CALGARY -- Reijo Ruotsalainen, the former NHL defenseman playing for the Finnish hockey team, is too fast for many of his teammates, too slick with the puck, too fancy with his passes.

But Finland's coach, Pentti Matikainen, is happy to have him.

"He's very difficult for the other players to play with," Matikainen said. "He has to be the center of everything on the ice. He likes to come from everywhere, pass from anywhere. The other players are still learning his game."

Ruotsalainen's game, in the classic European tradition, is puck movement. Few players in the world move the puck as dynamically or as quickly as "Rexi."

"The defenseman who plays with him, Jyrki Lumme, has the most difficult job," Matikainen said. "He always has to play behind Rexi, in case Rexi gets caught up ice."

But Matikainen knows Ruotsalainen's occasional blunders are offset by his spectacular offensive forays.

"He is a great, great hockey player," the coach said. "After Kari Laitinen, he's our fastest skater. It looks so easy when he's skating."

It was that easy movement that made Ruotsalainen attractive to first the New York Rangers and then the Edmonton Oilers.

In 405 games over six NHL seasons, mostly with the Rangers, he scored 104 goals and 225 assists.

At the end of last season, Edmonton acquired him and Sweden's Kent Nilsson, and the pair helped the Oilers' drive for their third Stanley Cup.

"There's always a possibility I'll go back to the NHL," said Ruotsalainen, 28, who had five goals and eight assists in his 16 regular season games with Edmonton. "But right now, I'm very excited about playing in my first Olympics. This is a big thing for me."

Even bigger than his first Stanley Cup?

"That's hard to say," he said. "It's a different feeling. The Olympics are special because athletes from all over the world are here, not just hockey players. You can meet the best in every sport.

"But the Stanley Cup is a big thing for every hockey player, not just Canadians and Americans. How many Europeans have won the Stanley Cup? I don't know, but I'll bet it wasn't many.

"Everyone's always talking about medals," he said.