Although the Team Canada Olympic selections usurped most of the headlines, other participating nations also finalized their rosters early Tuesday.
While preparing for their evening matchup with the Vancouver Canucks, three Pittsburgh Penguins – Evgeni Malkin, Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta – learned they would take the ice at the Sochi games. None of the three picks were particularly surprising, as each should play significant roles for their countries.
That’s certainly true for Pens center Malkin, who will compete in his third Olympics – and 11th international tournament overall – for Team Russia. The 27-year-old Malkin has 12 points (5g, 7a) in 11 Olympic contests, putting him under pressure to produce in front of the home fans next month.
Malkin, who just returned from injury with a three-point performance Sunday against Winnipeg, has 44 points (11g, 33a) in 33 games this season. He leads countryman Alex Ovechkin by one point for the NHL scoring lead among Russian-born players.
Team Finland will feature two Penguins: veteran forward Jokinen and rookie defenseman Maatta. Jokinen, 30, returns to the Olympics after missing the competition four years ago in Vancouver. In the 2006 games, Jokinen had four points (1g, 3a) in eight games as the Finns claimed silver in Italy. He has 30 points – 12 of them goals – in 44 games for Pittsburgh, where he’s manned a second-line role.
The 19-year-old Maatta joins fellow Finn and Florida center Aleksander Barkov, 18, as two of the few teenagers to make Olympic rosters. Maatta proved himself in a tryout period early this season for the Pens, earning a spot on the NHL roster. He has missed just one game while skating nearly 18 minutes per outing.
Maatta and Jokinen won’t face the media scrutiny that Malkin and the Russians will, but Finland has expectations, too. The Scandinavian country is the only hockey federation to bring home three medals since NHL players began participating in the Olympics 16 years ago.
Finland, which took home bronze in 2010, has never won men’s Olympic hockey gold. Russia, in some shape or form, has won eight Olympic tournaments, including a 1992 triumph as the Unified Team following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Russians claimed bronze in 2002, but have failed to medal in the previous two Olympic competitions.
In other Olympic news, former Penguins Jaromir Jagr, Petr Nedved, Zbynek Michalek and Michal Rozsival all made the Czech Republic roster, while one-time Pittsburgh winger Tomas Surovy will compete for Slovakia.
Tonight’s game: Penguins (31-12-1, 63 points – 1st Metropolitan) at Canucks (23-13-8, 54 points – 4th Pacific) at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. Faceoff is set for 10 p.m. Eastern time, with Root Sports Pittsburgh and 105.9 The X handling broadcast duties.