Kärpät Reaches Finnish Finals; Pitkänen Unlikely to Play

By Bill Meltzer

While his Kärpät Oulu team staved off elimination in both the quarterfinals and semi-finals of the Finnish playoffs, defenseman Joni Pitkänen has been sitting on the sidelines. According to reliable reports from Oulu, although Pitkänen was medically cleared to play about two weeks ago and is participating in full practice, the young defenseman in unlikely to play again this season. Pitkänen underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in early February to repair a torn meniscus on his left knee.

Pitkänen reportedly still has some discomfort making certain cuts and turns but nothing out of the ordinary. He could play if called upon but that is unlikely. Pitkänen will not be in the Kärpät lineup for the first game of finals, against Tappara.

Even without Pitkänen, Kärpät is heavily favored to defeat Tappara and win the Finnish championship. Kärpät just completed a minor upset of a more experienced Jokerit team, winning two straight games after falling behind two games to one in the best-of-five series. In the best-of-seven quarterfinals, Kärpät came back to defeat JyP after trailing three games to one.

Earlier reports from people close to the situation intimated that Pitkänen himself wants to be cautious about playing again until an NHL contract is negotiated with the Flyers but would play if needed. Moreover, the coaching staff does want to throw a nineteen year old player into the pressure of a playoff after missing two months. The final decision rests with the coaches. Given the team’s playoff resilience, it does not seem likely the call will come.