SOCHI, Russia -- Finland’s men’s hockey team had a hard time finding replacements when standout NHL forwards Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild and Valtteri Filppula of the Tampa Bay Lightning had to withdraw because of injuries.
The team’s first choice as an alternate, Florida Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim, declined the invitation even though it would have been his first Olympic appearance. He told the Miami Herald he thought he’d be better off using the NHL’s Olympic break to rest and undergo rehabilitation on an abdominal injury.
Finland on Saturday named Jarkko Immonen and Sakari Salminen as its replacements. Both play for Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
Defenseman Ossi Vaananen acknowledged that the loss of Koivu and Filppula will hurt, “but we can’t get stuck worrying about it because that sort of thing happens to every country,” he told the Olympic News Service. “It’s a tough job but we’ll get through it.”
One thing Finland has to look forward to is the arrival of 43-year-old Ducks winger Teemu Selanne, who will tie a record for Olympic hockey players with his sixth Winter Games appearance. “I don’t know how he does it,” Vaananen said. “I’m about 10 years younger, and as the years go by you feel the wear and tear on your body.
“I think it goes to show you how natural he is on the ice. He’s been doing all the right things. He’s a serious guy but he’s also a kid at heart. He enjoys the game and enjoys hanging out with the boys.”
Team Russia -- minus its NHL players -- arrived in Sochi on Saturday after conducting a training camp in Kazan. Coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov told the Olympic News Service that he brought along some extra players so the team can have a scrimmage against Switzerland on Sunday.
He said the team’s mood is good. “A working mood,” he said. “The boys want to play and that’s very important.”
He also said he’s hopeful of a return to form from Pavel Datsyuk, who returned to action with the Detroit Red Wings a few days ago after being sidelined by a lower-body injury.
“He played one game and he will play a second. In general, he felt well,” Bilyaletdinov said. “He played and there were no side effects. I hope that when he plays the second game everything will be normal, allright, as well.”
Detroit plays at Tampa Bay on Saturday, its final game before the NHL begins its Olympic break.
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