Hornqvist injury shows the risk Preds’ GM must face with Olympics

Monday, February 22, 2010 at 9:47pm
predmain.jpg
Patric Hornqvist is down and dazed after taking a vicious elbow to the head by Finland's Joni Pitkanen (left) Sunday night in Vancouver.

David Poile did not see the hit that knocked the Nashville Predators’ top goal scorer, Patric Hornqvist, out of Sunday’s Olympic contest between Sweden and Finland.

It was clear to him, though, that it nearly was the worst-case scenario he and his peers envision every four years when they send their players to compete for their respective national teams for two weeks in the middle of the NHL season.

“That’s the risk we all take,” Poile said Monday from Vancouver, where he serves as assistant general manager for the United States national team. “It’s crossed every general manager’s mind when we send our players, and arguably our best players, to compete in the Olympics that they could get hurt.”

Poile received word from the general manager of the Swedish national team early Monday that Hornqvist, who has 23 goals in 60 NHL games this season, was OK and was expected to play Wednesday in the quarterfinals.

The incident occurred late in the second period of Sweden’s 3-0 victory when Hornqvist absorbed a hit to the head from Finnish defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the play. Hornqvist needed help from team trainers to get off the ice. After a brief stop on the bench, he was taken to the locker room and missed the remainder of the contest.

The International Ice Hockey Federation made a firm statement that it does not want to see a repeat of such actions. Pitkanen was suspended for one game, which meant he would miss Wednesday’s quarterfinal.

Hornqvist does not have a point three games for Sweden, which was 3-0-0 and outscored its opponents by a combined 9-2 in pool play. Other Nashville players and prospects though have had a better time of it in Vancouver.

• USA defenseman Ryan Suter had four assists in pool play, including two in the Americans’ 5-3 upset of Canada on Sunday.

• Defenseman Shea Weber logged a team-high 66:02 of ice time and had three assists in Canada’s first three contests.

• Center Marcel Goc had a hand in two of the three goals scored by Germany (one goal, one assist) in pool play. The Germans were shut out twice before they fell 5-3 to Belarus on Saturday.

• Defenseman Alexander Sulzer did not have a point but averaged more than 15 minutes of ice time for Germany.

• Forward Alexander Radulov, currently playing in Russia’s Continental Hockey league, had a goal and an assist as Russia won twice in regulation and once in a shootout.

• Forward Martin Erat has an assist in three games for the Czech Republic, which has won two of three, largely thanks to former Predators’ goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

“It’s awesome,” Poile said. “It’s a great experience for our relatively young players to be in this environment. Suter is on the ice for the first minute of play and the last minute every night. The same for Weber.

“Clearly, this is playoffs-plus. As we move forward as an organization, this is only going to help us.”

As long as no one gets hurt, that is.

Briefly

The Predators announced Monday that they signed a two-year affiliate agreement with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.

The deal extends the relationship between the franchises through the 2011-12 season and includes a mutual option for 2012-13. Milwaukee is the only AHL affiliate Nashville has had in its history.

A total of 104 players have appeared in games for both teams over the past 11 seasons, and current Predators’ assistant coach Peter Horachek was the Admirals’ head coach in 2002-03.

“With the Milwaukee organization working together with our own, led by Paul Fenton [Milwaukee’s general manager and Nashville’s assistant GM] and Michael Santos [Nashville director of hockey operations], this has been and will continue to be a partnership that rewards both teams, and most importantly, the hockey fans in both cities,” Poile said in a release announcing the move.