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Wings' Modano reflects on difficult season

by Brian Hedger
DETROIT -- You can see it on his face and hear it in his voice, but 41-year old Detroit Red Wings forward Mike Modano is not quite ready to finalize his retirement plans just yet.

He seems to be leaning heavily in that direction, but he's also talking from the standpoint of a proud star who has been a healthy scratch in the first three games of Detroit's Western Conference Semifinal series against the San Jose Sharks -- all one-goal losses, two in overtime.

It's been a frustrating season for Modano in general, after having tendons in his wrist cut by a skate blade just 20 games into the regular season and not returning until almost March.

The fact Modano had to be coaxed into not retiring last summer by Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock only adds to the puzzle about his playing future.

Following Detroit's optional practice at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday, Modano was asked by reporters about his frustration level with the season he's had, with not playing in this series after playing just one game in the first round and what's he's thinking in regard to retirement.

Here's a sample of that conversation:

Q: You wouldn't say you regret this season, would you?

Your initial thought is a little regret because of what you went through, but no one can ever predict it would happen, the severity of the injury and what all took place. Maybe it was a sign that … I should've stayed away.

Q: How do your conversations generally go with Mike Babcock in the playoffs? Are they short?

No, they're pretty good. We've had some long conversations and same with Kenny. I feel like we're on the same wavelength as our conversations go. We agree on a lot of things and see things the same way as far as the game and individuals and whatnot.

Q: You said you weren't going to campaign to play before Game 3. What does it hurt to not go in there and say you want to play?

I think if they know that, I don't think I need to say anything about wanting to play. That's self-explanatory and I don't think I need to go in there and plead my case and make an effort in that sense. I think it speaks volumes that you'd love to be part of it, there's no question. No question you miss out at this time of year. And when you've won and had success, these are exciting times for a player.

Q: Where do you think you're at physically now, after the injury?

Everything feels probably the way I was prior to Thanksgiving.

Q: But it's playoffs now. Is that a different pace?

Yeah, but I felt good going into Game 4 in Phoenix, too. I didn't feel like I was really a liability out there with what I did. The hand's still numb in some areas of it, but strength-wise and shooting and doing all of those things, you know, it feels like it was.

Q: Have you given any thoughts to what you're going to do with your future?

Kind of mulled over it a lot, now that I've certainly got a lot of free time on my hands to think about it and what my plans are. A knee-jerk reaction is to kind of say 'That's it,' and be done with it because the frustration level is fairly high at this point. So you're able to make some quick judgments without really thinking it through. Let the dust settle a little bit and then make a decision on it.

Q: If you were to come back, would you like to come back here or somewhere else?

Depends. Those would be conversations for later with Kenny. See how their personnel line up here, but they've got some good young players that are ready to make that jump and have had their days of grooming in Grand Rapids and are probably ready. That's probably for down the road, as well.

Q: Last summer, you didn't make final decision until August. Do envision making a quicker decision this year?

I don't know. I think I'll probably have some of the same issues and problems with making that decision again. That's just something that, as I've gotten older I've had a tougher time dealing with and trying to understand what to do and make the right decision. There's been days where I've felt in November that I was pretty excited about it and thought maybe there would be something beyond this year and then March comes and that feeling changed pretty quick. To make a 100-percent-sure decision, that's always tough.

Q: Does the way this seems to be unfolding for you here, does that affect your decision at all?

I've been saying I want to leave on a better note for the last three years and they've all turned out the same. Some frustration about not making the playoffs [in Dallas], and then obviously being here and not being able to be a part of it at this point, so there is a little bit of disappointment the last three years.

Q: Is there part of you that thinks maybe you shouldn't have done this?

It's hard to say. I don't know. When you're not playing, you certainly second guess yourself and wonder, 'Was this ultimately the right decision?' But you still kind of go back to the injury and three months of sitting around here in the winter and not doing anything, it was just not the best timing for that to happen -- at my age and the situation here, where they have a lot of good players who easily fit into those slots. So when I did come back, it was hard to get in.

Q: How hard has this been for you to watch, and do you feel like you could've made a difference in these first three games?

It's hard to say. You feel like you could've been somewhat valuable to the situation and made an impact. Certainly there's a ton of history with San Jose and me, but a lot of personnel has changed over there over the years, too, from when we used to play 'em. It's hard to say. You feel like you could've made a bit of an impact there. It's hard to watch, knowing what the guys are going through physically and mentally and the breaks that have happened to ultimately be in this situation, down three.
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