s one of those snipers that can put the puck in the net because he finds openings and he knows where to be on the ice,” Lidstrom said. “It’s just another challenge for our team.”
Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said of Selanne, “He’s a skilled player and is really fast. He has been around a long time and you still have to be aware of where he is on the ice.”
Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere is a big fan of Selanne’s both on and off the ice.
“He’s just a very elegant player. He’s got a very nice stride to his skating, he plays with a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm. You can tell he’s having fun,” Giguere said. “Combine that with him being in good shape and healthy, and with the skill he has, it just makes for a heck of a great player.
“And it’s always fun to see him around. He just loves interacting. He makes everybody in a better mood because he’s such a goodhearted person. You’ll get rattled about something, and he always sees the good side of stuff, tries to crack a joke about it. He’s just a great teammate.”