Freddie eyes Greatness

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

It doesn't take much to get Freddie Pettersson excited.

The affable Swedish import has never had a bad day.

But Wednesday was a little extra special.

He got to see his idol Wayne Gretzky up close. He didn't exactly meet him, mind you. But just sharing the same air as the Great One was enough for the Calgary Hitmen sniper.

"I didn't talk to him but I saw him," Pettersson beamed. "It was cool. I don't think too many people in Sweden have seen Wayne Gretzky."

Pettersson also didn't get a chance to talk to former Hitmen star Fredrik Sjostrom, who now suits up for Gretzky's Coyotes.

The two speedsters are from the same area in Seden but they've never crossed paths.

"I don't know him," Pettersson said. "I would have talked to him if I had seen him but we had practice after them."

It was time to get back to work.

Pettersson and Co. face a daunting task in Round 2 of the WHL playoffs: Bottle up the league's most potent offensive club, the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Taking part in his first WHL post-season, the 18-year-old said work ethic will determine who advances to the Eastern Conference final.

"It's good hockey," he said. "All the teams are pretty much the same but I think we'll go far if we're working hard."

Pettersson, who leads the team in playoff scoring with three goals and seven points, isn't used to playing lengthy best-of-seven affairs. In Sweden, every round is a best-of-three.

And he couldn't be happier. The more hockey, the better.

"We won the championship (in Sweden) and I only played 10 games," he said. "Over there, we'd have a week off in between series. Here, you play all the time.

"That's why I came over here to play hockey."

In fact, he'd like to see it bumped up to a best-of-nine, like the Western Conference used to play in the 1980s.

The Edmonton Oilers draft pick has clearly dealt with the post-season pressure well. He single-handedly rescued the Hitmen with a pair of goals in last Sunday's series-clinching 3-2 OT win in Lethbridge.

He's enjoying everything surrounding the playoff run. The excitement of the fans, the media attention. It's all good.

"I just love the feeling around the rink," he said. "I've won it four times in a row (in Sweden) and it's nothing. There's nothing on TV, nothing at all.

"Everybody's talking about it and there's a lot of reporters here watching practice. It's very cool."

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MOOSE JAW WARRIORS @ CALGARY HITMEN

GAME 1 TOMORROW, NOON AT 'DOME


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