Forsberg decides to play it safe vs. USA

Updated: February 19, 2006, 3:29 PM ET
By Lindsay Berra | ESPN The Magazine

Have no fear, Flyers fans. When you watch the USA vs. Sweden game on tape delay and you can't find No. 21 in blue on the ice, check Sweden's bench, down on the end next to the backup goalie. That helmetless, goateed man is Peter Forsberg, and he's not in any kind of pain, he's just taking a rest.

Peter Forsberg
Forsberg

Forsberg played in Sweden's 6-1 rout of Latvia on Saturday night, tallying two assists while playing the wing on the fourth line with Sammy Pahlsson and P.J. Axelsson. It was his first game since suffering a left groin strain in a Flyers-Canadiens game on Jan. 25. Though an MRI on Feb. 12 showed that the injury had not fully healed and the Flyers medical staff advised Forsberg not to play, he accepted Sweden coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson's offer to sit Sweden's first two games of the Olympic tournament (a 5-0 loss to Russia and a 7-2 victory over Kazakhstan) and see what happened. Lucky for Sweden, he felt better.

"We decided when I got here that I would play one game this weekend instead of two," Forsberg said. "I feel great, I was going full speed in warm-up and it was no problem, but I didn't want to play back-to-back right after injury."

Forsberg and Gustafsson decided on the Latvia game, thinking it would be an easier night of skating than the U.S. game and giving Forsberg more rest before Tuesday's game against Slovakia and Wednesday's quarterfinal round.

"After the game [Saturday], Peter felt a little stiffness just from working out hard again," Gustafsson said. "After treatment this morning, he was 100 percent, but we made a decision that we want to be there in the end of the tournament and we didn't want to overload him in the beginning. We have more tough games coming up and we decided to save him."

Instead of not dressing for the game, Forsberg elected to sit on the bench and support his teammates. It wasn't a view he was used to.

"It was something new," Forsberg said. "But it was an easy game to sit on the bench. We played a good game and were kind of up the whole time. And we were just playing for position, it was not a knock-out game."

Those will come later. And Forsberg will be ready for them.

Lindsay Berra is a writer for ESPN The Magazine.

Lindsay Berra is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.