Henrik Zetterberg is out of the Winter Olympics and that’s bad news for Sweden, and the Red Wings

Yahoo Sports
Henrik Zetterberg
.

View photo

Henrik Zetterberg #40 of Sweden celebrates a goal in the second period against Jakub Kovar #1 of Czech Republic during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group C game on day five of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 12, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

SOCHI, Russia — Moments after the Swedes squeaked past the Swiss on Friday, 1-0, Niklas Kronwall bumped into Mike Babcock in the basement of the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Kronwall had taken over as captain of the Tre Kronor for Henrik Zetterberg, who had been sidelined by a herniated disc. Babcock had a question.

“He just shortly asked how Hank was feeling,” Kronwall said.

Here was one of those awkward intersections of the NHL and the Olympics.

In the NHL, Babcock coaches Kronwall and Zetterberg for the Detroit Red Wings. Zetterberg is his captain. The Wings are riding a 22-season playoff streak but entered the Olympic break clinging to the final wild card spot in the East. They can’t afford to lose Zetterberg, especially with Pavel Datsyuk bothered by a bad knee, too.

[Related: Sweden's injury woes go from bad to worse]

In Sochi, Babcock coaches against Kronwall and Zetterberg for Canada. There was no inside info to sneak for the men’s hockey tournament – Sweden had already announced Zetterberg was out for duration – and the concern was personal as well as professional. But Sweden is one of Canada’s main competitors for gold, and in that context this was good news, especially with Johan Franzen – another Red Wing – and Henrik Sedin already out.

“It’s a big loss for them,” said Swiss forward Damien Brunner, who played with Zetterberg in Switzerland and Detroit in 2012-13 and traded texts with him about the injury. “I feel really bad for him. I heard it’s pretty bad, so I hope he’s going to be back as soon as possible. There is no chance for this tournament. The Red Wings, they need him.”

What does this do to Sweden when combined with the injuries to Franzen and Sedin?

“It’s a different team” Brunner said bluntly. “Maybe it’s the difference for them to win a medal or not, but it’s a long tournament. It just started.”

To be clear, the Olympics did not cause Zetterberg’s injury. The herniated disk is a chronic problem. He missed time in Detroit earlier this season, and he came back and played well. Then he scored a goal in Sweden’s 4-2 victory over the Czech Republic on Wednesday night. It wasn’t until later that it flared up, and Sweden’s doctors conferred with Detroit’s doctors before Zetterberg made the decision to pull out.

But this does show what the players will risk to participate in the Olympics – and what the owners don’t like about it. Zetterberg could have aggravated his back playing for the Wings, who are paying him $7.5 million this season, or he could have done it tying his shoes in Detroit. Still, he did it in Sochi, after playing for Sweden, after sitting in an airplane seat for hours to come halfway around the world. He’s in so much pain he can’t even fly back to North America right away. He might need surgery. There is no timetable for his return.

[More: 'It is so painful for him,' doctor says]

And this is just the latest break for Canada and the United States. The last two countries to win gold and silver on international ice were Sweden and Finland in 2006. Not only is Sweden now down two top centers and a top winger, but Finland is down three top centers – Mikko Koivu, Saku Koivu and Valtteri Filppula. The Russians are playing on home ice, and Datsyuk, their captain, is clearly hobbling.

Though the Canadians lost Steven Stamkos, one of the best goal-scorers in the game, they replaced him with Martin St. Louis, the NHL’s scoring champion last year. They are otherwise healthy and have so much depth they don’t know what to do with all their good players. The Americans are healthier than any of the top teams in this tournament.

“It’s a tough break for our team,” said Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “He’s our leader, our captain and one of our best players. To replace him is going to be almost impossible. I could just feel my energy went down a little when I heard the news, but at the same time, we have to regroup.”

The Swedes are not done. They still have tons of talent. But now they aren’t nearly as strong down the middle as the Canadians and maybe even the Americans, which might mean they will struggle to generate offense up front. They will have to rely on their skilled defense, and they will need Lundqvist to do what he has done so well for the New York Rangers – make saves and win tight, low-scoring games.

Take Friday’s prelim against the Swiss: The Swedes were outshot in the first period, 13-5. They were outskated and outchanced. Lundqvist had to keep them in it. They improved afterward, outshooting the Swiss the rest of the game, 26-13. But they still needed Lundqvist to come up big, and they didn’t score until late in the third period. Swiss goaltender Reto Berra – playing instead of star Jonas Hiller – let a rebound fall into the crease, and Daniel Alfredsson slapped it in.

“I don’t think there’s too many people that’s not Swedish that feel too sorry about our situation,” said Alfredsson, who also plays with Zetterberg in Detroit. “So we’re going to have to deal with it.”

[Related: Selanne hurt in opener but will play on]

The same could be said about non-Detroiters and the Wings.

“Obviously Hank’s not doing great right now,” Kronwall said. “We all know what he goes through on a daily basis to be able to play, and for him to sit out, you know, it’s pretty bad. In saying that, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to find a way through it. He won’t be with us anymore, but somehow we’ll still be around. Somehow.”

More Olympic coverage on Yahoo Sports:

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so that everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Win cash in one day fantasy football contests. Join now!

    Learn how to play

    Contest Entries Entry Fee Prizes Starts (EDT)
    Premier League £500 Tuesday 3/55 £10 £500 Tuesday 2:45 PM Enter
    Premier League £350 Tuesday 6/78 £5 £350 Tuesday 2:45 PM Enter
    PL £1 Learn To Play [No Risk] 39/150 £1 £180 Tuesday 2:45 PM Enter
    • Nicola Adams begins quest to go from golden girl to professional champion

      Nicola Adams begins quest to go from golden girl to professional champion

      Nicola Adams, the double Olympic flyweight champion, on Monday became the last of the three highest-profile women’s world amateur boxing stars to turn professional, and pledged to bring the sport “to new levels”. Adams follows Ireland’s Katie Taylor and American Claressa Shields into the pro ranks and will make her debut on April 8 in Manchester before a bout in her home city of Leeds on May 13. “I’ve achieved everything there is to achieve in my sport,” said the 34-year-old, who won gold medals at the London and Rio Olympic Games. More »

      The Telegraph - 1 hour 43 minutes ago
    • Las Palmas still expect Jonathan Calleri transfer despite West Ham delaying deal

      Las Palmas still expect Jonathan Calleri transfer despite West Ham delaying deal

      UD Las Palmas president Miguel Angel Ramirez has claimed that he is only expecting to receive the green light from West Ham to complete the arrival of Jonathan Calleri. The club chief says that the Hammers have delayed the long-expected arrival of the Argentinian forward to the La Liga outfits but he still is convinced of getting the player before the end of the current January transfer window. The 23-year-old forward agreed a loan move to West Ham from Uruguayan outfit Deportivo Maldonado during last summer's transfer window after being the top scorer in the Copa Libertadores for Brazilian side Sao Paulo and represented Argentina in the Rio Olympics. More »

      International Business Times - 3 hours ago
    • Fox needs Patriots' popularity to drive Super Bowl ratings

      By Tim Baysinger NEW YORK, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Fox will have to rely on the popularity of the New England Patriots as they face the less-celebrated Atlanta Falcons if it wants to draw a record U.S. television crowd for the Super Bowl. The 21st Century Fox unit is set to broadcast the 51st edition of the National Football League's title game on Feb. 5 in what is traditionally the most-watched TV show of the year with viewership of more than 100 million. Big Super Bowl ratings are particularly important this year as the NFL is coming off a season in which it saw its average TV audience drop by 8 percent. More »

      Reuters - 5 hours ago
    • Belarusian canoeists have drugs ban overturned by CAS

      (Reuters) - The Belarusian men's canoe and kayak team was wrongly banned from last year's Olympics for drug offences and has had its suspension from all competition lifted, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said on Monday. A CAS Panel ruled that there was "insufficient evidence" to uphold several alleged anti-doping offences at a training camp in April, 2016. "Accordingly, in the absence of multiple anti-doping rule violations, the Panel found that there was no justification to uphold the imposition of a one-year ban on the Belarus senior men's Canoe and Kayak teams and decided to set aside the decision taken by the ICF Executive Committee," CAS said in a statement. More »

      Reuters - 5 hours ago
    • Doping- Belarusian canoeists have drugs ban overturned by CAS

      The Belarusian men's canoe and kayak team was wrongly banned from last year's Olympics for drug offences and has had its suspension from all competition lifted, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said on Monday. A CAS Panel ruled that there was "insufficient evidence" to uphold several alleged anti-doping offences at a training camp in April, 2016. "Accordingly, in the absence of multiple anti-doping rule violations, the Panel found that there was no justification to uphold the imposition of a one-year ban on the Belarus senior men's Canoe and Kayak teams and decided to set aside the decision taken by the ICF Executive Committee," CAS said in a statement. More »

      Reuters - 5 hours ago