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Berg Set to Return to Lineup

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
February 7, 2006

(Canadian Press) -- Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Aki Berg might make it to the Olympics after all.

Just a few days after Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn suggested a lingering rib injury might keep Berg from playing for Finland in Turin, the defenceman returned to practice with the NHL team on Monday.

(Getty Images)

Berg said he felt good enough to play in Toronto's game against Atlanta on Tuesday night and that he'd make his decision about the Olympics afterwards.

"I feel a lot better,'' said Berg. "We'll see how it is after tomorrow's game.''

Berg suffered the injury in a Jan. 26 game against the Buffalo Sabres. He said it was very painful for the first few days, but has started to feel better since.

The 28-year-old has been a mainstay on the Finnish team in international events. In addition to playing at the Olympics in 2002 and 1998, where Finland beat Canada to win the bronze medal, Berg has been a member of three world championship teams and the 2004 World Cup team.

He also won a championship with TPS Turku in the Finnish league in 1998-99 after failing to agree on a contract with the Los Angeles Kings, the NHL team that drafted him third overall in 1995.

Berg said he wants to give Finnish GM Jari Kurri plenty of notice about his status before the Olympic tournament, which starts for Finland with a game against Switzerland on Feb. 15.

"They've been calling,'' Berg said. "But if I can't play here (in Toronto), there's no way I'll play there.''

Quinn said he hadn't spoken to the Maple Leafs training staff about Berg's condition, but is willing to insert him back in the lineup for Tuesday's game if the injury had healed.

"Today was his first practice with the group,'' Quinn said. "I know he's a tough kid.

"If he has the clearance and he feels good, then we'll have him back in.''

It's encouraging news for Team Finland, which has already lost Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames and Kari Lehtonen of the Atlanta Thrashers _ two of its original three Olympic goalies.

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