After beating Sparta Praha 2-0 last night and subsequently getting their flight cancelled, the Rangers headed to Gothenburg this morning for a go against Frolunda. While the other three European preseason games likely were set up based on revenues, this one is for the heartstrings - the hero Henrik Lundqvist returning home.
Believe it or not, the Rangers have faced off against Frolunda once before - in 1981 during a preseason tournament. I love the internet because I was able to find someone who posted all of the details and Szymon Szemberg posted this scan of his ticket. The Rangers won 7-1 thanks to a hat trick from Ed Johnstone as well as a goal and four assists from Reijo Ruotsalainen. Bobby Hull - yes, that Bobby Hull - assisted on Reijo's goal (he was attempting a comeback after being retired three years but got hurt and called it quits after the tourney).
Arena: The Scandinavium, which I think is Swedish for Golden Arches or something. I had the pleasure of going to see Frolunda play Modo back in December and it was an odd experience - it's a big McDonalds with a ice sheet inside. The evil arches are everywhere and the Swedes swallow that fast food like it is going out of style during the game. There is one regular McDonalds in there with seats and all, there is another that is just a sales counter and all of the other concession stands are called McSnacks. It was bizarre. The place holds around 12,000 fans who were pretty quiet the night I was there.
Team History: Well, the reason why they weren't particularly enthused was because the team was pretty bad last year, finishing ninth out of 12 teams in the Elitserien. They have a year-by-year on their website in English but you just need to know that they won the league in 2003 and 2005. In '03 they had some fellow in the net named Henrik Lundqvist.
Familiar Foes: Hank's bother Joel, who had a cup of coffee with the Dallas Stars, is the team captain. Joel was injured for much of last year and should be raring to go against his twin. Former Ranger Christian Backman is on their blueline (haha) while 36-year-old former Bruin PJ Axelsson is, in fact, still playing professional hockey.
Who To Watch For: Frolunda's top three scorers from last season Niklas Andersson (former Islander), Tomi Kallio and Riku Hahl are all gone. The Indians signed Magnus Kahnberg and Fredrik Pettersson, who both played in the AHL in '10-11 - Pettersson leads the team with five points (all assists) in six Elitserien matches. Former Ranger goaltender Johan Holmqvist was Frolunda's starter but he moved on to Brynas. In his place is Frederik Andersen, a Danish netminder drafted in the seventh round by Carolina in 2010 (you know Hank was picked in the seventh round too, right?). Andersen is red hot right now - he's allowed just three goals on 125 shots in five games.
Where They Are: Thanks to Andersen, top of the Elitserien table at 5-1.
What Can We Expect: A Henrik love-fest. While I am willing to bet that the Indians will put up a bit of a fight, they have an away game Saturday against Skelleftea so I don't think they will go to the wall the way Sparta did. The Rangers, meanwhile, have Saturday off to have Hank show them around town but hopefully they will not check out early.