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World Cup

Pekka Rinne eager to play with P.K. Subban

Team Finland goalie excited after trade brought defenseman to Predators

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director, Editorial

HELSINKI, Finland -- It has been an interesting summer for Team Finland goalie Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators.

Just as he was coming to grips with the Game 7 loss he and the Predators sustained against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Second Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, his outlook on the Predators changed with the announcement that franchise defenseman Shea Weber had been traded to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman P.K. Subban June 29.

"It was a big trade. It came out of the blue," Rinne said. "I played my whole career with Shea and so he is a great friend for me too. So it was actually a little bit emotional."

Once Rinne had time to process the transaction, he came to the realization that the Predators might be a different team this season, but they will be just as good, if not better.

"After a couple of weeks, it's life," he said. "It's hockey. And then you start realizing the opportunity you have with P.K. and he is in his prime, and he's going to be an exciting player to watch and exciting player for us as players to be on the same team with. It should be an exciting start to the season."

Rinne, 33, knows his numbers dipped last season and he was not happy with the way he played at times. But he said he is fully healthy heading into the 2016-17 NHL season and that is huge for an older player, particularly a goaltender.

He believes he can have a bounce-back season. And if he does, the Predators could be in a prime position to make a long postseason run.

Is this the best Predators team for which Rinne has played since he became a full-time NHL player in 2008-09? 

"I believe so," he said. "So far, that I have been there, I think so."

BORN TO LEAD: Center Mikko Koivu was a no-brainer to be captain of Team Finland.

He has captained Finland three times in the World Championship, leading it to the gold medal in 2011. He also is the captain for his NHL team, the Minnesota Wild. He missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics because of a broken ankle.

Koivu, 33, said leading Team Finland is an honor and something that has become easier as time has passed.

"I think that comes naturally when you get older; you are always trying to lead by example," he said. "I'm just trying to be myself. I'm used to that with the [Wild] and now for a couple of years with Team Finland. 

"It's a good thing to have as a player. It's about trying to be yourself and do things the way you have for the last 10 or 15 years or whatever. I just enjoy it."

Part of the reason Koivu enjoys it so much is that he understands the opportunities to do so dwindle with each passing season. He knows leading Team Finland at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 means he's been entrusted with passing down the Finnish way to the collection of 20-somethings on the roster, the same way those lessons were passed down to him more than a decade earlier.

"You realize when you get older that there aren't a lot of opportunities like this," he said. "You look at the last World Cup, that was 12 years ago and that was my first tournament. It went by fast. You start to realize more and more you just want to enjoy it and enjoy each and every day. When you get to the games that is the best part."

Finland plays its first pretournament game against Team Sweden here at Hartwall Arena on Thursday (Noon ET; ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports).

FAMILIAR FEELING: Lauri Marjamaki may be new as the coach for Team Finland, but he is very familiar with the lineup he has inherited.

He coached many of the younger players during his time with the junior team, including a stint as coach at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship. Plus, many of the older players are playing on the same lines on which they played during the 2016 World Championship, where Finland won the silver medal.

Marjamaki has spent the first few days of training camp running the players through line rushes and 5-on-5 drills, as well as a bit of simulated scrimmaging.

"We want to talk to the team about how we want to play, the defensive game and those kind of things," he said.

Marjamaki understands he will see more when Team Finland plays Team Sweden on Thursday, but he does not seem overly concerned with the results.

"We have to understand that we are not ready on Thursday," he said. "Our target, our goal, is Sunday, Sept. 18 against Team North America (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports). But it is important to have these exhibition games, two against Sweden and one against Team USA in Washington (Sept. 13, 7 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)."

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