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Finland's fate may rest on Granlund's availability

by Mike G. Morreale
Finland's hopes of earning its first medal at a World Junior Championship since taking home bronze in 2006 may come down to the availability of injured star forward Mikael Granlund.

The Finnish Ice Hockey Association has announced Granlund is one of seven players from the 2010 WJC to receive invitations to training camp for the 2011 World Juniors.

Granlund, who has been dealing with post-concussion symptoms since suffering a concussion during a game in Finland on Oct. 14, seems to think he'll be ready.

"I'm going to play … if I feel healthy and I can train before the tournament proper. I've been able to keep myself physically in moderate condition," Granlund told the Finnish media late last month. "Now I am able to pedal the exercise bike and do a light leg workout."

Finland's National Junior coach Lauri Marjamaki has his doubts about Granlund's availability.

"Mikke wants to stay available as long as possible but there are a lot of question marks," Marjamaki said. "To make the tournament, he should be able to practice next week, and that seems very unlikely."

Finland will arrive in Toronto for the start of camp Dec. 19 and play an exhibition game against Canada on Dec. 23, in Kitchener, Ont. The club then will bus to Buffalo for the start of preliminary-round action of the WJC on Dec. 26. Finland will compete in Group A with Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany and Team USA, the team against which it will open.

In addition to Granlund, who led last year's team with 6 assists and 7 points, the Finnish Federation has asked back goalie Joni Ortio, defensemen Tommi Kivisto and Sami Vatanen and forwards Iiro Pakarinen, Toni Rajala and Joonas Nattinen from last year's team, which finished fifth.

Ortio, drafted by the Calgary Flames in the sixth round in 2009, went 3-3 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .844 save percentage in six games.

In all, 11 players drafted by NHL teams received invitations to camp.

The team also will include a few 2011 Entry Draft-eligible prospects regarded highly by NHL Central Scouting. That group includes forward Joel Armia, who stars for Assat Pori in Finland. Armia, who has 11 goals and 18 points in 27 games, was rated No. 1 by Central Scouting among Finnish players in its preliminary rankings, released last month. The No. 2 players, forward Miikka Salomaki of Karpat Oulu, will be at the camp, as will goalie Samu Perhohen of JYP Jyvaskyla, who is No. 1 among Finnish goaltenders.

Granlund's younger brother, Markus, who is rated No. 3 on Central Scouting's preliminary list of Finnish skaters, was not part of the 29-player roster.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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