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Pahlsson an underrated, but appreciated piece for Jackets

by Risto Pakarinen
Samuel Pahlsson is not someone who needs the limelight, and as the Columbus Blue Jackets make their temporary home in Stockholm, Sweden, Pahlsson sits in the corner -- on the forwards' side of the room -- next to R.J. Umberger, looking at the backs of most of the reporters talking to other players.

And that's how he likes it.

But this is the Compuware NHL Premiere, and the Blue Jackets will open their regular season in Stockholm, in Sweden, which happens to be Pahlsson's native country, so he is the story. There's no escaping the focus. Last night, Pahlsson and a fellow Swede, Anton Stralman, spent some time in the TV studio, talking hockey on the biggest sports news show in the country.

The last time Pahlsson made a cameo on the show was probably when he won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, and then with the Cup over his head.

"Well, it's a little different from what I'm used to," he said after the Blue Jackets' second practice in Stockholm.

"For me, playing here is very special -- this is as close to playing on home ice as it can get."
-- Samuel Pahlsson

"There's a lot of Swedish media here, and even the North American media wants to talk with us (Swedes). But it's going to be fun. It feels good. For me, playing here is very special -- this is as close to playing on home ice as it can get," said Pahlsson, who's from Ånge, Sweden, a small town 450 kilometers north of the Ericsson Globe Arena.

And being at home, Pahlsson -- or Samme, as his nickname is in Sweden -- has a lot of supporters in the stands. His family flew in to see him play, and many other friends and relatives will also be in the arena when the puck drops on Friday and the Blue Jackets take on the San Jose Sharks.

"Sure, I don't have the exact number, but there will be quite a few of them," he said, smiling.

Last year in Finland, the only Finnish players on the Premiere teams, the Panthers and the Blackhawks, were rookies Ville Koistinen and Antti Niemi, who were fighting for roster spots even as they were thrust into the spotlight. In this instance, Pahlsson, Stralman and Kristian Huselius are all key players on the team, so the added attention won't be a distraction.

"Of course, I've told guys where to go and have given them some pointers on what to see," Pahlsson said. "But (we) don't have too much time to do anything special here, we have a game (Tuesday), a team building exercise on Wednesday, a team dinner on Thursday, and then we have the two games."

On the ice, Pahlsson is one of those players you'll notice when he's not on the team. He's smart and conscientious, and most coaches would like to have at least one of him on their teams. That's why he's got the Stanley Cup ring and the Olympic gold medal.

With the season just beginning, nobody can really tell what to expect.

"There are up to 50 players in the camp, and the exhibition games just aren't the same thing as the games with points on the line, so it takes time to get the team together, and everybody on the same page. But we're here to win the two games," Pahlsson said.

In 2008, the Penguins opened their season in Stockholm, and ended it in a Stanley Cup parade. Last fall, the Blackhawks played their first regular-season games in Helsinki, Finland, and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

"It'd be great if we could keep the streak alive," Pahlsson said, laughing. "[The trip to Europe] is great, the guys get to learn to know each other. This whole thing is a bit of a team-building exercise."
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