Pitkanen pulls plug on Finns

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

HALIFAX -- Did Joni Pitkanen pull the parachute on Team Finland because of a knee injury or because of a contract?

One way or the other, the Edmonton Oilers defenceman, who is about to become a restricted free agent and is believed to be thinking of asking for $5 million a year, has left the team and headed home.

Pitkanen left the ice late in Finland's pre-tournament match against Canada in Quebec City and had taken himself out of the IIHF World Hockey Championship.

"It's his knee, the same one that he had some trouble with in Edmonton," said Finland general manager Jari Kurri.

But Doug Sheddon, the Canadian hired by Kurrito coach the Finnish national team this year, isn't buying.

"He said he hurt his knee in a gym Monday before we played Canada," said Sheddon.

"The MRI does show there is something there.

"But it's a contract year and when it's a contract year things hurt a little bit more," the coach added.

"When a guy says he's injured and doesn't want to be there, you don't want him there.

"All I can tell you is that I didn't see a lot of commitment from him in practice. I don't want to put a gun to his head to play in the world championships."

Sheddon said Pitkanen was a player he was counting on.

"We don't have a whole lot of NHL defencemen, especially ones who can skate like a deer," he said.


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