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Luongo undecided on future entering Panthers' season finale

Goalie said he'd be open to backup role if he returned for 20th NHL season

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Roberto Luongo acknowledged he could be playing in his final NHL game when the Florida Panthers play the New Jersey Devils at BB&T Center on Saturday.

"Obviously I still love to play the game, but there's other factors involved," Luongo said Friday, one day after turning 40. "First and foremost, I just want to sit down with management and just see where everybody's head is at and where the team is headed next year, what they plan on doing in the offseason, all that kind of stuff.

"I haven't really spoken to management all year, especially the second half of the year, so I don't know where their head is at. Once I find out where they're at, then I can go back home and sit down with my family and decide what's best for me."

Until then, he will try to treat the start the same way he has virtually every one of the 1,043 he has played in the NHL since breaking in with the New York Islanders in the 1999-2000 season.

"In the back of my mind I'm coming back just because I don't want it to be a situation where I feel like it's my last game and I get other emotions involved, which I don't want to," Luongo said. "I want to make sure that I'm focused on playing the game and playing to the best of my ability, and for that to happen I can't feel like it's my last game."

Luongo said he hasn't thought about retirement during the season, which will end with the Panthers (36-32-13) missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth time in his six seasons since returning to Florida. The Panthers are nine points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.

Video: FLA@BOS: Luongo snares Chara's blistering wrister

He has three seasons left on the 12-year contract he signed with the Vancouver Canucks on Sept. 2, 2009. He was traded to the Panthers on March 4, 2014.

If Luongo returns for a 20th NHL season, the Panthers likely would want him in a backup role.

According to NHL Stats & Information, since the 2005-06 season, four goalies age 40 or older at the start of a season have played at least 30 games in a season, and none since Martin Brodeur played 39 with the New Jersey Devils in 2013-14.

"Those are the things he's got to think about after the season," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "I think he understands, being around the game this long, what it takes to fill that (backup) role and what he needs to do if he's going to do that. We're going to wait for him to make a decision."

Luongo said he could accept a backup role if he returns. During the 2012-13 season with the Canucks, he started 18 games while Cory Schneider, now with the Devils, started the other 30.

"I know what it takes," Luongo said of being a backup. "I realize that I'm 40 years old and taking on a big workload is a bit tougher at this age just because the recovery is a bit slower. I'm well-aware if I do come back that'll probably be the likely scenario for me and I'm OK with that."

Luongo is 18-16-4 with a 3.10 goals-against average and .900 save percentage in 42 games this season. He missed 13 games with knee and lower-body injuries.

Brodeur (1,266) is the only goalie to play in more regular-season games than Luongo, who has 489 wins, third behind Brodeur (691) and Patrick Roy (551).

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