SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 14: Olli Maatta #3 of Finland celebrates with teammates after a goal in the third period against Norway during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game on day seven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Undefeated Finland still underdogs vs. Canada, says head coach Westerlund

Finland has scored 14 goals in two games, but Finnish coach Erkka Westerlund wants to make one thing very clear: They still face an uphill battle against Canada on Sunday.

“We are underdogs,” Westerlund said, according to’s Dan Rosen.

That’s the role the Finnish want to be portrayed in and they’ve been pushing on their team since before the tournament started.

“It’ll be all about team. That’s our strength and we love to be the underdog,” assistant GM Jarmo Kekalainen said last week. “We’re going to bite everybody’s ankles and not let go — that’s the only way we’re going to be successful.”

And it’s an easy sell because it also happens to be true. While they have managed to win cleanly against two opponents that weren’t highly regarded going into the Olympics, there’s no question that Canada is the far better team on paper.

The only area where the Finnish were supposed to be at par with the Canadians was in goaltending and that’s oddly enough been Finland’s only blemish so far, courtesy of a shaky performance by Tuukka Rask in the opener.

It doesn’t help matters that Finland might have lost forward Aleksander Barkov to a lower-body injury on Friday. The Finnish team is already missing Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula.

At the same time, especially in a short tournament, the team with the most skill isn’t always the victor and while Finland beating Canada would be an upset, it wouldn’t be a shock. After all, even if Finland is theoretically below Canada, they’re still one of the top hockey nations and a legitimate contender. The gap between them exists, but we’re talking about hills instead of mountains.

PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
AP Photo
Leave a comment

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (

Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.