HALIFAX – The addition of Saku Koivu to the Finnish roster has been met with great anticipation. As the Qualifying Round gets started at Halifax Metro Centre, all teams in contention for the round of eight are looking for an edge. Finland might just have one in Koivu.
“Saku coming is a big lift for our team because he is another world class player,” said captain Ville Peltonen. “He’s a real leader for our team. We look forward to having him on the ice.”
Koivu is coming to pitch in for Finland after the Montreal Canadiens suffered a five-game elimination at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. The loss crushed Montreal's hopes in what many felt would be a more productive postseason.
But Montreal’s loss created another chance for Koivu to compete for a championship. This time, though, it will be for a medal, preferably gold.
“It was a big disappointment losing to Philadelphia,” said Koivu about the loss. “We felt we could advance to the Stanley Cup finals but it didn’t happen.”
Now Koivu has to transition from the NHL season to a short tournament where anything can happen. Germany’s loss to Norway last night proves that. But Koivu is confident that he’s ready to play.
“It takes 24-48 hours to try and get over a loss like had in Montreal,” he said. “But I felt there was enough left in me to come back here to help Finland.”
After finishing atop Group C in the Preliminary Round, Finland is second in the newly established Group F of the Qualifying Round. Tomorrow, Finland will take on Latvia in seeking to maintain solid position for the playoff round.
There is no confirmation as to who will be part of Koivu’s line against Latvia but he has demonstrated success in working with Teemu Selanne in the past.
“When you’re a centreman and you have a winger like Teemu with his speed and skill, it’s easy to find chemistry,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success together in international hockey.”
Whether or not they play together, Koivu will have to adjust to the team that is here and mesh his skills into the collective. But he’s ready for anything.
“We don’t have a lot of time to practice and get to know each other but I know Teemu from before and he knows me might make things a bit easier,” said of the possibility of playing with Selanne. “But we have four or five centers right now so it cold be me playing with Teemu or playing with my brother.”
His arrival though does not absolve everyone else from being involved. In fact, they will need to elevate their play alongside Koivu’s efforts.
“He’s a hell of a player and help our team,” said Tuomo Ruutu. “We can’t think that he will come in and play the game for us. Everybody has to show up and pick up the level of their game.”
Koivu was a member of the 1995 Finland team that won the World Championships. His recent World Championship prior to this was 2003 when Finland was the host country.
“Saku brings a positive aura with him and that is always good for any team to have him,” said Peltonen. “We’re all here for one goal and he can definitely help us reach that goal.”