Ducks’ Saku Koivu still is pondering future

Ducks forward Saku Koivu celebrates after scoring a goal in a win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 28. Koivu has not made a decision yet on whether this will be his final NHL season.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The rotation of Ducks forwards who sit out a game includes nearly every player other than stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and ironman Andrew Cogliano, who has played in 515 games in a row.

But 39-year-old center Saku Koivu is also among the typically active, as he was Saturday night against the Dallas Stars at Honda Center.

Koivu says he’ll likely finalize whether this will be his final season when this one ends. If his hands finally hold the Stanley Cup after 18 NHL seasons, most believe Koivu will retire.

The quality of his play, however, may also sway his opinion. Cup or not.

The veteran last month opted to decline an invitation to play for Finland’s Olympic team later this month in Sochi, Russia, to instead maintain as much energy as possible in his pursuit of hockey’s Holy Grail.


“He hasn’t come out because he’s got a month-long break [coming],” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Here’s a guy who’s said, ‘I’m not going to the Olympics to take a break,’ so why am I going to give him a day off now?”

Yet, Koivu’s sturdiness (nine goals, 12 assists in 41 games) following a 15-game absence because of a late-October concussion in also unmistakably driving his playing time, which averages 15 minutes 24 seconds per game.

In addition to his offensive contributions, Koivu and usual third-line mates Cogliano and Daniel Winnik are responsible for playing against the opponent’s No. 1 line.

Koivu is plus-seven in goal differential while on the ice.

He’s on the penalty-kill unit, too, with the team ranking in the upper half of the NHL in denying power-play goals.

The season has exceeded Koivu’s expectations, he said.

“Coach can put me, Cogs and Winnie in kind of a defensive role because we have a lot of offensive guys,” Koivu said. “It gives us confidence when we’re out there, up a goal, late in the game.”

Koivu had a goal and assist Thursday against Philadelphia, and the chemistry with Cogliano has helped the speedy forward achieve a career year with 17 goals and 14 assists.

How bad does Koivu ache for the Stanley Cup?

“There’s 700 guys, 30 teams competing for it, so it’s not easy,” he said.

“That’d be the ultimate feeling to put all that work in, becoming tight as a group with your teammates … to lift the Cup, that would be amazing. But I’ve never wanted to get too far ahead, especially at this age. You know those opportunities don’t come often, even for a legitimate chance.”

For Koivu, it looks like his best chance. The Ducks carried an NHL-best 40-11-5 record to Saturday’s game.

The next big decision of retirement isn’t as certain.

“The way I want to do it is re-evaluate things at the end of the season to know if I feel healthy, and [weigh] the mental/emotional part to know if I have enough juice left to put the work in and get back into the pretty intense travel schedule,” Koivu said. “I’ll think of it more in the Olympic break, then the early summer.

“I haven’t decided if I’m going to retire or continue.”

Boudreau said he isn’t sure what Koivu or General Manager Bob Murray are thinking about Koivu and the Ducks’ future.

“The team has done really well and Saku is a big part of that, both in the room and outside the room,” Boudreau said. “There’s a lot of hockey left to be played yet. We’re happy to have him.”

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