SOCHI, Russia – Watching Daniel and Henrik Sedin operate in the offensive zone is like watching two hockey players share a brain. Their passes effortlessly find each other. They chemistry makes one wonder why every general manager in hockey hasn’t scouted sets of twins exclusively for the last decade.
But if Daniel Sedin is going to win a gold medal at the Sochi Games, it’s not going to be with this brother. The Vancouver Canucks star center bowed out of the Olympics for Team Sweden with a rib injury, the result of a cross-check by Phoenix Coyotes center Martin Hanzal. The Sochi tournament, which begins Wednesday, marks the first time in 16 years the Sedins haven’t lineup beside each other in an international tournament.
“It’s part of the game,” said Daniel Sedin of the injury. “It’s unfortunate that it happened right before the Olympics.”
The loss of Henrik Sedin and fellow injured forward Johan Franzen meant a reshaping of the Team Sweden top six. Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who in the 2010 Olympics played with Daniel Alfredsson, will have Daniel Sedin on one wing and Loui Eriksson of the Boston Bruins on the other.
“We know we’re going to miss them,” said Backstrom of the injured players. “But other players get an opportunity to step up.”
Backstrom did well for himself in Vancouver, playing at a point per game pace and leading all centers in faceoff percentage. The setup man for Alex Ovechkin in Washington, he looks forward to doing the same with Daniel Sedin.
“They’re two totally different hockey players. But Daniel knows how to put the puck in the net as well,” he said.
Eriksson doesn't see any issue with adding Sedin to their line, despite his unique chemistry with his brother. “I think he’s such a good player he can manage to play with other players," he said.
Sedin believes Backstrom will be able to mesh well with him.
“It’s pretty similar to playing with Henrik. They play a similar way,” he said. “Backstrom likes to hold on to pucks, bring it up from his own end and dish it off. Hopefully it’ll be an easy transition for us.”
Backstrom said he’s already on the same page as the Canucks sniper.
“We think hockey the same way. It’s to our advantage,” he said.
So if things go well for Sweden, maybe Backstrom will be the honorary third Sedin. (Hey, if an Olympic badminton player can be one …)
How well can things go for Sweden? They’re considered contenders for gold, but haven’t necessarily gotten the same accolades as Russia and Canada.
“Lots of people talk about Russia and Canada. Maybe that’s a good thing,” said Backstrom.
One factor the new top line for the Swedes wants to take advantage of: the larger ice surface. “It’s a totally different game. If you’re able to use it to your advantage, you can be successful,” said Sedin.