Kekalainen: Underdog Finns ‘will bite everybody’s ankles and not let go’ at Olympics

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If you’re wondering about Finland’s approach to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, check out what assistant GM Jarmo Kekalainen had to say on Sportsnet’s Fan 590 radio today.

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

Though they like to fancy themselves underdogs, the Finns have been perennial medal contenders since NHL players began competing in the Olympics in 1998, capturing silver in ’98 and 2006 and bronze in 2010. At the upcoming ’14 tournament, the team will lean heavily on a number of players that’ve achieved success in past competitions, as Finland boasts one of the oldest and most-experienced rosters, featuring Teemu Selanne (43 years old), Sami Salo (39), Kimmo Timonen (38) and Olli Jokinen (35).

In terms of grit and scrappiness, the likes of veterans Tuomo Ruutu and Mikko Koivu will be heavily leaned-upon, though the latter’s participation is in question as he recovers from knee surgery.

This isn’t to say, however, that the Finns don’t have any youth coming through the ranks. Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh’s young star defenseman, and Florida’s leading scorer Aleksander Barkov both made the team despite being 19 and 18, respectively. Given their success at the NHL level this season, both should play prominent roles in Sochi.

And then, of course, there’s the goaltending.

Finland boasts arguably the greatest depth in the world at the position as Tuukka Rask, Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen made the cut for the Winter Games. Considering the likes of Pekka Rinne (injured), Karri Ramo, Antti Raanta and Nicklas Backstrom were left off the team is evidence to just how much depth the Finns have in goal.

Kekalainen acknowledged its one of his team’s great assets.

“We have three great goaltenders,” he explained. “All have proven themselves in the NHL. It’s a big strength for our team.”