Niagara Gazette

Sports

February 11, 2006

Sabres have a presence in Turin

Buffalo, N.Y. — Five members of the Buffalo Sabres were selected to represent their native countries in this year’s Winter Olympics. Four will be headed to Turin, Italy, after the Sabres play at Carolina on Sunday, but Jochen Hecht will miss the Olympics because of an MCL injury suffered in Thursday’s overtime loss to Montreal.

Sabres captain Chris Drury will play for the United States. Maxim Afinogenov will play for Russia, Toni Lydman and Teppo Numminen will play for Finland.

“It’s always a great honor to play for your country, especially at the Olympics,” Numminen said. “It’s the biggest event an athlete can go to.”

This will be the fourth time Numminen will compete in the Olympics. He won a silver medal in 1988 and a bronze medal in 1998.

“Winning the medals will be something I always remember,” Numminen said.

This will be the second time Drury and Afinogenov will play in the Olympics. Drury won a silver medal with the U.S. team in 2002, while Afinogenov won a bronze that year. This will be the first time Lydman will appear in the Olympics.

“It’s always exciting to play against people you know,” Numminen said. “We have a lot of guys from this team going, so it makes it more special.”

The hockey competition gets under way Wednesday. Each nation will play five games in six days in the preliminary round. The top four teams in each of the two six-team brackets will advance to the quarterfinals. Teams playing in the medal games will have played eight games by the time the Olympics end on Feb. 26.

“We’ll be playing five games in six nights, so it’s a really tough schedule,” Numminen said. “There are going to be some tired hockey players. You also have to adjust to the time change and the jet lag. It will be a challenge for everybody.”

Contact Pat Murrayat 282-2311, Ext. 2258.

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