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Forsberg slated to return for Sweden in pivotal game with Latvia

NHL.com @NHL

Sweden's hopes of advancing to the medal round are about to get a huge boost.

Philadelphia Flyers star Peter Forsberg is expected to make his debut at the Turin Games when Sweden meets Latvia in a pivotal preliminary-round game.

The Swedes are 1-1-0 in Group B play and coming off a lopsided 5-0 loss to Russia on Thursday.

"I skated. I felt fine," Forsberg said Friday after practice. "No problem at all with the groin. It was better than I expected. I practiced yesterday morning and it also felt great."

The nagging injury caused Forsberg, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, to miss his last eight games with the Flyers and Sweden's first two Olympic contests.

Cause for concern had grown over the past several days if Forsberg, who also missed six games with the Flyers earlier this season with a groin tear, would play in Turin because he didn't want to risk further injury.

"I'm looking forward to my first game in three weeks," he said. "It's proven to be a good decision to have waited a bit longer than I needed to. Maybe I rested a few more days than necessary, but it's better to be safe."

Forsberg, likely to play on the fourth line with fellow NHL players P.J. Axelsson and Samuel Pahlsson, helped lead Sweden to gold at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. He also played in the 1998 Nagano Games, where Sweden lost to Finland in the quarterfinals.

He has three goals and 10 assists in 12 Olympic games and is expected to jump-start an offense that started strong with a 7-2 win Wednesday over Kazakhstan.

Russia, a medal favorite upset by Slovakia the night before, held a 32-24 advantage in shots and beat goaltender Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers three times in a span of just over 11 minutes of the second period.

"You are begging for trouble when you give up 3-on-2s and 2-on-1s to a speedy team like this," Toronto Maple Leafs star Mats Sundin said. "You're probably going to have one bad game like that in any tournament, and hopefully we got it out of the way."

Latvia entered its game Thursday against Slovakia in high spirits after tying the United States the night before, but was unable to stop the Slovaks' unrelenting offensive attack in a 6-3 loss.

Anaheim Mighty Ducks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, tied with Aleksandrs Nizivijs for the team lead in points with three, halved a 2-0 deficit early in the game. But Latvia's Arturs Irbe gave up goals to Pavol Demitra of the Los Angeles Kings and Marian Hossa of the Atlanta Thrashers to make it 4-1 after one.

"We both played last night and I think both teams were a little worn down," said Irbe, who finished with 19 saves. "In those situations, talent can get you through a game and Slovakia has a lot of skill."

The Latvians cut the deficit to 4-3 in the middle period on goals by Martins Cipulis and Nizivijs, but Ottawa Senators defenseman Zdeno Chara beat Irbe less than seven minutes after Nizivijs' tally

Hossa closed the scoring midway through the third.

The Swedes will continue preliminary-round play against the United States on Sunday while Latvia faces Russia.

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