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Kazakhstan vs. Sweden

NHL.com @NHL

Ever since its shocking quarterfinal exit from the 2002 Olympics, Sweden has been waiting for a chance to redeem itself on the international stage.

The Swedes take their first step in that direction Wednesday when they face Kazakhstan.

Sweden has long been a significant contributor to the NHL, boasting stars such as Ottawa Senators right wing Daniel Alfredsson, Toronto Maple Leafs center Mats Sundin and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

Yet all three players watched in the quarterfinals four years ago when a 70-foot shot by Belarus' Vladimir Kopat bounced off the head of goaltender Tommy Salo and into the net with 2:24 to play in a 4-3 loss.

"I don't understand how we could lose against this team," Sundin said after the defeat.

While Alfredsson, Sundin and Lidstrom have made the trip for this Olympics, the status of Philadelphia center Peter Forsberg is still uncertain. He missed the Flyers' final seven games before the break due to a groin problem, and has suffered numerous injuries throughout the season.

Sweden, though, has a deep enough roster that it will still be a medal favorite if Forsberg does not play.

Hoping goaltending will not be an issue this time around, the Swedes have turned to Rangers rookie Henrik Lundqvist, who has gone 25-7-6 with a 2.09 goals-against average and two shutouts for New York this season.

The Swedes are hoping history will repeat itself by choosing Lundqvist. In 1994, Salo was an unproven, untested rookie who came through in a penalty-shot shootout to give Sweden the gold medal with a victory over Canada.

After its top players, Sweden still has a number of NHLers on its team, including the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, from the Vancouver Canucks. Lidstrom's Detroit teammates Tomas Holmstrom, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg, and Tampa Bay Lighting left wing Fredrik Modin are also on the roster.

Kazakhstan's roster, meanwhile, has just two players from the NHL and neither are considered among the league's elite. Toronto center Nik Antropov and Colorado Avalanche rookie goaltender Vitaly Kolesnik are the lone NHL players on Kazakhstan, which did not qualify for the 2002 Olympics.

Antropov is expected to play all three forward positions to help Kazakhstan generate any form of offense. His likely linemate will be CSKA Moscow forward Dmitriy Upper, who led the team in scoring at the 2005 World Championships with just two points.

Kolesnik made a name for himself at the World Championships, compiling a .952 save percentage in five games. Kazakhstan did defeat Germany in that tournament, and its defensive style kept it in most games.

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