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Selanne scores No. 600

by Josh Brewster
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The aches and pains of spending 18 years as an elite right wing in the NHL were alleviated for at least one night as Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne joined an elite group, becoming the 18th player to score 600 goals Sunday night at Honda Center against one of his former clubs, the Colorado Avalanche

Thirty-four seconds into the second period during Anaheim's third power play, Scott Niedermayer tipped a loose puck from the slot to the left of Craig Anderson's crease, where Selanne swept the puck into a gaping net after Anderson sprawled trying to control a rebound.

"I guess that was the easiest I've had in a while … funny how that works," Selanne said.  "The way that my linemates have been feeding me, it's been amazing. They wanted it more than I did."

As usual, Selanne had found an open piece of ice and avoided detection long enough to make himself available for yet another power-play goal in a career that has included 216 tallies via the man advantage, good enough for 10th on the all-time list. 

Finding open space while somehow avoiding detection always gave Selanne a stealth quality. His speed has hardly waned over the years and what little that has been lost is made up in smarts.

The Ducks are trying to claw their way back into contention in the Western Conference playoff race. The season has been a grind, but as history proves, they can always count on goals from Selanne, whose 600th came in his 1,177th game.  

Selanne ranks first among active NHL goal scorers. The goal puts Selanne just one away from his childhood idol, former Edmonton Oilers great Jari Kurri

"If you look at it, there are only 17 guys who have done it before, so it's a unique, special group," Selanne said. 

It's been a tough 2009-10 campaign for Selanne, who missed 17 games after a broken knuckle required surgery, then another eight to a broken jaw and one with the flu. 

For Selanne, who turns 40 on July 3, the post-lockout years have represented a rebirth. Selanne spent six years in Anaheim before being dealt to San Jose on March 5, 2001. 

His numbers were not stellar in San Jose by his lofty standards, but he did score 29, then 28 goals in his two seasons with the Sharks. 

When San Jose declined to exercise its contract option for the 2003-04 season, he moved on to Colorado, where a reunion with former Anaheim teammate Paul Kariya fizzled as he recorded a career-low 16 goals in 2003-04. 

Selanne looks back fondly on his years in Anaheim with close friend Kariya, who recently celebrated his 400th goal.

"I texted him congratulations," Selanne said. "It's great to see him doing well. Number-wise, (those) are the best years here with Paul. We helped each other so much. Not very often are you going to find the same chemistry (we had). It was amazing." 

The 2004-05 work stoppage turned out to be beneficial for Selanne, as he spent the time resting and recovering from a 12-year run, which included knee and neck injuries toward the end of his days with the Avalanche.

Had Selanne retired at the time, the Hall of Fame would have likely cleared a spot for him, as he had 462 goals and 951 points. 

Selanne returned to the Ducks on Aug. 22, 2005, after a four-year absence. He was 35, but then-GM Brian Burke astutely chose to bring the Anaheim fan favorite back into the fold. 

Who knew that Selanne's post-lockout years would be so productive?

"Since the lockout, when I fixed my knee, I have been enjoying hockey more than ever," Selanne said. "Obviously, playing when you're healthy and playing with great players, you can't ask more than that. Coming back here, where I've always been happy, I'm very lucky, very thankful for that. It's hard to describe when you enjoy something so much." 

Burke signed Selanne for one year at $1 million, a "hometown discount" if there ever was one. Rested and rejuvenated, Selanne went on to score 40 goals and 90 points in 80 games. He helped the Ducks reach the Western Conference finals that season and earned a Bill Masterton Trophy for his dedication to the game. 

"(Selanne) always talks about this being his happy place," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said of Selanne's dedication to Anaheim. "It's always nice to see when an athlete is rewarded with his success in his own building. That is quite a milestone."

Burke, who appreciated Selanne's leadership and attitude as much as his skills, spoke publicly about Selanne representing a "ray of sunshine" in the Anaheim dressing room.  Outside the locker room, he's known in media circles and amongst fans as one of the game's true gentlemen, always accountable for his play, always available for a fan requests. 

One year later, Burke and Selanne sipped from the Stanley Cup after Selanne scored 48 goals in 82 games, becoming the oldest player in NHL history to score 45-plus goals in one season.  He added five more during the Cup run just weeks prior to his 37th birthday.

Although the next year marked an uncertain time for Selanne, who contemplated retirement on the heels of his Cup win, he pumped in 12 goals in 26 late-season games and two more in six playoff games.  Last season, he managed 27 in 65 games.

Since turning 35 in 2005, Selanne has scored 148 goals in 298 post-lockout games, a goals-per-game of .495, a stunning figure for a player in the autumn of his NHL years. 

The post-lockout years have also seen Selanne appear in his fourth and fifth Olympic games, winning bronze in Vancouver after earning silver in 2006. Selanne is also the highest-scoring Olympic men's ice hockey player in history, with 20 goals and 17 assists. 

"I remember the first one like it was yesterday," Selanne remembered. "At the Cow Palace against the Sharks (San Jose's first home). (I remember) a lot of goals between one and 600, but time is flying. It's unbelievable how fast it goes."

Selanne's priority right now is the playoffs. His Ducks are a long shot for the postseason, trailing Detroit by seven points for the eighth and final playoff spot.

"Ten minutes to enjoy this, then on to Calgary," said Selanne, who then paused. 

"Maybe more than 10 minutes … but not too long."

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