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Ex-Pens winger Asham looking forward to retirement

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Olli Maatta plays against the Canucks Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Olli Maatta plays against the Canucks Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Zach Sill (lf) and Brian Gibbons fight for the puck during a scrimage on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Consol Enrgy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Zach Sill (lf) and Brian Gibbons fight for the puck during a scrimage on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Consol Enrgy Center.
Reuters - Rangers right wing Arron Asham (right) fights with Penguins center Tanner Glass during the third period Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Reuters</em></div>Rangers right wing Arron Asham (right) fights with Penguins center Tanner Glass during the third period Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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NEW YORK

Arron Asham knows this game.

“I took somebody's job when I came in,” Asham said earlier this week in the New York Rangers' dressing room at Madison Square Garden.

“Somebody is going to take mine.”

Asham is playing in his 15th NHL season. He does not expect a 16th. He is 35 and not unlike other journeymen at similar points in their career. The end is near. The difference about Asham is he is not shy about accepting it.

“I am looking forward to it,” he said, smiling.

His body feels the bruises and breaks that have come with having been willing to muck, grind, check and, indeed, fight. He still likes doing all of those on most nights, but Asham said there are some nights that end with him wondering — not what he has left in the tank, but whether he really wants to push the line that is near empty.

Six goals — a total he has not hit in a season since scoring at least that many in five successive years from 2005-10 — would please him. Those six would give him 100, a nice number on which to end.

Asham did not grow up with a lot of boys in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Canada, who went on to notch 100 NHL goals.

Of course, if he finished with 94 goals, that would make him the leading NHL scorer among childhood friends, too.

The Penguins are one of six clubs for which Asham has played. He left them two years ago for the riches of New York, which will have paid him $2.2 million upon the expiration of this contract.

Asham is wealthy beyond his wildest boyhood dreams but hardly rich enough never to work again. He has three young children, all of whom he would prefer to provide educational opportunities and help with things such as weddings, and maybe get around to spoiling grandkids.

“You miss so much when you're playing,” Asham said. “You notice that more with the little ones because they grow up so fast and you feel like you're not seeing any of it.”

Asham spent parts of this and last season playing in the AHL with the Rangers' affiliate. The experience did not jade him. It served only to remind him that the game he has made a living playing was in its final period.

The game has changed, too — and Asham is not sure he would have a place in where it is going.

So maybe his timing for expecting to leave is perfect, he said.

“It's true when you hear guys like me say the players are bigger and stronger than ever,” Asham said. “There are always going to be hits. Guys are always going to get hurt, but I think there are some liberties being taken that maybe weren't when I started.

“It's a different game now in some ways, but I broke in a long time ago. Everything has to change.”

That is the unavoidable reality that hockey and its players face.

“Don't get me wrong. I'm enjoying every minute that I'm up with the big club because it could always be my last game,” Asham said. “When it is, I'll be ready. I have things to look forward to after I'm done playing.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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