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Teemu Selanne returns to Ducks riding high on Olympic performance

SportsAnaheim DucksNational Hockey LeagueOlympicsSt. Louis BluesTeemu SelanneNick Bonino

In Russia, Teemu Selanne was hockey's hero.

In Anaheim, will he be more than just another player on the NHL team with the most points?

Selanne returned to Honda Center ice for practice Thursday, showing more bounce in his skating than when the 43-year-old departed for the Winter Olympics with just seven goals in 47 NHL games.

Selanne was the most valuable player of the Olympic hockey tournament in Russia after leading Finland to the bronze medal — and a victory over Team USA — with four goals and six points in six Sochi games.

So does he remain a Duck averaging less than 14 minutes of ice time per game in a smaller rink that increases the emphasis on speed, or does his Olympic production and energy for closing a Hall of Fame career in style merit a bump in minutes?

"Tough question," said Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau, who was to meet privately with Selanne following Thursday's practice to discuss the matter. The Ducks resume play Friday night at home against the St. Louis Blues.

"Darling of the Olympics. MVP, chosen by the media. He did everything really good. I was really happy for him."

That falls short of any firm commitment on Selanne, who is scheduled to maintain his routine of skipping one game of the Ducks' four back-to-back contests remaining.

Selanne deferred to Boudreau, but made it clear he's up to the challenge of more ice time and responsibility, such as joining a power-play unit.

The Olympic success, starring on Finland's first line, has "really given me more confidence and passion," Selanne said. "Obviously, my role was different there than here, and that helped. Sometimes you need that extra boost somewhere.

"I don't know what [Boudreau's] going to talk about, but nobody's bigger than the game and once you start asking for things you can't control … I'm at the point in my career, I have this last push to win, and whatever role is available, I'm willing to take it."

Asked how he'd handle himself if he were coach, Selanne said, "I don't want to answer, don't want to get in trouble, can't control that. I've got to respect that.

"Everyone wants to play as much as they can. The more you play, the better you play. When the minutes go down, it's harder to succeed. But on a team that wins, with great players like we have, some guys just have to be proud, do their job as well as they can. And that's pretty much where I am.

"But if someone gives me more responsibilities, I'm more than happy to take it."

Injury update

Sidelined before the break by injuries, Ducks center Nick Bonino (right wrist) and defenseman Mark Fistric (lower body) have skated pain-free since last week and are expected to be activated from injured reserve before Friday's game, Boudreau said.

Goalie Viktor Fasth, out since mid-November with a strained abdominal muscle, had 22 saves in a win for minor league Norfolk on Wednesday and can play up to two more games for conditioning purposes before being recalled.

Set lines?

Boudreau said he's not ready to set fixed lines, something he will do in the season's late-going. He estimated that move will take place in the final "10, 15 games."

He was impressed with the team's work, as it resumes play with an NHL-best 41-14-5 record.

TONIGHT

VS. ST. LOUIS

When: 7 PST.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.

Etc.: The Blues and T.J. Oshie were shut out by Vancouver in their return game Wednesday, failing to jump ahead of defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago in the Central Division.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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SportsAnaheim DucksNational Hockey LeagueOlympicsSt. Louis BluesTeemu SelanneNick Bonino
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