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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Teppo Numminen (Photo: Getty Images)
It was a familiar scene for Teppo Numminen.

Clearing out his stall in the Buffalo Sabres locker room, cameras began to roll as the defenseman fielded questions from reporters.

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But it was not because he had done so for 19 other NHL seasons that this situation resonated with a feeling of déjà-vu – it was, rather, the inquiries about his future that the 40-year-old answered that seemed routine.

This time around, however, his responses were a little less certain as he weighed the possibilities of either returning or retiring.

“I don’t intend anything,” Numminen said. “I just intend to take a little vacation and go home, see the kids. Seriously, just take a couple weeks off… hopefully get to Cleveland, see the doctors… see how my condition is… and start from there. That is the first step.”

Last season, as the Sabres packed up the dressing room, Numminen was coming off a high of sorts. The veteran had suited up for Buffalo’s season finale in Boston after missing the first 81 games of the 2007-08 year, recovering from open heart surgery.

While the game was not a factor in the standings, it meant the world to Numminen who feared he may never return to the League.

That feeling is far behind him now.

Numminen returned in 2008-09 to play in 57 games, recording 17 points (2+15) for a total of 1,372 career games and 637 career points (117+520).

Proving that he could not only return, but compete in the League after the procedure has some wondering if he has accomplished what he came to do in his 20th NHL campaign. After all, Numminen was a healthy scratch for the majority of March and April to make room for a young defenseman in Chris Butler.

“It might make you hungrier, it might make you feel like you can’t play anymore,” Numminen said. “It was part of the season but I don’t know how that is going to affect my decision… you have to get some time with your family and look at the situation to really know all there is to know.

“You don’t want to be around if you can’t play… that’s something you’re afraid of and want to make sure that’s not the case.”

What Numminen is sure of, is that he will remain in Buffalo next winter regardless of his decision.

“The last four years it’s been my only choice,” Numminen said. “There are a lot of great memories and it’s been really special.

“It became our home. It’s a comfortable place for us and a good place to live.”

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