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Chris Murphy, Published October 06 2013

Moorhead grad Cullen set for reunion with old team when Predators host Wild

Fargo - For Moorhead High School graduate and 16-year NHL veteran Matt Cullen, there was no doubt about year No. 17.

“For me, there’s never been a time where I thought ‘I don’t want to play anymore,’” Cullen said. “I just still really love playing the game.”

Even after three years of playing in his home state with the Minnesota Wild came to an end this offseason, Cullen had no doubts, signing a two-year deal with the Nashville Predators on the first day of free agency.

“Last year was maybe the most enjoyable year I had playing the game,” Cullen said. “I loved every minute of it. After that season, when I found out it wasn’t going to work with Minnesota, I was disappointed, but I was so happy to have an opportunity to come to Nashville and play. I just still really love the game and I feel like I have a lot left to give.”

Cullen won’t have to wait too long for a reunion, as his first home game with the Nashville Predators will be against the Wild on Tuesday.

“Isn’t that funny,” Cullen said. “I got a good laugh at that when I saw it on the schedule. I have a lot of good friends on the team. I have nothing but good things to say about the organization. It’ll be especially fun to come home when we play in Minnesota.”

Don’t expect Cullen to go easy on his former team.

“It’s going to be one of those things where it’s fun and exciting, but once the puck drops, it’s a big game,” Cullen said. “We are division rivals and you have to forget about that being where you played the last few years. You got to get out there and play and you got to win the game.”

Nashville’s signing of Cullen was in hopes he would add scoring to a Predators team that tied for a league-worst 2.27 goals per game last season. Cullen’s 27 points from last year would have topped all forwards on the Predators and only trailed Shea Weber’s 28 points. The soon to be 37-year-old Cullen hasn’t notched a point in his first two games with the Predators – with just two shots and two penalty minutes so far – but is ready to do whatever is asked of him.

“Last year I played with Devin Setoguchi, who is probably as pure a goal scorer as there is, so I was put in a position more to be a playmaker,” Cullen said. “I think that will always be my first love. I do think I’ll shoot the puck more and put the puck on net because we’re going to need the offense. I’ve been playing for quite a while now, so I feel pretty confident to what I can bring to a team.”

One thing he isn’t ready to do is hang up the skates, even if it meant putting home in the rearview mirror.

“It’s never an easy adjustment when you’re making a change from kind of being comfortable in one spot and at home for three years,” Cullen said. “For me, it’s never really entered into my mind. I’ve just never really considered not playing. I just don’t feel like it’s time.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548