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Selanne, Jagr, Forsberg the talk of the town

by Greg Inglis
It was unrealistic to expect Friday's action at Canada Hockey Place to match what transpired there 24 hours before, so the expected victories by Finland, the Czech Republic and Sweden afforded another opportunity to savor vintage performances by those nations' celebrated forwards Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr and Peter Forsberg.

Skating with the greats -- Selanne set the all-time Olympic scoring record Friday by assisting on Kimmo Timonen’s second goal of the game as Finland jumped out to a 3-0 lead in what ended as a 5-0 victory over Germany. Selanne drew the secondary assist on Timonen’s goal with 3:57 remaining in the second period. It was his 37th point in Olympic competition (20 goals, 17 assists), spanning five separate Winter Games beginning in 1992.

Selanne had been tied with Valeri Kharlamov of Russia, Vlastimil Bubnik of the former Czechoslovakia and Harry Watson of Canada.

Finnish captain Saku Koivu retrieved the record-setting puck from the linesman and handed it over to the Finnish trainers for safe-keeping, according to Lucas Aykroyd at

Selanne recalled watching Kharlamov as a young boy, the Associated Press' Larry Lage reports.

"I was always in the arena whenever the Red Army then the Soviet Union played with all those great players, the 'KLM' line," Selanne said. "When you look at those guys, that's when you realize what you've accomplished."

"Back then, those Russian guys [like Kharlamov] were on a different planet and you never thought that a Finnish guy could compete with them," Koivu said. "Now he passed them, too. That's amazing, and I am really happy for him."

"It's very difficult to think he's almost 40-years-old," Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen said. "He plays like he's 30-years-old. Great athlete. Great leader. Great person."

Good times roll for Jagr -- "He came, he saw, he conquered. Again." So begins the Canadian Press' account of Jagr's performance Friday, as he scored for the second time in as many games and looked dominant in the Czech Republic's 5-2 victory over Latvia.

But it was Jagr's post-game comments that have fueled speculation about a possible return to the NHL.

"NHL is a special League, no question about it. It has a lot of history and I think I was playing 18 years in the NHL and then I decided I am going to go back to Russia, and I cannot say anything about my decision because I said I am not going to look back," Jagr said. "I'm just going to finish my contract there and then I am going to make a decision what I'm going to do next. But they treat me so well in Russia that it would be tough to leave them. On the other side, I want to maybe try to come here.

"I love it in the NHL and I love it in Russia. Whatever happens happens, and I'll be satisfied with everything."

Jagr clearly is relishing his Olympic experience, both on the ice and with reporters. From the Vancouver Sun's Elliott Pap:

"I always had fun, you guys just didn't see it," he protested, smiling. "I didn't show it but, inside, I was having fun. The difference is because there was a lot more pressure on me before. Now I let the other guys do it."

"Jagr ... has even has let his once shoulder-length locks grow out again," the Toronto Star's Damien Cox notes.

"How can I be closest to the Jagr of 15 years ago?'" he told reporters. "I'm not going to score the goals I did. I'm not going to play the same I did. This is the only way I can do it."

Familiar Forsberg -- Forsberg was held scoreless for the second-consecutive game in Sweden's 4-2 victory over Belarus yesterday, yet statistics, as the Globe and Mail's Gary Mason points out, don't tell the whole story.

"There is something so familiar in every stride he takes. In the widening of his eyes as he closes in on the puck," Mason writes.

"There are still signs of that legendary strength, too. In his prime, Peter Forsberg was the hardest player in the NHL to knock off a puck. He would fend off attackers with one arm while carrying the puck with the other, looking for someone to pass it to.

Olympic Gear "Even with his best years far behind him, Forsberg still leaves you transfixed.

"Engulfed by a swarm of reporters after the game, Forsberg admitted he was 'scared' coming to the tournament because the game was going to be played on a smaller, NHL-sized ice surface so everything would be faster. Could he match the speed? He didn't offer even the slightest hint that he was hoping to use these Olympics as an NHL audition for someone. If anything, he sounded like someone resigned to where he is in his hockey life now - near the end."

Rivalry Sunday -- From the moment the Olympic men's hockey schedule was released months ago, hockey fans circled the date Sunday, Feb. 21 as can't-miss appointment viewing.

Wayne Scanlan of Canwest News Service explains why.

"Schedule makers, like hockey referees, prefer not to be noticed. Whoever arranged the Olympic hockey schedule for Sunday, however, should be given the key to the city. In the span of about 11 hours, three of the greatest rivalries in international hockey will be centre stage at the Vancouver Olympics.

"Take your pick. First, the Czech Republic faces Russia. Next, Canada plays the U.S. And in the finale, Sweden and Finland write the next chapter of their Scandinavian rivalry.

"Rivalry Sunday. Super Sunday. Call it what you want. For hockey fans, it's a feast."

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