Finland-Germany Preview

BY foxsports • February 19, 2010

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.


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