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Selanne's strong play during Ducks' dismal season makes retirement plans tougher

ANAHEIM, Calif. - For the first time in his life, Teemu Selanne almost wishes he was off his game.

If the Finnish Flash hadn't played so well during the Anaheim Ducks' disappointing season, his future would be much clearer. He could head off to retirement with his wife and four children, comfortable he had used every bit of his remarkable talent.

Instead, the 39-year-old forward has been mostly outstanding, with 47 points in 53 games while fighting injuries during a year that included a bronze medal at the Vancouver Olympics. His resurgence, combined with the Ducks' struggles, are forcing him to waffle on his retirement plans.

"You almost hope you don't play so well like this, so it's easier," Selanne said with a laugh. "When I've been healthy, I've been having so much fun."

Though he still seems to be leaning toward retirement, he has sounded increasingly open to a return in recent weeks. That's largely because Selanne has 26 goals - including his 600th - and 21 assists, ranking 37th in the NHL with .89 points per game despite missing a significant chunk of the season with a broken jaw and a broken finger.

Anaheim finishes the season at home against Edmonton on Sunday night, but even Selanne isn't certain it will be his NHL finale.

"This time, I'm not going to set any timetable," said Selanne, nominated this week for the Masterton Trophy, an award he won in 2006. "I'm going to tell when I'm ready, and I'm not going to say I'll decide by one time or another."

This waiting game is nothing new to Ducks fans, who waited two months in the 2007-08 regular season before Selanne and captain Scott Niedermayer decided to return from Anaheim's only championship team.

The Ducks have been willing to wait for their veterans during past off-seasons, although general manager Bob Murray hasn't made any firm pronouncements about the future of his roster or coach Randy Carlyle, who led Anaheim to its only title in 2007.

The Ducks also don't know whether the 36-year-old Niedermayer will return next year. Niedermayer has considered retirement before each of the last three seasons. His career includes four Stanley Cups and world championships at every major level of hockey, most recently captaining Canada to gold in Vancouver.

The Ducks essentially shut down their season after officially getting eliminated from the playoffs several days ago. While Ryan Getzlaf and Lubomir Visnovsky remained out with injuries, Selanne, Niedermayer, Saku Koivu and Todd Marchant didn't even make their two-game road trip this week, though all are expected to play in Sunday's home finale against the Oilers.

If Selanne skates away, the last few weeks have been a celebration of the remarkable career of the Ducks' franchise goals leader, who broke into the NHL with a 76-goal season with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93.

Selanne became the 18th player in NHL history to score 600 goals March 21 against Colorado, and he has tacked on five more in his last four games, passing boyhood idol Jari Kurri (601). When Anaheim honoured Selanne for his 600th goal before a game against Dallas last month, the Honda Center crowd repeatedly chanted "One more year!"

But Selanne also has received plenty of reminders why he might want to relax.

His jaw was broken by a deflected shot Jan. 13 against Boston, and he returned after just 2½ weeks with a bulky shield protecting his face. Earlier this season, he missed five weeks after surgery to repair a broken bone in the middle finger of his left hand, also caused by a shot.

"The injuries have definitely made it so tough," Selanne said. "When you're not healthy and you spend so much time just trying to get ready to play, that's when you really think about your family and the future. But even when I've been hurt this year, I've come back and played well."

He came back from his jaw injury after eight games, giving him plenty of time to prepare to lead Finland into Vancouver, where Selanne became the leading scorer in Olympic hockey history while helping the Finns to a medal in their third straight Olympics.

That hasn't made the Ducks' lousy season any easier, however. Anaheim will miss the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

"I don't know the last time I didn't make the playoffs," said Selanne, who last missed the post-season with the San Jose Sharks in 2003. "It's definitely not the way you want to represent yourself, and I know all of our guys feel like we're better than that. If we're honest, we let the season get away from us in October and November, and we never got it back."


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