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SJOSTROM READY TO TAKE ON LARGER ROLE WITH COYOTES

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes
By: Matt Rosen

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The season is just two weeks old and the Phoenix Coyotes are not off to the start they had hoped for. After winning just two of their first seven games, the team is looking for someone to step up and provide the club with a spark. There is plenty of talent up front with the likes of Shane Doan, Ladislav Nagy, Mike Comrie, Owen Nolan and Jeremy Roenick, but there is one player who is starting to show that he too can play a big role and help turn around the team's fortunes.

For Fredrick Sjostrom, the 2006-07 season got of to a less than desirable start to say the least. During the Coyotes first game of the preseason, Sjostrom suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for four weeks. Coming off a season where he started out as a checking forward and finished on the top line, Sjostrom's high hopes for a fast start were taken away.

"I was devastated when I got hurt because its been a long summer, we didn't make the playoffs," said Sjostrom. " I really wanted to get back and be in good shape so I worked out real hard and to be injured in your first game really sucks because all you want to do is play."

The preseason injury was difficult for Sjostrom, but he continued to work hard to get healthy as quickly as he could and return to the ice.

"I just made up my mind that I was going to be back quick and I worked really hard with our trainers (Mike Bahn and Chris Broadhurst) to get back into shape and I guess I just heal well," said Sjostrom. "I went everyday to get treatment on my shoulders, I had rehabilitation workouts, I am still a little weak but good enough to be able to play."

As a result of Sjostrom's injury, Phoenix Head Coach Wayne Gretzky had no option but to juggle the lines in search of a productive replacement for Sjostrom on the top line. Once he was medically cleared to return to action, Gretzky quickly brought Sjostrom back along side with Shane Doan and Steven Reinprecht on the club's top line. It was exciting for Sjostrom to be back in the lineup, but the euphoria wouldn't last long as Reinprecht suffered a fractured collarbone, which will keep him out of the lineup for eight weeks.

"I didn't expect to come back and be on that line right away," said Sjostrom. "I (played in) a few games and worked hard (but) the results didn't come for the team so they did a little scramble with the lines and I ended up on that same line again, which I didn't mind. We had a good run at the end of last year we had pretty good chemistry on that line and it was tough to see Rhino (Reinprecht) get hurt."

Sjostrom, 23, is still feeling his way on this team and figuring out his role, whether it is as a checker, a scorer or a hybrid of the two. Coyotes Executive Vice President & General Manager Michael Barnett feels that "Freddy" has all the tools to become a consistent scorer in the National Hockey League.

"When he came up (last year) his only role was that of a checker, because his speed lets him get to the puck early and he is physical, he's not afraid to take a hit to make a play," said Barnett. "He has all the tools to be more than that, great acceleration, terrific velocity in his shot he needs to be more accurate when he's putting shots on the net but that will come with experience."

During the Coyotes first road trip of the season, Barnett took an opportunity to sit down with the young left wing and to talk with him about his role on the team and how he needs to start thinking more offensively.

"We just talked about thinking more than just contributing to this club in a checking defensive role, that we need offense out of him particularly if he's going to keep getting better every year." Barnett said his conversation with Sjostrom. "Put the puck on the net and good things will happen whether you score or bang in a rebound, he did it, it worked and hopefully its another element of confidence that will have him enjoy more success in that area."

"I definitely want to score more goals," said Sjostrom. "It's a thing that I'm going to have to keep working at, just to keep shooting more and throw pucks toward the net, and hopefully that will generate more goals."

Sjostrom came into the NHL as a checker but he has all the tools to be a scorer. The Coyotes are hoping that's what he'll turn out to be, a go-to-guy. While many Coyotes fans are excited by the prospect of Fredrik Sjostrom being that guy, nobody is more excited than Sjostrom himself.

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