12/14/2006 3:19:07 PM
Teemu Selanne just wants the good times to keep on rolling.
He woke up Thursday morning sitting third among NHL scoring leaders, and more importantly, his Anaheim Ducks were very much first overall in the league standings.
''We're having a lot of fun right now,'' Selanne said before boarding a California-bound flight from Atlanta.
''Last year and this year have pretty much been the most fun seasons in my career,'' added Selanne. ''Right now what we're doing as a team, it's just awesome. I've been waiting a long time to be on a team like this, where we have a chance to win every night. It's a great feeling.''
Selanne leads the Ducks with 43 points (19-24) in 34 games, four points behind league leader Sidney Crosby - 17 years his junior. In fact, Selanne is the oldest player among the NHL's top 10 point-getters.
''I feel like a puppy,'' insists Selanne.
To think he nearly called it quits in 2004 because of a damaged knee. It took him eight months to fully recover from reconstructive surgery but by the summer of 2005 he felt like a new man.
''After my knee surgery, I got the wheels back and the passion back,'' said Selanne, who exploded for 40 goals and 50 assists last season. ''I really don't feel like I'm 36 years old.''
The crackdown on obstruction was a factor in Selanne's re-birth and he was happy to report Thursday that he feels the league is still doing a solid job on that front.
''I think they're calling pretty much the same stuff,'' he said. ''Of course some nights it's a little different but I think the referees are doing a good job. I'm really happy it's still like this. If you're smarter or faster or stronger, now you're going to get rewarded. I think that's so important and it's really good for the game.''
The Ducks rewarded Selanne in the off-season with a US$3.75-million, one-year deal. If there were any fears he might not be able to duplicate that kind of production, those are now gone. He's on pace for 103 points this season.
And that's just the on-ice contributions.
''First off, he's an excellent teammate,'' said Ducks GM Brian Burke. ''The type of guy we look for here are guys with character who are good teammates. That's the No. 1 thing. And he doesn't have bad days. To have a guy who walks into the dressing room in a good mood every day, that's a very important attribute for a hockey team, you need guys like that. He brings sunshine with him.''
The other thing, Burke said, is that people don't realize how big the six-foot, 204-pound Selanne plays.
''He's not a little, skilled European guy,'' said Burke. ''He's a big, skilled European guy. And he makes big-man plays. He takes physical abuse to make a play.''
Selanne has found chemistry on a line with Chris Kunitz and Andy McDonald.