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Karlsson-Lundqvist collision puts scare into Sweden

by Arpon Basu

SOCHI -- Sweden has had more than its fair share of high-profile injury issues thus far at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and it came close to yet another one Monday.

This one would have been the worst one yet.

After losing Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen and Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin prior to and then captain Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings one game into the Olympics, Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist was crashed into by Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson during practice Monday.

Karlsson was trying to catch Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson as he was breaking toward the net and dove, his momentum carrying him into Lundqvist and taking the New York Rangers goalie out like he was a bowling pin.

Lundqvist needed a few minutes to recover, but ultimately was alright and should be in net for Sweden's quarterfinal game on Wednesday.

"I toe-picked and dived without really thinking about what happened," Karlsson said. "But it should be fine. I think it looked a bit worse than it was. Luckily, I'm not that heavy.

"I told him I was sorry, about 500 times.''

The thought of losing their star goaltender crossed the players' minds as Lundqvist lay on the ice afterward.

"We can laugh about it because it wasn't too serious," Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson said. "But it gave everybody a big scare."

Sweden enters the knockout phase of the tournament as the top seed, the only team to win all three of its preliminary round games in regulation. Yet the Swedes, much like fellow gold medal candidates Canada and Russia, had their issues in group play.

Sweden was up 4-0 in its opening game against the Czech Republic, but then laid back and allowed the Czechs back in it before winning 4-2. Sweden then won 1-0 against Switzerland, the only goal the Swiss have allowed in the tournament.

In Sweden's final preliminary game Saturday, Latvia had a clean breakaway down 4-3 midway through the third period. Lundqvist was forced to make a great save on Martins Karsums, and about a minute later Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler scored to give Sweden some breathing room in a 5-3 win.

In all three cases, Sweden allowed a lesser team to hang around, something that could be deadly in an elimination game.

As the top seed, Sweden will face the winner of the Slovenia-Austria qualification round game, which should provide a relatively easy path to the semifinals.

But Alfredsson was on the Swedish team that lost to Belarus in the quarterfinals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, so he knows better than most not to take any team lightly when your tournament life is on the line.

And in a way, the so-called trouble Sweden had in the preliminary round should prepare it for that reality in the quarterfinals.

"I don't think I need to tell them anything about that after the group games we've had," Alfredsson said. "We are going to be the favorites, no doubt about that, so it's just about balancing our energy the right way.

"We can't focus on what we have to lose, but on what we can win."

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