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Sundin & Alfredsson Make Nice ... for Now

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TURIN, Italy (CP) -- Several players in the men's Olympic tournament are putting NHL rivalries on hold while wearing their country's colours, perhaps none more so than Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson.

The Swedish stars are on either side of the Battle of Ontario -- Sundin for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Alfredsson for the Ottawa Senators. It's one of the NHL's fiercest rivalry -- both teams truly dislike each other.

But for 12 days in Turin, the two must work together on the top line for Sweden as well as the top power-play unit.

Alfredsson says the two are used to it now, noting they have played together before in world championships and at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

In the meantime, the Sens-Leafs rivalry has continued to grow.

Toronto has broken Ottawa's heart in four playoff series with the Sens fighting back this season by winning the first five regular-season games between the two clubs, three of them in embarrassing fashion.

Sundin, for one, was in no mood to discuss the subject Sunday. The NHL can wait. Right now Alfredsson isn't the enemy.

"We'll leave that for next week, but not here,'' Sundin said bluntly but politely before leaving the interview area Sunday after a 2-1 win over the U.S.

But Alfredsson insists it's not that difficult at all.

"We really enjoy playing with each other, well, I enjoy playing with him anyway,'' said Alfredsson, not wanting to speak for Sundin. "It's a lot of fun. But it is different for sure. Sometimes you wish you could play with him on the same NHL team as well but (Senators forward Jason) Spezza's not a bad guy.''

Sundin is centring a line with Alfredsson and Tampa Bay's Fredrik Modin, a former Leafs teammate. Modin laughed when asked whether there was any tension between his Swedish linemates because of their NHL rivalry.

"I haven't heard anything yet that's been too bad,'' Modin said. "There hasn't been any fighting yet, but I'll make sure I sit right between them in the dressing room so that won't happen.''

It may be the last time Sundin and Alfredsson ever play together. The sentiment among many of the Swedish veterans is that this is their last chance at Olympic gold before the Swedes come back with a younger and different-looking team for 2010 in Vancouver.

So they'll do whatever it takes to make this work.

"We're focused on Team Sweden, whatever happens when we get back happens,'' said Alfredsson. "But this is big for us right now, we probably know that this is the last big tournament for us together and we're trying to make the most of it.''

Alfredsson scored the opener Sunday and then set up Mikael Samuelsson's winner in the third period on the power-play. With Peter Forsberg not 100 per cent -- he dressed but didn't play Sunday -- Sundin's line could be the difference in whether the Swedes can win gold.

"It was a little better tonight,'' Sundin said. "The power play is going to be really important in this tournament. I also think the teams are closer than ever in this tournament, there's five or six teams that have a chance to go to the final. So the power play will be huge.''

Alfredsson shared Sundin's sentiment on the parity of the tournament and the need to capitalize on chances. There's very little leeway.

"I've never seen a tournament that's so wide open as this one this year, where you have seven teams that can win it and that's not even counting Switzerland, who have been the big surprise of the tournament,'' said Alfredsson. "Come quarter-finals anything can happen, that's the reality.''

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