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Red Wings sending 10 to the Olympics

Six Swedes lead Red Wings' assemblage to Sochi, Russia, next month

Tuesday, 01.7.2014 / 1:07 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Red Wings sending 10 to the Olympics
Jimmy Howard acknowledges the fans at Michigan Stadium during the USA Hockey announcement that the Red Wings' goalie will represent his country at the 2014 Sochi Olympics next month. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – As expected, the Red Wings will have a strong presence at the Sochi Olympics next month with 10 players, a head coach and general manager scattered among five national teams.

But it’s the Swedish team that will have the biggest Detroit congregation led by captain Henrik Zetterberg, forward Daniel Alfredsson and defenseman Niklas Kronwall. All three were members of Tre Kroner’s gold-medal win at the Turin Games in 2006.

“This will be my fourth Olympics and the other three have been unreal experiences,” Zetterberg said last week. “You just go there and play for your country and it’s not just hockey. You’re part of a group with other athletes and you experience their successes and their failures and their preparations and it’s a great two weeks. I’m looking forward to this one just as much as I did the past ones. It’s been a few tough defeats and we won the gold in Turin, so I’ve been through it all and hopefully we can get another gold.”

Alfredsson, who will be playing in his fifth Olympic Games, has 11 goals and 12 assists with a plus-13 rating in 20 career Olympic contests. The 41-year-old Swede has 11 goals and 30 points in 37 games this season with the Red Wings.

Joining the Red Wings’ Big 3 are first-time Olympian Jonathan Ericsson, and forward Johan Franzen and goalie Jonas Gustavsson – both played in the 2010 Vancouver Games where Sweden finished in fifth place.

Representing their hockey-crazy country is very special to the Swedes, who take the Olympics as serious as they do the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I think it’s always something different when you go somewhere representing your country,” Kronwall said. “Here it’s of course very special to represent the Red Wings and be a part of this family but when you go out to the world and represent your country obviously a huge honor.”

All but one player on Sweden’s 25-man roster is a current NHL player, and that guy happens to have ties to the Red Wings’ organization. Jimmie Ericsson is the older brother of Wings’ defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. The 33-year-old forward has spent his entire career in the Swedish Elite League with Skellefteå, where he has been the team captain for the last three seasons. This will also be his first Olympic Games, though he has helped Sweden win bronze, silver and gold in three of the last four World Championships. The Ericssons were teammates on the 2010 squad that took home a bronze medal.

The Wings’ Ericsson actually thinks his brother is the better hockey player.

“My older brother is more talented than me, but he doesn’t like working out or being that determined to reach that far,” Jonathan Ericsson said. “He’s a great hockey player, but he doesn’t have that mentality off the ice that maybe I have and that’s kept me going.”

The Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues have the most NHL players headed to this year’s Olympics, followed Montreal with eight and Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Vancouver and the New York Rangers with seven each.

Besides the six Swedes, goalie Jimmy Howard will represent the United States, center Pavel Datsyuk Russia, and forwards Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco will play for Slovakia.

Howard, who played for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, is making his first Olympic experience for what U.S. general manager Dave Poile said is Howard’s past work.

“From a personal standpoint being in the same division as the Wings for years I know what Jimmy can do,” said Poile, who is also the GM of the Nashville Predators. “I know he would say the same thing, I think this has not been his best year but his body of work has been fabulous. I mean, 35 wins in three consecutive seasons and the playoff record the Wings have with him in goal. The big games that he has won for the Wings, especially on the road and behind in series, or what have you, I mean, I know what Jimmy Howard can do but I think the rest of our committee knows what he can do and he got a spot on the Olympic team based on his body of work.”

Red Wings GM Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock were in Toronto on Tuesday for the unveiling of Team Canada’s 25-man roster, which they helped assemble. This will be the tandems' first defense of Canada's gold-medal win four years ago.

Four of the Wings’ Olympians – Ericsson (fractured ribs), Franzen (concussion), Datsyuk (lower-body) and Gustavsson (groin) – have been nursing injuries, but are on the mend and hope to rejoin Detroit’s lineup soon, Holland said.

The Olympic hockey schedule begins Feb. 12 when Sweden opens the 12-team tournament against the Czech Republic. Other openers involving the Red Wings are Feb. 13 when Russia plays Slovenia, the U.S. plays Slovakia, and Canada plays Norway.

The gold medal game is scheduled for Feb. 23.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 52 39 9 4 171 117 82
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 NYI 52 28 18 6 145 129 62
5 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 BOS 53 28 19 6 153 146 62
8 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 52 23 20 9 122 137 55
14 BUF 54 21 27 6 124 146 48
15 CBJ 55 21 28 6 137 170 48
16 TOR 52 19 24 9 120 144 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 52 18 20 26 38
H. Zetterberg 53 9 27 3 36
T. Tatar 52 16 17 -1 33
G. Nyquist 53 14 15 -2 29
P. Datsyuk 38 8 20 12 28
J. Abdelkader 53 14 13 -3 27
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 39 5 11 7 16
D. DeKeyser 49 6 8 12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 20 10 4 .933 1.97
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89