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Swedes begin defense of gold medal

Wednesday, 02.17.2010 / 8:53 AM / Preview
By Dan Rosen
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Swedes begin defense of gold medal
GERMANY (0-0-0-0) vs. SWEDEN (0-0-0-0)

NOTE: records are presented as three-point wins (regulation time), two-point wins (OT or shootout), one-point losses (OT or shootout), zero-point losses (regulation time).

What to watch -- As a result of where this tournament is being played and the incredible star power that Russia has, the Swedes, despite being the defending gold medalists, are coming in as the underdogs. That's exactly how they want it to be.

Sweden prefers to hunt, but in Wednesday's game they will most definitely be the hunted because Germany is a major, major underdog. The Swedes are third in the IIHF rankings while Germany is No. 12. The German roster includes only seven NHL players while Sweden has 19 -- and that's not counting longtime NHL star Peter Forsberg, who is playing in the Swedish Elite League.

Sweden has a major edge in goal, too, with Henrik Lundqvist. The Swedes also got a star player back when Johan Franzen was named to the roster in place of Tomas Holmstrom. Franzen was out for four months after having major knee surgery.

"I waited until the last day and I finally got the call," Franzen said. "I wanted to believe it (that he would be in the Olympics)."

Team Reports:

Germany -- The Germans may be underdogs, but they are not unfamiliar with the smaller ice surface inside Canada Hockey Place. Their three NHL forwards are Marcel Goc, Jochen Hecht and Marco Sturm, who are likely to be on a line together. They also have two more German-Canadians in Travis Mulock (Langley, B.C.) and John Tripp (Kingston, Ont.). Both are in the DEL in Germany -- Mulock plays for Eisbaren Berlin while Tripp plays for the Hamburg Freezers. Tripp should be on the second line along with Sven Felski and Andre Rankel, both of whom play for Eisbaren.

Vancouver's Christian Ehrhoff, Florida's Dennis Seidenberg and Nashville's Alexander Sulzer are the familiar faces on the German defense. Ehrhoff is playing in his home arena and is definitely the face of this defense corps. San Jose backup Thomas Greiss will likely get the start in net.

The Germans will have a difficult time bottling up the supremely talented Swedish forwards. They'll have to clog up the middle and play a five-man defensive unit to have a puncher's chance.

"Sweden is obviously the favorite. We have nothing to lose," Seidenberg said. "All of their stars are great players."

Sweden -- Led by the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, who are playing on their home ice, plus Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Backstrom, Peter Forsberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen, Patric Hornqvist and Loui Eriksson, Sweden's top three lines rival any in the tournament. They are skilled and unafraid to play in the corners and in front of the net.

The addition of Franzen and subsequent subtraction of Tomas Holmstrom, who had to bail due to nagging foot and knee injuries, means Sweden picked up an elite power forward but lost a power-play specialist. That could force coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson to adjust on the fly, but Franzen is also seven years younger, three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than Holmstrom, so some could see it as an upgrade, too.

Niklas Kronwall is the defenseman to watch the Swedes. He still has a nagging knee injury, but he's here and he will be in the lineup. There are no question marks about the goaltending as Lundqvist is not only the king of the Rangers, but also of Tre Kroner.

"Every game is important and you play for goal differential, so I don't think anybody is going to take anybody lightly," Forsberg said. "Germany is a good team so I don't think anybody can take them lightly at all."

Total NHL players on rosters -- Germany 7; Sweden 19

Puck Drop -- "We haven't been playing with each other for a long time and we only have two practices to get things back together, so it's important to get a good start," Zetterberg told NHL.com. "But, in the same way, the tournament really starts after the round robin. That's how it was in Torino (in 2006). We didn't have a great start of the tournament, but from the playoff games in we played good and that's why we won."

NHL.com predicts -- Sweden wastes no time getting off to a good start by winning in a blowout.

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