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Healthier Brodeur expected to return

His wrist feeling better, Canada's top goalie practices after sitting out the semifinals.

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Published September 14, 2004

TORONTO - Martin Brodeur returned his goalie stick to the rack and calmed the fears of a hockey-crazed nation.

"Well, I made it through practice," Canada's top netminder said Monday.

Brodeur was on the ice for the first time in four days, and his injured left wrist came through a full workout fine. If his sore catching hand keeps improving, Brodeur is expected to return from a one-game absence and play tonight against Finland in the World Cup final.

"For the first time in five or six days, I was able to use it," said Brodeur, who has allowed only three goals on 100 shots in four games.

If he doesn't get into this game, it might be a long time before he suits up again.

The NHL's collective bargaining agreement with the players association expires Wednesday, and with the sides far apart and no negotiating sessions scheduled, a lockout that threatens next season and beyond is on the verge of becoming reality.

Brodeur was hurt Wednesday during the closing minutes of a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Slovakia when he made an awkward catch of a shot from center ice.

The force jammed his arm toward his body and left him with an injury described as a sprain. He practiced briefly Friday and sat out Canada's 4-3 overtime win against the Czech Republic on Saturday.

"He looked fine to me, like normal," forward Joe Sakic said after practice.

Roberto Luongo made 37 saves in Brodeur's absence, but he split time in the backup role Monday with Jose Theodore.

Brodeur didn't have to use his glove in practice until the Lightning's Brad Richards fired a shot about 15 minutes in. Dany Heatley followed with one, and Richards let another drive go into the mitt.

Brodeur is among the NHL's puck-handling goalies. He showed some caution with the puck on his stick and often used just his right hand.

"I'll find ways to be able to play with the puck and do something with it without hurting it when I have my glove on," Brodeur said. "I got a good taping job."

Canada and Finland won their respective divisions in the preliminary round to earn the top seeds. And despite the game being in Toronto, a coin flip, which Canada won, was held to determine the home team.

As a result, Canada will have the advantage of the last line change. So expect to see its "DDT" checking line of Kris Draper, Shane Doan and Joe Thornton on the ice a lot against the Finnish scoring line of Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne and Jere Lehtinen.

History is on Canada's side.

Finland has won only two elimination games in tournaments with pro players outside of the world championships. And it last won that event in 1995.

It lost 7-3 to the United States in the semifinals of the 1991 Canada Cup, the predecessor of the World Cup, 5-0 to Russia in the second round of the 1996 World Cup and 2-1 to Canada in the 2002 Olympic quarterfinals. In the 1998 Olympics, it beat Sweden 2-1 in the quarterfinals, lost 7-4 to Russia in the semifinals and beat Canada 3-2 for the bronze.

Meanwhile, Canada has reached the final of every Canada Cup/World Cup and won gold at the 2002 Olympics.

But Finland got a goal with 3:22 left to beat Germany 2-1 in the quarterfinals then stunned the United States with two third-period goals in a 2-1 semifinal victory in St. Paul, Minn. It was the first time in this tournament a team rallied to win.

"I think we're kind of underdogs when we play (Canada), and people didn't expect too much from us," forward Tuomo Ruutu said. "Everybody is behind us in Finland, and I don't think there's pressure."

The sports hopes of the country that managed only two silver medals in the Athens Olympics rest on this team and Miikka Kiprusoff. So far, the goalie who led the Flames to the Stanley Cup final has handled the pressure. Finland is 4-0-1, and Kiprusoff has allowed only six goals.

"He gives us a chance to win every night," forward Ville Nieminen said.

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