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For Selanne, two goals to 600 mark

by Dave Lozo
Teemu Selanne is just two goals away from joining the 600-goal club, an exclusive society that's inhabited by the likes of Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux.

The 39-year-old right wing is likely playing his 17th and final season in the NHL, so these last 17 games of the regular season with the Anaheim Ducks are very likely his last chance at hitting the milestone. Two goals in 17 games seem inevitable, and his next crack at it comes Tuesday night when the Ducks host the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I'm not a big numbers guy," Selanne told in early February, "but it will be a big, big accomplishment and honor to break that 600. Still, I've been so much hurt that I'm just happy enough to be playing and not thinking about those things."

The NHL's active leading career goal scorer has dealt with a pair of injuries this season that have been more about bad luck than body parts that have been worn down over the course of 1,172 career games.

On Dec. 13, he suffered a broken hand while blocking a shot that cost him 17 games. Less than a week after returning to the lineup, Selanne was forced to miss another eight games when a deflected shot hit him in the face and broke his jaw.

"Before then, I felt like a young buck," said Selanne, who had 14 goals in his first 27 games and was tied for the Ducks team lead. "But then you get hurt ... it's harder to come back when you are this age."

If not for a pair of fluky injuries, Selanne would likely be rubbing elbows with the likes of 600-goal scorers Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri, who was Selanne's boyhood idol growing up in Finland.

"Jari and Wayne's picture was on my (family home) wall," Selanne told the Montreal Gazette of Kurri, who finished with 601 career goals. "He was my idol and role model growing up and later became a good friend of mine. He opened all the doors for us younger players."

The door for Selanne was opened so long ago that he's one of the few remaining active players in the NHL who can say they played for the Winnipeg Jets. During his first season with the Jets, he set a rookie-record with 76 goals in 84 games. He would go on to score 147 goals in three-plus seasons with Winnipeg before he was traded during the 1995-96 season to Anaheim, where he spent six seasons.

The (then-Mighty) Ducks dealt Selanne to San Jose in 2000-01. He stayed there until heading to the Colorado Avalanche for one season in 2003-04. Since the lockout, Selanne has been in Anaheim, where it looks like his Hall-of-Fame career might finally be winding down.

"The last four or five years where I said: 'This is my last year,' it was a way to motivate myself," said Selanne, who is the Ducks' all-time leading scorer with 774 points. "You have to feel when it's time. You still have to want to play at the top, or otherwise, you don't enjoy coming to the rink. The dedication still has to be there.

"There is no compromise, especially at my age."

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