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Eye on Europe: A Dominating birthday

Dominik Hasek, 45, was considered in the running for a spot on the Czech Republic Olympic team until a groin injury early in the season sidelined him. (OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

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Dominik Hasek, 45, was considered in the running for a spot on the Czech Republic Olympic team until a groin injury early in the season sidelined him. (OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME WHEN I’M 46?
Dominik Hasek, a former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner, Stanley Cup champion and Olympic hero, is still going strong. The Pardubice goalie’s goals-against average this season; his 2.45 goals-against average is eighth best in the Czech Extraliga and he boasts a save percentage of .916.

Not too shabby for a man who turns 45 today.

He will be celebrating his birthday at work, as Pardubice, who is second in the league, takes on Plzen, who currently sits atop the standings, five points ahead of Hasek’s boys.

The Extraliga’s oldest player missed some time in the fall due to a groin injury, but has started all Pardubice’s games in 2010.

“I know I’ll be playing on my birthday,” Hasek told hokej.cz. “I would be upset if the coaches came and told me that since it’s my birthday, they’d let me rest.”

HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE

Jan. 31 is a magic date in European leagues, as come February the player-transfer window is nailed shut for the season. With a few days to go, several players have already been on the move. Last season’s leading goal scorer in the Finnish SM-liiga, Jussi Makkonen, landed in Jyp, his third team of the season. He began 2009-10 in Minsk, was traded to Frolunda in the Swedish Elitserien and is now back to his native Finland.

Makkonen will once again join forces with Steve Kariya, who joined Jyp in November. Kariya and Makkonen played on the same line at HPK Hameenlinna in the SM-liiga last season. Makkonen scored 27 goals and 59 points in 57 games, finishing fourth in league scoring. Kariya, on the other hand, posted 21 goals and 54 points in 58 games, good enough for eighth in the scoring race.

Jyp is currently third in the standings, six points ahead of Jokerit, currently seventh – the last team to not directly qualify for the quarterfinal. In the 14-team SM-liiga, teams finishing between seventh and 10th play a preliminary wild card round for the last two spots in the quarterfinal.

HE’S NOT LEAVING HOME
HV71 of the SEL surprised many in Sweden when it announced it had signed team captain and former NHLer Johan Davidsson, to a five-year contract. Davidsson was generally expected to sign with a team outside of Sweden.

“Of course, it’s wonderful to sign a long-term contract with the club I love,” said Davidsson, 34, born and raised in Jonkoping, HV71’s hometown.

“Everybody can see how important he is on the ice, but he’s also important in the locker room and for the whole club as our face to the general public,” said Fredrik Stillman, HV71’s director of hockey operations.

JOKERIT FIXING A HOLE
Bates Battaglia squeezed himself through the European transfer window as well. The former Leaf signed with Jokerit, opting out of his tryout contract with the Syracuse Crunch of the American League. He went out with style and a few chosen words on the whiteboard, as reported by syracuse.com: “Boys – Thanks for having me this year. Had a ball. Best of luck the rest of the way. Bates.”

Battaglia donned the sweater with the jester logo Thursday, but left the ice pointless as Jokerit beat Assat 4-2.

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
And while at it, Jokerit fixed another hole.

Michael Nylander’s season has been, if nothing else, interesting. Its most recent turn took him to Helsinki as the Washington Capitals assigned the 37-year-old veteran center to Jokerit Thursday.

For the Finnish team, it’s a very lucrative deal as the Caps still pay Nylander’s salary – and keep his rights.

It’s the third time Nylander will entertain SM-liiga fans as he spent both lockout seasons in Finland. In 1994-95, he collected 30 points in 16 games playing for Jyp and, in 2004-05, he played 23 games for Oulu Karpat and scored five goals and 15 assists for 20 points.

WE CAN WORK IT OUT
Despite the Frolunda Indians of Gothenburg having the highest attendance in the SEL and regardless of their signing of former NHLers such as forwards Joel Lundqvist and P-J Axelsson, goaltender Johan Holmqvist and defenseman Christian Backman, the team is barely hanging on to a playoff spot. Peter Forsberg’s Modo is just one point behind.

Voices demanding the resignation of coach Ulf Dahlen have been getting louder of late and this week the club addressed the coaching issue – not by firing Dahlen, but by getting him a new co-coach, Stephan Lundh.

“This is a great addition to the coaching team,” Dahlen said of the hiring. “‘Lillis’ knows the club and many of the players.”

Lundh was fired from the club in the fall of 2006 after taking the team to two straight finals in 2005 and 2006 and winning the Swedish title in 2005.

“It’ll be fun to work with ‘Uffe’ Dahlen and to be back with Frolunda,” said Lundh, who is also the head coach of Sweden’s under-18 national team. “There’s a lot of potential in the team and I hope we can make things work together.”

He was behind the bench Thursday when Frolunda beat Skelleftea AIK 5-4 and held onto that prized playoff spot.

GETTING BETTER (ALL THE TIME)
Edmonton Oilers prospect Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson is the third Rookie of the Year candidate in Sweden.

“He’s taken his game to another level this season,” said Par Marts, coach of Sweden men’s national team next season and a member of the selection committee. “He’s strong, solid, he creates a lot of space and scoring chances for his teammates. He needs to work on his scoring and he has to cut to the net more often, but that’ll come with time.”

The previous candidates have been Paajarvi-Svensson’s teammates from the World Junior Championship: forward Marcus Kruger of Djurgarden and goaltender Jacob Markstrom of Brynas.

Eye on Europe will be featured on THN.com every Friday throughout the season. Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden who also writes for NHL.com and IIHF.com. When not writing about European hockey on THN, he's probably writing about hockey at ristopakarinen.com/hockey as Puckarinen. 

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