PITTSBURGH -- A year later, Pittsburgh Penguins center Matt Cullen's story has not changed, except he's a year older and his name is engraved on the Stanley Cup one more time.
Cullen, 40, is again playing for the Stanley Cup with the Penguins, this time against one of his former teams, the Nashville Predators, and he still doesn't know what he'll do next, if he'll retire in the offseason or give it a go for another year.
"I've been through this enough to understand that I need to give it some time after the season," Cullen said at 2017 Stanley Cup Final Media Day on Sunday. "It's a decision for me that means a lot and carries a lot of weight so I think it deserves some time after the season. When it's all said and done I'm going to sit down with the family again and decide what's best. I'm 40 here and I understand where the world of hockey is at so I know that this could very well be my last chance."
Win or lose in the Cup Final, which begins with Game 1 at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports), this doesn't figure to be an easy decision for Cullen, who has seven points (two goals) in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games this year.
Sometimes players know when their time is done. They can recognize it, come to grips with it, settle their mind on it and prepare to move on. Typically that happens when they don't feel good, when injuries have ravaged them or when they realize they're lagging behind on the ice.
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Cullen, who is in his 19th season in the NHL, doesn't feel any of that and said he does not feel like a 40-year-old hockey player.
"I really don't, and I feel really lucky to say that," he said. "It's a tough game and to be able to play this long I know I've been really blessed and I feel really fortunate to be here, I really do. Even moreso I feel blessed to feel as good as I do. Our bodies eventually give out on us but I am in a position right now where I feel as good as I think I ever have playing the game of hockey. So, no, I don't feel like a 40 year old now."
Cullen credited the Penguins' style of play and his role as a fourth-line center as reasons why.
He has averaged 13:33 of ice time per game in the playoffs after playing 13:55 per game in 72 games in the regular season. Last season, he played all 82 regular season games and averaged 13:52 of ice time per game. He averaged 13:49 per game in 24 playoff games.
"I've learned throughout my career that it's really important where you fit on a team," he said. "I think of [Penguins defenseman] Trevor Daley last year as a great example, going to Chicago and it just wasn't a great fit. He's the same player, and a great player, and then he comes here, finds a fit and excels. I understand that side of it. This is a perfect fit for me at this point in my career, the way we play, the players that we have, the role that I'm used in."
So much so that Cullen said he can't envision himself playing anywhere else
"Not that I can think of, honestly," he said.
A lot of that has to do with how living and playing in Pittsburgh has worked out for his family, including Cullen's wife, Bridget, and their three boys, Brooks, Wyatt and Joey.
"Pittsburgh has just a perfect fit in all regards for my family," he said. "Last year there was a lot about my family and the boys and what a great setup we have. That's been just unbelievable. The community has been awesome. And for me the hockey has been unbelievable. It couldn't go any better.
"When you're sitting here in your second Stanley Cup Final in two years, obviously it's been a dream."
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