MONTREAL — Henrik Sedin’s absence will leave a big gap in Sweden’s lineup.
On Thursday evening, the Vancouver Canucks announced the 33-year-old would not be playing alongside his Swedish teammates at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Sedin has been dealing with a rib injury for nearly a month, but hoped to recover in time to battle for a gold medal.
Instead, he will stay home, nurse his injury, and prepare his return to the Canucks when the NHL season starts again at the end of February.
"To go over there and not feel 100 per cent was wrong towards myself and my teammates here (in Vancouver) and my Swedish teammates," said Sedin hours after the decision was made public. "Could I have been getting better, playing over there? Yeah, maybe. Could it have made things worse, coming back afterwards? Also yes. It wasn't a risk I was willing to take."
Sedin is a first-line centre, a play-maker, and an offensive threat every time he steps onto the ice. He has 40 points so far this season (9 goals, 31 assists), tied for highest point-getter in Vancouver's lineup with his brother Daniel, and averages more than 20 minutes of ice time every game.
"I don't see a reason for going over there and making it worse," said Henrik. "I would have felt awful coming back afterwards and not being able to play. (The Canucks) have a huge stretch after the Olympics and we need to get back on track."
Sedin was injured in Vancouver's 1-0 loss against the Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 16 when he was cross-checked in the ribs by Martin Hanzal. Sedin stayed in the game, and even started the Canucks' game two days later against the Calgary Flames, but left after the second intermission.
He then missed six games in a row, ending his nearly decade-long 679 consecutive-game streak, the seventh-longest in NHL history. After returning to play, but in some pain, for two games in February - against Detroit on Feb. 3 and Boston on Feb. 4 - Canucks doctors sidelined him for good.
"I don't think it would have made any difference if I had rested those two games," said Sedin when asked if he came back prematurely. "I felt good about the way this happened.
"After the Boston game, I felt there was no reason for me to go over there not feeling 100 per cent. That's the way I felt. Of course, it's a very tough decision to make, but I feel good now that I've made it."
Canucks coach John Tortorella was relieved his star-forward wouldn't risk aggravating his injury.
"If you're asking me as a hockey coach for the team he plays for, I think it's the best thing for him, to get him healthy," said Tortorella. "Quite honestly, it was none of my business. That's his call, his family's call. It's for his country. I tried to stay away from it. For the big picture, for this hockey club, it certainly is good news."
On Thursday, the Canucks came to Montreal looking to end a five-game skid. Instead, playing without Henrik Sedin or Dan Hamhuis (leg injury), Vancouver lost 5-2 to extend their longest losing streak in five years.
Montreal and Team Canada netminder Carey Price didn't have to face Sedin on the Bell Centre ice, nor will he in Sochi.
"He's obviously a first class player," said Price. "His chemistry with his brother is really important to that hockey club over there. But no matter who we're facing in the lineup, we have to take it the same way."
Sedin joins a growing list of notable injured Olympians.
On Wednesday, Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos (fractured tibia) announced he wouldn't be joining Team Canada in Sochi, citing long-term health risks if he did.
Sweden's Johan Franzen was also ruled out of the Games with recurring concussion symptoms, as well as Slovakia's Marian Gaborik (broken collarbone).
Sweden gets its Olympic tournament underway, without Henrik Sedin, next Wednesday against the Czech Republic.
Sedin hopes to be back in action on Feb. 26 when the Canucks host the St-Louis Blues.