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Selanne's Speed, Slap Shot Could Propel Ducks Into Playoffs


ANAHEIM — First things first. Say it: Tee-moo Sell-ah-nee.

Hard to say, harder to defend. The newest, Mightiest Duck is a three-time All-Star, a former rookie of the year, a 1992 Olympian for Finland and a threat to turn his new team into a playoff contender.

Teemu Selanne joins the Ducks for his first practice Friday. His first game for the Ducks will be Saturday on the road against the New York Islanders.

The initial plan is to team Selanne, a right wing, with Paul Kariya on left wing and David Sacco or perhaps Steve Rucchin at center. No matter the center, this ranks among the most explosive lines in the NHL.

Selanne, in the first year of a five-year, $15-million contract, was leading the Winnipeg Jets with 24 goals and 48 assists when he was traded Wednesday to the Ducks for Chad Kilger and Oleg Tverdovsky. Kariya had a team-leading 28 goals and 35 assists before Wednesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Selanne, 25, recorded a point in 15 consecutive games, but his streak ended in the Jets' 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. Mario Lemieux of Pittsburgh had a league-leading 16-game point streak this season.

Perhaps more than anything, Selanne is renowned for his explosive speed and blistering slap shot. He has recovered fully from a severed Achilles' tendon, sustained during a collision with the Ducks' Don McSween Jan. 26, 1994, at the Pond.

As a rookie in 1992-93, Selanne's tremendous offensive skills slowly but surely brought the league's spotlight to Winnipeg. He led the NHL with 76 goals, added 56 assists, earned a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team and won the Calder Trophy as the league's rookie of the year.

"He deserves some MVP votes," Wayne Gretzky said during Selanne's rookie season.

Said former Jet Coach John Paddock that same season: "I've never been blessed to coach that kind of player before."

Selanne was proclaimed the league's superstar of the future, another in a line of standout European goal-scorers in the NHL that includes Pavel Bure, Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Mogilny and Jaromir Jagr.

Unlike the others, however, Selanne was stuck in Winnipeg, the bleakest hockey outpost in the NHL. He managed to succeed despite playing for the Jets, however.

First, Winnipeg is light years from the media capitals of New York, Toronto or Los Angeles and word of his talents was slow in coming to the rest of North America. Second, the Winnipeg franchise had been on shaky financial ground for a number of years. (The sale of the Jets and their proposed move to Phoenix next season were approved by the league last month.)

To make matters worse, a new round of trade rumors concerning Selanne began to circulate about two weeks ago.

"It's not nice to hear all kinds of rumors, but I don't want to worry about things I can't control," Selanne said in a conference call from Winnipeg on Wednesday. "It's a business decision. I personally feel if my old team decides it doesn't need me, I'm more than happy to go to someone who does."

About the turmoil involving the Jets sale and move, he added:

"The last one or two years there have been all kinds of rumors about what was going to happen to this team. We were going to Minneapolis, to Portland, to Phoenix. At that time, it was frustrating for sure. Everybody wanted to know what was going on. Since it was announced it was going to be Phoenix there was a lot of relief."

Selanne remained committed to the Jets until the bitter end, however, even joining an off-season effort to keep the team in Winnipeg.

"I wanted to do anything I could for this because it was an important thing to do and because I care about Winnipeg," he told a Winnipeg reporter last week. "But when the [trade] rumors started up again [a few weeks ago], all I could think was 'thanks a lot.' I was very hurt and angry about that because nobody [from the Jets] ever talked to me about them and told me not to worry. It makes you feel like they don't care about you."

Now, at least, there is a sense of stability awaiting Selanne with the Ducks.

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