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Finland's Timonen hopes to avenge 2006 gold loss

by Dave Lozo /
NEW YORK -- Conventional wisdom says the gold-medal game loss to Sweden for Kimmo Timonen and Finland at the 2006 Winter Olympics is old news, that it was so long ago that there isn't much one can learn from that crushing setback.

It doesn't mean it still doesn't bother the Flyers' defenseman.

"It was four years ago … but obviously it sucks to lose that game," said Timonen, selected Wednesday to represent Finland at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. "It's tough. It was a good game, and I thought we had more scoring chances in that game. Hopefully we get to the finals again and get another chance."

Timonen will try to get that chance with a team that might not be the favorite, but certainly has a good chance of coming away with a gold medal.

Finland is strong in net with goaltenders Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild and Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames. There's plenty of firepower up front with Olli Jokinen of the Calgary Flames, Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild, and Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks.

To hear Timonen tell it, he could be the weak link on the team.

"There'reno bad teams, obviously," Timonen said. "We're going to be the underdogs there for sure. We got probably the best goalies in the whole tournament, that's a good thing going into a tournament. Maybe the weakest part is our defense."

But Kimmo, you're part of that defense.

"Well, I'm being honest here," Timonen said. "Look at our forwards, we got a lot of good forwards, lot of good goalies, so obviously 'D' is probably the weakest part of our team, but hopefully we can play as good as everyone else."

Timonen is undoubtedly the leader of a blue-line core that is severely lacking in Olympic experience. Only Joni Pitkanen of the Carolina Hurricanes was with Finland in 2006, but he didn't play a single game. 

This will be the fourth time the 34-year-old Timonen will represent his country at the Olympics, and with the years passing, it gets harder for a veteran such as Timonen to reach down and find the energy to deal with the NHL's condensed schedule and a grueling two-week Olympic tournament.

"It's going to be tough, it's going to be really tough," Timonen said. "All the travel. We're going to have a lot of games before then, a lot of travel. Obviously, it's not a great thing, but going to the Olympics is obviously a great honor, but it's going to be tough, coming back and start playing games in March. So obviously it's going to be tough for the guys that are going there."

And there's really not much an NHL player can do to steal rest with so few days off leading up to the 2010 Olympics.

"The days we don't play, you have to regroup and take it easy," Timonen said. "You can't wear yourself down on a day off. That's probably the biggest thing you have to do."

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