Finland-Germany Preview

Teemu Selanne already has accumulated a lengthy list of

accomplishments on the NHL level. Now, he’s on the cusp of a major

milestone on the Olympic stage.

Needing one point to become the Olympics’ all-time leading

scorer, Selanne leads Finland into a matchup against Germany on

Friday.

At 39, Selanne is participating in his fifth Olympics, but he

almost didn’t get the chance to suit up in Vancouver. The Anaheim

Ducks star missed 17 games in December with a fractured left hand

and another eight contests last month with a broken jaw.

However, Selanne was stationed on the top line Wednesday, and he

assisted on Olli Jokinen’s power-play goal early in the first

period of Finland’s 5-1 win over an undermanned Belarus team.

According to the International Ice Hockey Federation’s record

book, Selanne is tied with Czechoslovakia’s Vlastimil Bubnik,

Russia’s Valeri Kharlamov and Canada’s Harry Watson for most points

in the modern era, which dates back to the 1956 games in Cortina

d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Selanne has 36 points (20 goals, 16 assists) in 26 Olympic

contests.

“I’ve been lucky over the years to play with great players. It’s

nothing more than that,” Selanne said, acknowledging that Vancouver

will mark his final Olympic appearance.

Selanne tied Ducks teammate Saku Koivu – also on this year’s

squad – for the scoring lead with 11 points four years ago in

Turin, Italy. The duo was also atop the scoring charts with 10

points apiece at Nagano in 1998.

Dubbed “The Finnish Flash,” Selanne still holds the NHL record

for goals by a rookie, scoring 76 with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93

en route to winning the Calder Trophy. A 10-time All-Star in 17

seasons, Selanne will end his NHL career second in scoring among

Finnish-born players behind Hall of Famer Jari Kurri.

Against Belarus, Niklas Hagman scored twice and Valtteri

Filppula and Jarkko Ruutu also had goals. Mikko Koivu finished with

three assists and Miikka Kiprusoff was hardly tested, making three

saves over the first two periods and finishing with 11.

Prior to the opener, Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen said Niklas

Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild would start against Germany.

Backstrom’s biggest test may be how his balky back will hold

up.

Backstrom is 23-18-4 with a 2.74 goals-against average and one

shutout in 46 games with the Wild this season, but he missed six

games with a sore back before returning Feb. 10. In three contests

since, he’s gone 1-2-0 and allowed eight goals.

This will be Backstrom’s first live action in Olympic play. He

was a backup in Turin as the Finns fell to Nordic rival Sweden in

the gold-medal game.

Germany is coming off Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to the Swedes. Thomas

Greiss, a backup with the San Jose Sharks, made 23 saves in the

defeat but was enthusiastic nonetheless.

“It will be more difficult now because the other teams saw that

we can keep up with the top teams, but everything is possible with

a little luck, you advance, otherwise it’ll be difficult,” Greiss

told the IIHF’s official Web site.

Advancing, though, will be hard without scoring. Hitting posts

and crossbars doesn’t help.

“I have to give our team a lot of credit, we hung in there.

We’re not happy with the loss, but we can be proud with the way we

played,” said Jochen Hecht, who has 13 goals this season with the

Buffalo Sabres.

Germany, which finished 10th at Turin, has seven losses and two

ties in its last nine Olympic contests.