With 46 games behind them and only another nine remaining in the regular season, the Swedish Elitserien teams can see the final stretch ahead. The league will take a short Olympic break, starting Feb. 8, but will resume Feb. 27, the day before the Olympic final.
At least Peter Forsberg is confident his Tre Kronor will not be at home by then, as he was upset about the Feb. 27 game being scheduled where it was. (Forsberg, by the way, twisted his pinky finger in a game this week and is questionable to play in Modo’s game against Stockholm’s Djurgarden on Saturday.)
Linkoping HC tops the standings with 87 points, three more than Jonkoping’s HV71 who’ve played 46 games, one fewer than Linkoping. Frolunda is holding onto the last playoff spot with 60 points. With only 27 points in play, Linkoping and HV71 have practically – and soon mathematically – clinched their playoff spots.
HV71 KEEPS ON SIGNING
Last week team captain Johan Davidsson, this week his linemate Jukka Voutilainen. Fredrik Stillman, HV71’s director of hockey operations, has been a busy man lately, as he tries to re-sign the team’s most important players.
Voutilainen signed a four-year deal with the club he joined four years ago. He’s collected 74 goals and 158 points in 182 games.
“Jukka is a true sniper and a valuable player for us, not just on the power play, but in general,” Stillman said.
Voutilainen says he was fielding offers from several clubs, but wanted to stay in Jonkoping.
“It felt like the right thing to do.” he said. “HV71 is a great organization, Jonkoping is a great city and we have an excellent team. After I made up my mind about staying, I wanted to stay for a long time.”
Like goalie masks? Team Sweden’s Stefan Liv – one of the players who won both Olympic and World Championship gold in 2006 – unveiled his new Olympic mask on the HV71 blog.
The blue, yellow and white mask sports the silhouettes of former Swedish Olympic heroes: cross-country skiers Thomas Wassberg and Gunde Svan, alpine champion Ingemar Stenmark and speed skater Tomas Gustafson.
EIN BISSCHEN FRIESEN
The San Jose Sharks made Jeff Friesen the 11th overall pick in 1994 and he won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2003, but his career took a wrong turn a few years ago.
First, the Calgary Flames released him in 2007 and, in 2007-08, he only played five games in the American League. Having failed in his comeback attempt with the Sharks in 2008 and missing the full season due to a groin injury, Friesen is now back playing hockey at a high level.
This fall, Friesen signed a one-year deal with German Eisbaren Berlin (Berlin Polar Bears), a dynasty in German hockey with four German titles in five years. The team is on top of the DEL standings again and Friesen is tied for second in team scoring with 12 goals and 38 points in 41 games, three fewer than Scott Walker, the team’s leading scorer.
SUMMANEN BACK IN FINLAND
Maybe the fans walking out of a game was the wake-up call Tampere Ilves management and ownership needed. This week, Ilves announced the club had hired former Team Finland head coach and former NHLer Raimo Summanen as a consultant to oversee the club’s hockey operations strategy.
Summanen is something of a controversial person in Finnish hockey. In 2004, just a few months after he had coached Team Finland to the World Cup final against Canada, he was fired.
A couple of years later, he had to leave his post as the director of hockey operations at Espoo Blues, due to strained personal relationships with others in the organization. This fall, he was fired as head coach of Swiss Rapperswil after – according to media reports – the players had threatened management with a strike if Summanen didn’t change his ways. The team won just one of their 11 games in November.
In Ilves, Summanen will talk to the people in the organization and make observations on how things are done. He will then report to the board. His contract expires April 30, 2010.
Eye On Europe will return March 12.
Eye on Europe will be featured on THN.com every Friday throughout the season. Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden who also writes for NHL.com and IIHF.com. When not writing about European hockey on THN, he's probably writing about hockey at ristopakarinen.com/hockey as Puckarinen.
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