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Cullen taking time to make decision

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

As the Pens players celebrated with the Stanley Cup in the locker room following Game 6 of the Final in Nashville on Sunday, they surrounded Matt Cullen while he held the trophy and chanted, "ONE MORE YEAR!"

That sentiment was echoed by fans along the parade route in Pittsburgh on Wednesday as Cullen passed by in the back of a truck with his wife and three boys.

However, during locker cleanout day on Thursday the 40-year-old forward wouldn't disclose his decision to retire or continue playing, saying that while he has a pretty good idea of what he's going to do, nothing is finalized yet.

"I think I just need to give it a little bit of time," the Minnesota native said. "Head home and get away from the celebrations and everything, and just allow a little bit of time for it to sink in and put a little separation from it. It's a decision you only make one time, so I want to give it some time to be sure."

Cullen smiled that he's heard enough from his sons Brooks, Wyatt and Joey about whether or not to keep playing. He knows where they stand on the subject.

"They've already voiced their opinion," he said. "I don't need to hear any more out of them. I've seen and heard enough out of them. Everywhere I turn, look on Twitter, whatever, I see their faces. I've seen more than enough of those guys (laughs). We're going to go home and they're going to go to their grandparents' for a while. I know what they want to do. They've voiced that. So I'll take that into account."

Cullen said if he did decide to continue his career, which so far has spanned 19 seasons, 1,366 regular-season games and 123 playoff games, he can't imagine playing anywhere else but Pittsburgh.

"I love it here and this place has been great for me," he said. "Going through that experience of the parade yesterday, it's unreal, and I can't imagine a better place to play hockey."

It truly has been an incredible experience for Cullen here in Pittsburgh. The biggest reason he chose to sign with the Pens two summers ago is to have a chance to win again, knowing that at his age, he wouldn't have many more opportunities to make a run. And not only did he win twice - he did so as an impact player on the team.

Cullen's versatility allowed him to move up and down and around the lineup when needed. He chipped in offensively with 29 goals and 63 points over two seasons. He was a key member of Pittsburgh's penalty killing unit and arguably their best defensive center. And the player lovingly nicknamed 'Dad' was a mentor to everyone in that locker room, the rookies and veterans alike.

Cullen finished the playoffs with a terrific performance in Game 7, leading all forwards with 19:42 minutes and helping the Pens kill off four penalties, including a 5-on-3.

He said this is as healthy as he's felt at the end of a season in quite a long time, and added "I've got to be honest, I feel great. I really do." So the question is, if he feels that good, why retire?

"I've played the game for a long time," he answered. "I love the game of hockey, but at a certain point, you have to make the decision and I think there's more to it than just the hockey stuff. Obviously you want to be an important player to the team, I appreciate the opportunity to be that here. But again, it goes beyond just only hockey at this point in my life. It's weighing the balance and figuring out what is best for the family and what is best for you too."

And if that isn't playing, Cullen said it will be probably still be something around the game.

"I've never wanted to do anything other than this," he said. "Since I've been 2 years old this is the only thing I've ever dreamed of doing. I don't know. I haven't put any thought to it. In the season I'm pretty well dialed on what I need to do to get ready for the next game. So I haven't ever really stepped back enough to look at that.

"When I'm done, I would likely stay in the game of hockey. It's the only thing I know. I can't do anything else. So I would likely do something with the game of hockey. I love it. There's nothing I love more than the game. So I'll figure that out."

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