Rinne is Canada's biggest challenge in quarterfinals

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In winning its group at the world hockey championship, Team Canada beat goaltenders Jan Laco, Jakub Kovar, Patrick Galbraith, Daniel Bellissimo, Anders Nilsson and Steffen Soberg.

None of them are Finland's Pekka Rinne, who stands as Canada's biggest challenge in Thursday's quarter-final round. Even while a young Finnish team has struggled with penalties, turnovers and a lack of offensive depth, Rinne has been a rock with a 1.65 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts.

"Pekka is our most important player - absolutely," coach Erkka Westerlund said Wednesday. "We built our whole system so that goalkeeping is No. 1, and then we try to build the strength (of) defence in front of him. That's how it is, (how) hockey works."

Westerlund said he was not yet satisfied with his team's defensive play but expects improvement. Even if that doesn't happen, Finland has a good chance in Canada if for no other reason than Rinne.

Fortunately for the Finns, Rinne is not experiencing any injury problems after missing four months of the Nashville Predators' season with a hip infection. Naturally, it took a while for him to get back to feeling right.

"It's a process, and I think even when I came here (to Minsk) I thought that hopefully I can improve all the time and I didn't maybe feel 100 per cent," Rinne said. "But now I do, and I'm really happy and I feel like my game has been getting better and (I'm) just feeling more comfortable."

Rinne is playing with confidence and instilling it in his teammates, only six of whom are back from the Sochi Olympics, where Finland won a bronze medal.

"It's a different roster, it's a different tournament," said Komarov, who repeated his desire to return to the NHL last season. "It's a new day, a new life."

But the same, old, reliable Rinne.

Canadian defenceman Ryan Ellis knows all about that from parts of three seasons as a Predators teammate of Rinne's. Unlike a lot of other goaltenders, Ellis said Rinne doesn't let game action detract from his practices.

"Every day, every practice it's like a game," Ellis said. "He tries so hard in net in practice."

Organizations: Nashville Predators, NHL

Geographic location: Canada, Finland, Minsk

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