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Czechs hope to overcome Hasek's absence when they face surprising Finland

NHL.com @NHL

Having one of the best goaltenders in history made the Czech Republic a favorite to win the gold medal. Getting any medal without Dominik Hasek will be a tall order.

A day after learning Hasek would miss the rest of the Olympics, the Czechs hope to avoid a second straight loss when they face unbeaten Finland on Saturday.

Hasek, who led the Czechs to gold at the 1998 Nagano Games, suffered an upper leg injury Wednesday in a 4-1 win over Germany that will keep him sidelined for the rest of these Winter Games.

"Our medical staff decided that I'm not able to play. It's over," the Ottawa Senators star said. "Also, I don't want to get hurt for the rest of the National Hockey League season."

With the six-time Vezina Trophy winner unable to play Thursday, the Czechs suffered one of the biggest Olympic upsets since the NHL began sending players in 1998, losing 3-2 to unheralded Switzerland.

Tomas Vokoun of the Nashville Predators made 16 saves in place of Hasek.

"He is a great goalie and the Czech Republic will be OK in goal with him," Hasek said.

Vokoun, whose 28 wins this season ties him with Hasek and Swiss goaltender Martin Gerber of the Carolina Hurricanes for second in the NHL, does not feel Thursday's loss should throw the Czechs off track.

"It's just one game, and it doesn't really mean anything. I still think we're one of the teams that can win the gold medal," he said.

Hasek isn't the only key player the Czech Republic will be missing for the rest of the Olympics.

Forward Patrik Elias also will not return due to bruised ribs suffered in the loss to Germany. The three-time 30-goal scorer of the New Jersey Devils had been a late replacement for New York Rangers rookie Petr Prucha, who pulled out because of a knee injury.

Thursday's loss dropped the world champion Czechs into a third-place tie with Switzerland in Group A. The top four teams in the six-squad group move on to the quarterfinals.

"Maybe it's a good thing that happened to us," said Rangers forward Martin Rucinsky. "Maybe it will wake us up and give us a warning."

Finland, which won bronze medals at the 1994 Lillehammer and 1998 Nagano Games, put together another solid performance in a 6-0 win over host Italy on Thursday.

Teemu Selanne, who scored two of the Finns' five power-play goals, is convinced Finland can get a medal in Turin.

"I do not see why not," he said. "It just depends on who has the hottest goalie at the end."

Backup goalie Frederik Norrena made 16 saves Thursday, though it seems likely Antero Niittymaki of the Philadelphia Flyers will be back in net this weekend with the level of competition stiffening. Following this game, the Fins face defending gold medalist Canada on Sunday.

Selanne has four goals and an assist in his first two games, tied with Slovakia's Marian Hossa for the Olympic scoring lead. Saku Koivu, Jere Lehtinen, Jussi Jokinen and Ville Peltonen also scored Thursday for Finland.

Six Finns are among the top 15 players in scoring at Turin. Jaromir Jagr is the only one for the Czech Republic.

"If you look at the lineups, they are better on paper but things are not decided on paper," Koivu said. "There are strange things that can happen in a tournament like this, and the team with the most talent doesn't always win."

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