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NHL veteran Joni Pitkanen returns to ice, could boost Finland at World Cup

After missing the past three seasons with a severe heel injury, Joni Pitkanen is playing again in Finland. Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The first 16 members of each roster for the World Cup of Hockey will be announced on March 2. There will no doubt be some surprises, but the roster for Team Finland is all but finalized.

It’s pretty clear which players will represent their county, but there’s been a bit of a development in Finland that has some management folks excited.

Veteran defenseman Joni Pitkanen, 32, has returned to the ice after a three-year hiatus due to a broken left heal he suffered during a game with the Carolina Hurricanes on April 2, 2013. Many thought he would never play again, but earlier this month he signed with Karpat of Finland’s Liiga and has played three games, with one goal.

An NHL official was impressed when he saw Pitkanen play recently in Finland. The official said it didn’t seem like Pitkanen has missed the past three seasons with a severe injury.

If Pitkanen continues to progress, he could be added to Finland’s World Cup roster for next September’s tournament in Toronto.

Finland’s projected blue line includes Olli Maatta, Rasmus Ristolainen, Petteri Lindbohm, Jusso Hietanen, Esa Lindell, Jyrki Jokipakka and Sami Vatanen.

In 535 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Edmonton Oilers and Hurricanes, Pitkanen recorded 57 goals and 225 assists.