Positive net effect

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

QUEBEC CITY -- There were some pretty hefty headlines in Sweden when 21 players, including the biggest names of them all - Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson, Peter Forsberg, Marcus Naslund, Henrik Sedin and his brother Daniel - said no to Tre Kronor.

They didn't make up 'Wanted' posters for them like one newspaper did after Tommy Salo let in that goal against Belarus in the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics because Sweden is, after all, the defending Torino 2006 Olympic champion.

And one other reason. Henrik Lundqvist did show up.

SAVIOUR OF THE SQUAD

Sweden had just lost 4-2 to Switzerland here when the New York Rangers netminder flew in as saviour of the squad which has made a rematch of last year's semifinal against Canada here today.

Lundqvist probably had a better excuse than any of the Swedes who said no, his father recovering from brain tumour surgery in January. But Lundqvist called his dad and his father told him "Play in the world championships - I'm fine now."

While many of the above named Swedes are also claiming bumps and bruises, Lundqvist is playing with a bum knee as a result of two Pittsburgh Penguins running over him at the same time in Game 4 of their Stanley Cup playoff series. He says it hurts on off-days but he forgets about it during the games.

But he's here, the biggest reason Sweden has hope to beat the star-studded Canadian team in the get-to-the-gold-medal game.

"I just took 48 hours to make my decision," said Lundqvist. I talked to Bengt-Ake Gustafsson and he asked me about how the knee felt. I said it's good. I'm coming.

"It's good when you can tell that the coaches really want you to come and the players are really happy to see you arrive."

Coach Gustafsson said "it was a big disappointment" to have so many players turn him down but also "a big thing for the team when Henrik said 'I'm coming.' It was very emotional for everybody."

Lundqvist said it's a combination of love of hockey and love of country.

"You don't get too many opportunities in the NHL to play for your country.

"Sometimes, after the playoffs, maybe you feel you have no energy left.

"But I felt I still had the energy and didn't want my season to be over. I felt like the season ended too fast.

"Everybody is excited to play Canada, in Canada, in a big game.

"People didn't really believe in this team when the tournament started. I see it as a big challenge to beat this Canadian team. It's a big challenge for me. I think it will be fun."

Some members of the goaltenders union wouldn't call going against Canada's big line of Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf and Dany Heatley as being fun.

"The Nash line goes hard to the net and they really, really like to score goals," he allows of the trio which has scored 17 goals and added 22 assists for 39 points in seven games. That's why it's a great challenge."

While Sweden is not exactly a bunch of carpenters and electricians like Norway, there are only 10 NHLers on this team, and young Robert Nilsson of the Edmonton Oilers has a higher profile than most of them after you've mentioned the name Nicklas Backstrom. And they're going against a team with $64 million of salaried players.

'ALL-STARS'

"The whole team is a bunch of all-stars," Anton Stralman, who counts as a Toronto Maple Leaf on their roster, despite limited time with the big team.

"In the lineup they are a better team but I'm not sure they are a better team," he added, saying they'll play a team game and "try to make them a little bored and change their style of play."

Lundqvist is philosophical.

"Anything can happen in one game," he said.

"Canada looks to have the better lineup. They have lots of NHL players and star players.

"In the lineup they are a better team, but I'm not sure they'll play better as a team.

"That's been our strength in the last four games. We need to play smart and solid. That's our only chance.

"But if we play our best game, I think everybody in our locker-room believes we can beat them."

Oh, and one other thing.

"It's important that the goalie plays well," he said.


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