|VeteranTeemu Selanne viewed the chance to
come back and play for a team that still has a
chance to win as one he could not pass up.
Teemu Selanne video highlights
It was sometime after the birth of his daughter when "The Finnish Flash" began contemplating a return to the Anaheim Ducks
, fourth among active players with 547 career goals, made that much-anticipated debut on Feb. 5 in a 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders
. Selanne even managed an assist playing on a line with Todd Bertuzzi
and Doug Weight
. In his first 15 games back, Selanne has seven goals and five assists and he is as motivated now as he was after the Ducks defeated Ottawa in five games last June to win the Stanley Cup.
"I was very excited to get back, but I realize I have a lot of work ahead of me," Selanne told NHL.com. "In the summer, after the Cup, I felt I was pretty much done. The only way I would come back was if I still felt it in my heart to play again and, really, that's the feeling I got after my wife (Sirpa) gave birth to our fourth child (Veera). Honestly, when you live in the city that you used to play in, you still can't help but go to the games and hang out with your teammates all the time. But not until my daughter was born (Dec. 5, 2007) did I really sit down and discuss it with my wife."
His trips to the games and visits to the dressing room certainly didn't diminish his desire to return to the ice. In fact, the visits may have gotten things on track.
"I began watching more games and started skating and one day I just felt happy heading out to the rink and figured I would give it another shot to try and help the team win another one," Selanne said. "I had been skating for two weeks prior to signing (a one-year contract on Jan. 28)."
While Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
admitted it will take some time before Selanne begins to feel totally comfortable, the coach is happy to watch his work-in-progress.
"Any time your afforded the luxury of adding a player like Teemu, you have to do it," Carlyle said. "History shows he's been able to provide a speed game and some offense. I thought his first game was a good test from the standpoint that he did have some rust, but still showed some flashes of speed that backed people off. He's a dynamic player and we think he'll only get better as we move forward."
Bertuzzi, who signed a free-agent contract with the Ducks in July, likes what he sees in Selanne.
"He's one of those exceptional athletes who, despite sitting out for half a season, can come back and perform at the highest level," Bertuzzi said. "We all know it's only going to get better."
Selanne said his comeback got a boost when defenseman Scott Niedermayer
opted to return to the team on Dec. 5. For himself, Selanne couldn't issue a timetable as to when he might feel like his old, explosive self again.
"I don't really know because I've never been in this situation before (missing half a season)," he said. "The good thing is that I'm in great shape. I know I'm going to have to reach to that extra level to play in this League and I'm working on that. The timing and conditioning are coming slowly. I'll continue to play and practice. It feels better every day. I have to say that Scott's decision to return also had a big influence on my returning. I was excited when I heard he was coming back."
Now, with the key elements of the Stanley Cup champion team back together, Selanne predicts the Ducks will finish the regular season in a strong fashion.
"The challenge to try and repeat is huge and that was another reason why I was so excited to get back," Selanne said. "I understand how good you have to be and that nothing will be handed to you automatically. I played for almost 12 years on teams that didn't have a realistic chance of winning in the playoffs. To get back to a team that has a chance to repeat was also something I considered a great challenge. It's not often a team has this type of opportunity."
And if he picks up a record or two along the way, so much the better. Selanne's first goal of the season, in his fifth game back, was his 669th point with Anaheim and tied him with former teammate and close friend Paul Kariya
. The irrepressible Selanne couldn't help sending a couple zingers Kariya's way.
"He has no chance," Selanne joked with reporters about Kariya keeping the record. "This is just a snack for me."
But seriously folks.
"I knew it would take a while, and even now, I'm not feeling close to 100 percent," Selanne said. "This is like training camp for me. I just have to be patient and work hard. The team is playing well, and that's all that matters."