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Oly success has Jokinen energized for stretch run

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Canadian celebrations aside, some found the hockey of the Olympic men's tournament dreary and tedious, and to back that opinion, you can point to the Sochi event registering just 31 total goals, the fewest since the event incorporated a playoff round in 1992.

"I don't think it was boring. I didn't find it boring," said Jets centre Olli Jokinen, who came back to Winnipeg a winner, having helped Finland defeat the U.S. 5-0 in the bronze-medal game last Saturday.

"Other countries might have found it differently but our goal was to go there and play good defence and believe that the system that was in place, with the goaltending we have, that we'd win games 2-1, 1-0, 2-0.

"You weren't going to win games by five goals at that level."

Jokinen said Wednesday that he returns energized for the NHL's stretch run.

"It's two weeks, a fun time, being a part of something good," he said. "It gives you energy. It gives you the tools that you want to bring here when you got to play for your teams.

"I think it was more of an energy boost, a confidence boost."

Jokinen was asked how the Finns were able to get past their disappointment after a 2-1 semifinal loss to Sweden last Friday.

"We had a meeting a couple of hours after the game, before we went back to the village. The coaches and some of the older players were talking to the rest of the team that there's going to be one other country that's going to be disappointed later that night," Jokinen said. "For us, the big thing was that there's a huge difference to be fourth or third, a big, big difference. You finish top three or be in fourth place with nothing to bring home.

"So for us it was a big thing to try to regroup and energize and try to win the medal.

"We were able to do that. I think we wanted to win that last game more than the U.S. did. We were able to overcome that tough loss against the Swedes."

Jokinen said there was only joy to be playing alongside former Jets' sniper Teemu Selanne, who was the Olympic hockey tournament's top forward.

"Teemu's Teemu," Jokinen said. "He hasn't changed. He's he same type of guy he's always been. He's done so much for Finnish hockey over 25 years.

"It's pretty scary thing that at 43 years old, he's still able to play at the level he's playing at. He was a big (reason) we were able to get a medal."

BORED STIFF: Bryan Little didn't hide his joy at being almost back to game action for the Jets. But he didn't waste his Oly break, either. The Jets centre picked up his guitar again for the first time in eons.

"I don't really get to play that much during the year because we're on the road a lot," he said. "But when I'm home with my fiancée I play a lot of guitar and tried to improve a bit."

Asked if he cranked it up to 11, Little grinned: "Oh yeah. But I have the headphones in when someone else is in the house so I don't drive them crazy."

QUOTABLE: "We definitely don't want to be at the end of the season talking about the same stuff we have for the past four years, for me. It's something we're definitely tired of and hopefully we can show it on the ice." -- Evander Kane on the Jets' playoff push.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2014 D2

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