While the thrill of playing in the Olympics for the first time in their careers is undoubtedly there, the Finnish roster announcement came as something of a mixed bag for Joni Pitkanen
and Tuomo Ruutu
Although Ruutu was unavailable for comment after Wednesday’s practice, which he did not attend due to a minor illness (he is expected to play Thursday), Pitkanen expressed disappointment that teammate Jussi Jokinen was not included on the final roster.
“I was hoping Jussi was going to make the team,” he said. “It’s not an easy job to pick the team. Every time some good players don’t make it, but I was hoping.”
However, that disappointment was nothing compared to that of Jokinen, who was left stunned by a phone call he received from Team Finland coach Jukka Jalonen on Sunday.
“I’m surprised and disappointed,” said Jokinen. “Those are probably the two words I can find.”
Jokinen said that he did not receive an explanation of the decision to leave him off the team. He was hoping for more, especially after what he considers is a good start to the season and a strong performance in the 2006 Olympics, during which he posted four points in Finland’s eight-game run to the silver medal.
“It’s the only thing I’ve been trying to do ever since the last Olympics,” he said of making the team this year. “I think I did well there, and we had a great team that lost in the finals. Since that moment, you’re kind of dreaming of the next Olympics in 2010. I just tried to play good hockey since then and hoped I could make the team. It is what it is right now, and it’s a big disappointment.”
It should be noted that Jokinen, who was surely among the last cuts made to the roster, could still be named to the team if one of the already-chosen players gets hurt. Ruutu and Pitkanen know all about that, having each missed out the 2006 games due to injury.
If Jokinen continues to play the way he is now – he has five points in his last two games, one of which came after he learned of his omission – it would be even more difficult to pass on him a second time. He’s even on pace for a career season that would just surpass his total from the last Olympic year in 2005-06, which was his first in the NHL.
“There’s sometimes where your chances aren’t going in and you can’t get points,” he said. “It’s a little funny now because I’ve been getting big points.”
Jokinen’s calm, controlled comments today, along with some apparently-heavy media pressure back in Finland, suggest it that it would be even more difficult to pass on him a second time if a spot were to become open.
Until then, he’ll let his play on the ice do the talking. If his partnership on a new line with Matt Cullen and a resurgent Eric Staal keeps going, he should have plenty to say.
”I’m sure he’d like to show by the time the Olympics come around that his number should have been called,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice.