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Koivu foregoes fifth Olympics to focus on Ducks

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- The decision became clearer for Saku Koivu in the days and weeks after he came back from a concussion. He missed nearly a month, and even though he rebounded strong, Koivu felt he couldn't be at his best for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and declined what would have been his fifth Olympics.

"It's one of the toughest decisions that I've had to make throughout my career," Koivu said. "Sometimes you might be injured at the time and you're just frustrated that it happens, but this one you have a choice. I thought through it many, many times over the past couple of weeks, and I felt that with the concussion and missing five weeks of playing, I felt the training at that time was fairly limited.

"Being at 39, all of these things together, I felt that, physically, I won't be where I want to be when the tournament comes in … it was a dream for me to be there, but the older you get, you have to stay honest with yourself and I felt for me, it's a better option of not going and getting a proper practice time, training time, a bit of a rest and also where we're at as a team here, hopefully we have a chance to go and do something in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs. Like I said, it wasn't easy at all. I hope I made the right choice."

The Olympics are dear to Koivu, who was an athlete representative for the International Olympic Committee and carried the Olympic torch during the run-up to the 2012 London Games. Finnish and Anaheim Ducks teammate said he talked to Koivu last year about Sochi.

"He's a very honest person, and he felt that he doesn't have enough energy right now to go and play at the top level," Selanne said. "You've got to respect that decision. It was a big surprise for everybody."

Selanne, 43, will play in his record-tying sixth Olympics, which matches fellow Finn Raimo Helminen (1984-02).

"Every Olympics are very special, but being able to play six is a big honor," Selanne said. "We all know how important and how big an event it is. That's what makes it so special."

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau alluded to Koivu preparing himself for the rest of the NHL season and helping the Ducks stay on pace for a long spring.

"I'm humbled that a guy could do that because he thinks so much of the possibility of us that I just hope that I don't screw up," Boudreau said. "I think it's a huge sacrifice. It makes you appreciate and understand him a little bit more. You know why he was the captain of the [Montreal] Canadiens for 11 years and why he's lasted so long."

Ducks rookie defenseman Hampus Lindholm wasn't included on Sweden's Olympic list before the season and therefore wasn't really eligible. Lindholm, who turns 20 on Jan. 20, is tied for second in the NHL with a plus-22 rating and averages 19:22 minutes of ice time paired with Francois Beauchemin.

Lindholm said he understood.

"I'm still young," Lindholm said. "I didn't expect that they would pick me. It's no surprise at all."

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