Sabres, Lightning set to open series in Sweden
The NHL Global Series game between the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning in Stockholm on Friday will provide another opportunity for the league to showcase itself abroad. And as a bonus, several players will get the chance to play in their home country.
The Sabres feature six players on their roster who are from Sweden: forwards Marcus Johansson, Victor Olofsson and Johan Larsson, defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Lawrence Pilut, and goaltender Linus Ullmark.
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is the only Tampa Bay player from Sweden.
The game is scheduled to be played at the Ericsson Globe, one of the most iconic sports venues in Stockholm. The two teams also will meet there Saturday.
"It's like Madison Square Garden, a powerful arena," Dahlin told the Buffalo News. "You're super excited to play there. I've never been able to. My (club) team (Frolunda) played there, but I've been injured or at World Juniors so I didn't get the chance."
Johansson played for the New Jersey Devils last season when they opened the season against the Edmonton Oilers in Gothenburg, Sweden. He told the Buffalo News before the trip that it was a very memorable experience.
This two-game trip, however, has more of a business approach because the Sabres will be trying to end their first three-game losing streak of the season.
"You're definitely excited about it, but at the same time we're going there to play hockey," Johansson said. "This group wants to get better every night. We practice hard, play hard and don't look too far ahead. We're kind of in the moment, which helps us a lot."
Hedman, who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman during the 2017-18 season, isn't guaranteed to play on Friday, but the possibility is looking better.
He departed a 4-1 loss at the New York Rangers after the first period on Oct. 29, and it later was revealed that Hedman has a lingering lower-body injury. He took the ice on Monday, however, and practiced in full on Tuesday.
"We're bringing him along slowly," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters in Sweden. "All I can say is how he said he felt on the ice. He said he felt good."
The Lightning could use the boost, as they're 2-3-1 since getting off to a 4-2-1 start.
Tampa Bay last played at home on Oct. 26 against the Nashville Predators and won't return to Amalie Arena until Nov. 14, when they host the New York Rangers.
Buffalo has been off since a 1-0 loss to the visiting New York Islanders last Saturday. The Sabres have scored three goals in their three-game skid and have been held to two goals or fewer in the past five games.
Despite the recent struggles, the native Swedes on the Sabres still expect to have chills when they take the ice Friday.
"I look at it that it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing to come home and play there in the NHL," Larsson said. "To play in your home country is going to be unbelievable."
--Field Level MediaHome