NEWARK, N.J. -- How well the Anaheim Ducks close out the season will not only determine their playoff fate, but perhaps the career of 41-year-old Teemu Selanne.
"Over the last six years, I've always tried not to think about what my plan would be at the end of the regular season," Selanne told the media following his team's practice at Prudential Center on Friday. "I think there are times when you get the whole picture after the season … how much you really enjoy it and how your body feels. Then it's the right time to make a decision. So far I've really enjoyed the game and enjoy coming to the rink every morning."
There's no question Selanne is having fun, now that the Ducks have reeled off five wins over their last six games to move within eight points of eighth-seeded Los Angeles in the Western Conference standings.
"You know what, I enjoy this hockey way more now than when I was younger," he said with a huge grin. "Obviously, you start to appreciate what you have and appreciate that you can do some things that you love to do. When you get to the end of the road, you know that you have to enjoy every game and I think it's a great feeling.
"If I was able to enjoy the game more when I was younger, as I do now, that would have been unbelievable."
Selanne's next goal will move him past Brendan Shanahan and into sole possession of 12th place on the all-time NHL list. In a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, Selanne scored his 19th goal of the season and the 656th of his career to become the fifth player in League history to score 50 goals after turning 40-years-old.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he joins Gordie Howe (113), Johnny Bucyk (61), Mark Recchi (60) and Mark Messier (51).
"I'm surprised with how good I still feel," he said. "It's not easy to compete on this level, at this age, but most of the nights I feel great so that's why I'm still around and enjoy this game. There's a lot of things you have to do better and concentrate on, so I think the recovery time is the biggest thing."
Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa, 22, hopes his recovery time is as good as Selanne's when he turns 40.
"Why is he still so good?" Sbisa said. "He's a guy everyone looks up to no matter if you’re 20- or 38-years-old ... you still look up to this guy. He's done everything possible in this League and just the passion he still has for this game is incredible. The guy works his tail off every game, every night, so you have to make sure you keep up with him. He's still one of the fastest guys out on the ice every game."
Here are the projected lineups for the Ducks:
Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Matt Beleskey - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - George Parros
Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank
Jonas Hiller will make his 17th straight start in goal, with Jeff Deslauriers serving as backup.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale