The injury woes that have plagued the Red Wings this season have followed them to Sochi, as it was announced Friday morning that Detroit and Team Sweden captain Henrik Zetterberg will miss the remainder of the Olympic ice hockey tournament due to a herniated disc.
With the loss of the star forward, Sweden named Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall its captain for the remainder of the Olympic tournament.
“Well it’s sad,” forward Daniel Alfredsson told NBC Sports Net’s Pierre McGuire about the loss of Zetterberg. “I mean I know how much he wanted to come. The battle has been on and off throughout the year but it didn’t look that bad, it felt pretty good in the first game and then obviously yesterday things took a turn for the worst.”
Zetterberg missed 11 games in December due to the injury, and was out for two games in late January when the lower back issue resurfaced. As the Olympics drew near, the forward’s status to participate in his fourth Winter Games was uncertain. But Zetterberg recorded four assists in Detroit’s final five games leading up to the break, helping the team to a 3-1-1 record, and appeared to be healthy as he traveled to Sochi.
The Olympic captain was pivotal in Sweden’s opening preliminary tournament matchup, scoring the game-winning goal in his country’s 4-2 victory over the Czech Republic. But Zetterberg missed Thursday’s practice as his back injury flared up again, and the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation announced Friday that he would miss the rest of the tournament.
Zetterberg will return to Detroit to be evaluated and will not be available when the team resumes play on Feb. 25.
Zetterberg is the second Detroit player and third member of Team Sweden to withdraw from the Olympics. Wings forward Johan Franzen announced in early February he wouldn’t participate in the 2014 Winter Games due to lingering concussion-like symptoms. Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin, who has 40 points through 52 NHL games, also missed the Olympics due to a rib injury.
The loss of Zetterberg was apparent in Sweden’s game against Switzerland Friday, as the two countries remained locked in a scoreless tie after two periods.
But with one Red Wing down, another stepped up to the challenge for Team Sweden. Participating in his fifth Olympics, 41-year-old Daniel Alfredsson scored the game-winning goal with just over seven minutes left in regulation to give Sweden a 1-0 victory over Switzerland.
“Well it was a battle in our own end and then I saw Erik (Karlsson) get it and I thought I’m going to bust my butt up the ice,” Alfredsson explained. “He gets entry, make a couple of nice moves and I just drove the net and was lucky to get a juicy rebound.”
The score marked the veteran’s 12th Olympic goal and his first of the 2014 tournament in what is likely his final appearance in the Winter Games.
Henrik Lundqvist did his part to keep Sweden in the game by making a number of acrobatic stops, as the goaltender headed a fluttering puck and made a spectacular right pad save to keep Switzerland off the scoreboard. Behind 26 saves in the shutout, Lundqvist helped Sweden remain unbeaten through its first two games.
“It’s nice for us to win the first two games here but it doesn’t mean that much,” Alfredsson said. “We’re going to have to play better and you know it’s nice for us now, we have our goaltending playing unbelievable and that’s always important in a short tournament.”
Sweden will play its final preliminary tournament game Saturday against Latvia at 12 p.m. on USA.
Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea