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At age 42, Roberts mulls playing on

by Dan Rosen

While Penguins forward Gary Roberts is still considering whether to play another season, his teammates believe he should. Roberts video
Before the Stanley Cup Final began, Gary Roberts didn't deny he was thinking this may be his final season in the National Hockey League.

Hours before Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena, Roberts said the same thing -- only at that point he was talking as an energized forward who had been a difference maker ever since getting back into the lineup in Game 2.

Will he or won't he? Roberts isn't sure just yet, but at least his Stanley Cup Final experience is proof to the rest of the League that he can still play at a high level if he wants to.

"I feel like I got my legs for sure," Roberts told before that marathon Penguins win that took nearly 110 minutes to secure. "It's been a long time since I felt this good. I wouldn't say re-energized. I'd say well-rested. It's been a long time since I've been healthy."

Whether that means Roberts, who turned 42 during the Final, is going to play another year, well, we're not quite sure. But his teammates certainly think that he will, and that he should.

"I don't think there is a reason for him to quit," Jarkko Ruutu told "He's a competitor who takes care of his body. The work he puts into it, it's just amazing."

Ruutu said Roberts is like a 42-year-old stuck in a 23-year-old's body because of his elite level of fitness training. Roberts has prided himself on his fitness ever since coming back from a pair of neck surgeries which forced him into a year of retirement halfway through his career.

"His body looks like it's 23," Ruutu said. "He's got no fat. He takes care of his body real well and I think that's the biggest reason why he's playing so long."

Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney didn't quite agree with Ruutu's assessment that Roberts' body looks 23.

"A 25-year-old," is what Whitney countered with. "With the shape he's in, being 42 doesn't really matter that much."

The decision, though, is up to Roberts. He said he would have to take the summer to reassess his situation and his drive only because of the arduous season he has just gone through.

Roberts, as we mentioned before, is the king of fitness, but he has battled a respiratory infection, a broken leg, a high ankle sprain, a groin strain and a mild case of pneumonia this year.

"Well, I mean obviously I'd be lying to you if I didn't think about (retirement)," Roberts said. "For sure it's a thought of mine, but it's nice to have my legs finally. It's been since Christmas. I'm excited about the way I feel."

The way he played in the Stanley Cup Final, too.

Roberts was a physical presence and played some valuable first-unit power play minutes. He came up with some monster hits, like the one in the corner on Darren McCarty roughly halfway through Game 4.

McCarty went flying and the Mellon Arena crowd launched into their "Gary, Gary, Gary" chant.

Roberts finished the Final with 17 hits in five games. He finished the playoffs with 33 hits in 12 games. He also scored twice in Game 1 of the playoffs against Ottawa and, thanks to his physicality, assisted on a pair of game-winning goals (Game 2 against Philadelphia and Game 3 against Detroit).

"He's got a lot of energy," Ruutu said. "He was playing a playoff style game. I like the way he shows leadership on the ice."

Added Penguins forward Maxime Talbot, who is one of Roberts' biggest fans on the team: "He's giving his all out there. He's finishing every check he can. I think it was a great thing for us to have him in the lineup."

If Talbot had any say -- and he doesn't -- he would love to have Roberts back in the lineup next year.

"I think he wants to play next year, and I hope he's going to be on our team," Talbot said. "I wouldn't want to play against him."

At 42, there's no doubt that Roberts can still intimidate.

Now he has to decide if he still wants to do it.

"It's one of those things you have to kind of weigh at this point," Roberts said before the series began. "It's been a tough year on me, but it's not the way I want to go out either."

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