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Timonen cautiously optimistic he'll make it to Olympics

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Five days from now, chartered flights carrying NHL players will rumble down runways bound for Sochi, Russia, and the 22nd Olympic Winter Games.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen is not sure he will be on one of those planes leaving from Newark, N.J.

A severe bruise on his left foot could keep Timonen from representing his native Finland in his fifth straight Olympiad. Only Olympic teammate Teemu Selanne (six) has appeared in more consecutive Winter Games than Timonen among hockey players.

Timonen, 38, missed his second straight game Monday night in San Jose. Including the last two games in California, the 5-10 Finnish ironman has sat out only 18 games because of injury in his seven seasons with the Flyers.

Timonen did participate in the Flyers' morning skate at SAP Center Monday -- and remained on the ice for more than an hour with healthy scratches Jay Rosehill and Hal Gill -- but that didn't mean much.

"Well, you've got to get back on the ice sometime," Timonen said. "I've missed four days of skating. It was tough to get out there, but I had to see how I feel."

After struggling to finish Thursday's loss in Anaheim -- and coughing up a pass that resulted in a crippling shorthanded goal -- Timonen knew pretty quickly he couldn't play in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Monday, Timonen said he felt "all right." His skating was not nearly as fluid as usual, thanks to the injury.

"Another day (of rest) will do him good," coach Craig Berube said.

In Timonen's absence, Berube planned to match up the new pairing of Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossmann against the Sharks' top line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns. The Flyers caught a bit of a break as Sharks scorer Logan Couture remained out of the lineup, still recovering from hand surgery.

The Flyers did an impressive job of limiting Los Angeles' shots to the perimeter without Timonen on Saturday, as Steve Mason collected a 35-save shutout.

Erik Gustafsson (21:26) and Luke Schenn (20:57) got significantly more ice time against the Kings on Saturday compared with Mark Streit (17:25) and Andrej Meszaros (14:45). Berube said that was simply the case of trying to match lines and not an indictment of the play of either Streit or Meszaros.

"I think the more I play, the easier it is to get into the flow of the game," Gustafsson said. "Your nerves settle a bit and you learn when to hold on to the puck and when not to hold on to the puck. Kimmo does eat up most of the minutes on a regular basis, so it's definitely something I'm not used to. But I think we had a pretty good game on Saturday."

Officially, the Flyers have Timonen listed as "day-to-day" with a lower-body injury. With the Olympics right around the corner, Timonen said he has simply tried to remain focused on the Flyers and not Team Finland.

"I'm just trying to get healthy," Timonen said. "What happens, happens this week. Then, I'll look at the Olympics. But we're not there yet. It's a week away. We're in San Jose. I'm not in Sochi yet. We're still far away from it."

He plans to skate Tuesday, even with a cross-country flight scheduled, and Wednesday to test his foot before Thursday's home game against Colorado. The Flyers have only two games remaining before the break.

"If I can't play this week, that is a sign that everything is not good," Timonen said. "I probably wouldn't go."

Aside from the injury, threats of terroristic activity have been weighing in the back of Timonen's mind. Like many NHL players, operating under the advice of their federations, Timonen is not bringing his wife, Johanna, or three children (son Samuel, daughters Ella and Ava), which put his mind at ease. Plus, he said, it would be difficult for his kids to miss school for the long trip.

Timonen is still worried about his parents, though, who will make the trip from Finland to see him play. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league continues to monitor the tenuous situation in Sochi daily and will not send players if a grave threat exists. Currently, no backup plan is in place.

"I'm not really concerned for myself," Timonen said. "I'm more concerned for my parents. I'll be in the Olympic Village, so I can't see anyone getting in there and doing something bad, but obviously anything can happen in any city. Bad things have been happening there the last few months. It's in the back of my mind, but hopefully the security is there and nothing bad happens."

If Timonen does not go to Sochi, he would join the list of Flyers who will benefit from extra rest during the 16-day break. Non-Olympians were given a training regimen from the Flyers' conditioning staff, plus Berube can open practice again on Feb. 19.

For now, Timonen still has plans to wear the familiar blue "Suomi" jersey at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. He said, after all, another run at his first gold medal (to go along with two bronze and a silver) was one of his motivations to play this season. But given the nagging throb in his foot and the security issues, it would have to be tempting to not make the trip.

"If you have little injuries, then you can heal," Timonen said. "I think the main thing is to take a break from hockey. We play a lot of games, a lot of travel. You don't get to enjoy your life outside of hockey. It's been a long year."

(c)2014 Philadelphia Daily News

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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