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Finnish Flash still flying in the Duck pond @NHL

When you're known as the Finnish Flash it takes a whole lot more than a few months to get hockey out of your system.

That's why Teemu Selanne came back to the Anaheim Ducks. Not just to finish out last season and not only to take one more shot at the Stanley Cup. No, the 38-year-old Selanne is under contract through next year and still has plenty left in the tank.

Through 15 games this season, Selanne has nine goals - just two off the pace of the NHL lead. He scored three on Oct. 29 against Detroit for his 21st NHL hat trick, the most among active players and two behind fellow Finn and childhood idol Jari Kurri.

"Any day when you can compare yourself to Jari Kurri or you hear the conversation, it's obviously a big honor," Selanne said.

After the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, Selanne took time to figure out his future. He was an unsigned free agent and didn't return to the Anaheim lineup until February. He put up 23 points in 26 games, including 12 goals, and after the Ducks' disappointing first-round playoff ouster signed on for two more years - at least.

"Obviously when you reach this age, you just want to think about one year at a time," said Selanne, who inked a two-year, $5.25 million contract in September. "When you get older, the hardest part of playing the NHL is the recovery time. When you were younger, it was pretty easy to get ready for that next game, and your energy level is normal.

"It's not easy. Even though I signed a two-year deal, I still try to look just one year at a time and go from there."

Nothing in his on-ice performance suggests that he is slowing down. The way the game has changed, no one scores 76 goals as Selanne did in setting the rookie record during the 1992-93 season with the Winnipeg Jets, so he isn't measured by that standard.

Last week, Selanne had six goals and three assists in four games. That was good enough to share NHL first star honors for the week with teammates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The trio combined for 28 points as the surging Ducks went 3-0-1.

"Last year at this time I thought I'm done," said Selanne, who entered the weekend with 561 goals and 1,172 points in 1,082 NHL games. "Winning the Stanley Cup was something that got me so empty physically and mentally, too. I took a long time until I realized I want to play again. Last summer that wasn't the case. I knew I wanted to play.

"The salary cap issue with the Ducks, obviously I couldn't sign before. But I knew I wanted to play. That's why it was easier. That's why I signed two-year deal because you never know what the salary cap is going to be. If I want to play next year, I don't have to worry about those things."


FIGHTING SMITH: Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith had enough of Aaron Voros crashing the crease and planting himself in his face.

The big New York Rangers forward wouldn't change his effective game, and Smith's frustration got the best of him. So Smith shoved him from behind and whacked him in the legs with his stick in the closing minutes of the Lightning's 5-2 loss at New York on Thursday night.

Needing to show that his club wouldn't back down or get pushed around, Smith used his stick and then his fists to stand up to Voros. Three losses to the Rangers this season were just too much to take.

"I guess we can learn something out of that, that maybe we've got to be tough in our own end," a much calmer Smith said. "I didn't do it because of that, but I think it might certainly help."

Smith graduated from his stick work and engaged Voros in a fight. The bout took place right in front of the crease and led to a wild scene on the ice. Smith ended up with nine minutes of penalties. Besides the rare fighting major for a goalie, Smith also was called for slashing and high-sticking with 1:41 left.

Rangers coach Tom Renney called for Smith to be suspended.

"If you're that hotheaded, you're not very successful," said Voros, who has three of his four fighting majors this season against the Lightning. "If he's worried about having his stick on me, then he's not worried about stopping the puck. Obviously I'm in his head more than he's in my head."

Even with the five goals allowed to the Rangers, Smith still entered the weekend with an impressive 2.46 goals-against average. He knows that is where his focus has to remain.

"It's my job to stop the puck and not get into those sort of things," he said. "The emotions got the better of me there, and it's my job to not let that happen again."


OCTOBER SURPRISE: For the first time in NHL history, average attendance went over 17,000 in October.

Attendance came in at 17,388 and NHL games were played in front of 94 percent capacity around the league. Full buildings in Chicago and Washington, two young teams on the rise in a hurry, surely helped.

The Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews-led Blackhawks had a 71 percent rise in attendance over last October, while Alex Ovechkin created enough of a buzz for the Capitals to go up 24 percent.

Those that came to games will likely return, because goals and close games are increasing, too.

In 149 October games, an average of 5.9 goals were scored - up from 5.7 a year ago. There were 40 games that went to overtime, compared to 21 in 2007, including 21 decided by shootout.

During the month, games featured 70 lead changes and 14 third-period comebacks.


VOTE EARLY AND OFTEN: It's still election time.

Don't worry, there won't be a new wave of negative campaigning or a barrage of political commercials filling up prime-time television. The election for the NHL All-Star game is much more understated and very much under the radar.

Balloting for the starting lineups for the Eastern and Western Conference teams begins on Wednesday and will continue until Jan. 2 for the January game in Montreal.

The host Canadiens have a very good chance to be well represented in this their 100th season as they are tied with the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings with an NHL-high six players on the ballot.

Of the 104 players up for election, 23 are under 25 and 10 are on the ballot for the first time. Every team has at least two players listed. Fans will be able to vote on or via text message as balloting will be entirely digital for the third consecutive year.

One change is that the NHL will become the first major professional sports league to provide real-time results, keeping a running total on its Web site.

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