Team Sweden will be short a Mule when it heads to Sochi next month.
Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen is suffering from concussion symptoms that forced his removal from the Olympic roster on Thursday afternoon.
It’s a big loss for the Swedes, whose status among the favorites looks shakier every day as injuries (Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg) and slumps (Daniel Sedin, Loui Eriksson) slow their top forwards.
“Johan is unique. He’s a tank who will stop at nothing, who has good hockey sense and great hands,” Swedish coach Per Mårts said.
Mårts added that he wasn’t sure yet who would draw in for the Swedes because of those other lingering injury issues.
“No, I do not know yet,” he said. “I want to hear how Henrik [Sedin] and [Zetterber] are before we take the next guy.”
There are a few NHL options for the spot:
Patric Hornqvist: The veteran winger has 10 goals and 27 points in 50 games for the Nashville Predators. He has a big body that allows him to play a similar role to what would have been asked of Franzen and he has considerable national team experience on his resumé. The one problem: He has only one assist to show for his past 13 games with Tre Kroner. If he’s slotted deeper on the depth chart, he might be the safest pick.
Marcus Johansson: Washington’s young forward has never played for the national side, but he does have experience at the World Juniors where he served as captain of the 2010 team. He’s quick, versatile and a terrific playmaker (26 assists in 53 games with the Caps) and has proven chemistry with teammate Nicklas Backstrom.
Gustav Nyquist: This might be the boldest choice. The young forward has been brilliant at times for the Red Wings this season, but he’s wildly inexperienced. He’s a more skilled player than Franzen, but that might not help if Mårts is looking for a player who is more similar in style to the fallen veteran.
Mikael Backlund: He’s a long shot, but if Sweden wants a player who’s in the sweet spot, Backlund could earn consideration. He’s scored six goals this month and is coming off a two-goal effort against the Preds.