There will be so many final steps for Teemu Selanne to take this season before he retires. The Ducks’ 43-year-old wing has said this season will be his last.
Thursday night’s game at Honda Center against the New York Rangers will be his final home opener. It will be an opportunity to soak in the capacity crowd’s adoration as the Ducks embark on their last go with legendary No. 8 beside them.
“You look at things differently knowing it will be your last time,” Selanne said Wednesday after practice. “You just try to enjoy it.”
Now in his 15th season as a Duck, Selanne — with 675 goals and 755 assists — has created massive goodwill in Anaheim with his production and so much more.
Whether it’s the humorous video he made, chucking golf clubs in the water before “deciding” to return this year, or a sincere nod to a fan watching practice at the Rinks in Anaheim, or standing outside at 1 a.m. last week signing autographs upon his return to Winnipeg, where he began his career in the NHL, there’s an authentic nature to the man that has made him beloved.
“Very nice person, doesn’t turn down requests,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He generally loves people and is passionate about the game, and everybody can tell he’s passionate about the game. Those are things that are not hard to become a fan of.”
Selanne called the Winnipeg treatment Sunday “unreal” and “amazing.”
“I try to be nice to people, and they treat you back the same way,” Selanne said. “For some reason, I’ve always had that. On the ice, I’m not, ‘Focus, focus, focus,’ only seeing the puck. I enjoy it all. I look at how people react. It’s the whole package that I enjoy so much. I’m a pretty open guy.”
Selanne says he hasn’t experienced one regret about returning, and says he’s “feeling good, no complaints,” despite no goals in seven shots over two games.
He and Boudreau crafted an agreement that in 13 remaining pairs of consecutive games Selanne will play the first game and sit out the second.
“That will keep him a lot fresher,” Boudreau said. “He’s 43. This season is torturous with our travel before Christmas. We want him at his best.”
The coach praised Selanne’s “hop” and ability to create good scoring chances.
“I’m just waiting for when we get rolling again,” Selanne said. “I’m excited.”
Wing Emerson Etem practiced again Wednesday, and Boudreau said there’s a “good chance he’s going to play.” The coach said left wing Matt Beleskey and right wing Kyle Palmieri (upper body injuries) will not play, but added that Palmieri will “be ready to play Sunday” against Ottawa.
DUCKS VS. N.Y. RANGERS
Where: Honda Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Record vs. Rangers (2012-13): Did not play.
Etc.: The Rangers are reeling from a 9-2 loss to San Jose in their last outing.