Hockey paths cross for Bry­nas alumni

Washington’s Back­stom says Sil­fver­berg now the big­ger star

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - KEN WAR­REN kwar­ren@ot­tawac­i­t­i­ Twit­­ti­zenkwar­ren

Nick­las Back­strom has spent the past five sea­sons as the set-up man for Alexan­der Ovechkin. He has scored at a point-per-game pace dur­ing his NHL ca­reer, topped the 100 point mark in 200910 and is widely con­sid­ered one of the top cen­tres in the world.

For all that, he’s not even the big­gest hockey name in his home­town of Gävle, Swe­den, pop­u­la­tion 71,000.

Ac­cord­ing to Back­strom, that hon­our be­longs to Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors rookie right winger Jakob Sil­fver­berg.

“I would say he is (the big­ger star) right now,” the Washington Cap­i­tals star said be­fore Tues­day’s game at Sco­tia­bank Place against the Sen­a­tors. “We have a lit­tle bit of a dif­fer­ent style. He’s more like Ovi-style. He shoots a lot. He goes to the net and he can score goals. That’s what I’ve seen in him. And that’s what he did last year in the play­offs in Swe­den. So, hopefully, he can do the same thing here.”

Sil­fver­berg, who went into Tues­day’s game with one goal in five games, led un­der­dog Bry­nas to the Swedish Elite League ti­tle last sea­son. He cap­tured MVP hon­ours in both the reg­u­lar sea­son and play­offs, be­com­ing the toast of the town.

Back­strom, 25, drafted fourth over­all by Washington in 2006, knows the story well. He played three sea­sons for his home­town Bry­nas be­fore coming to North Amer­ica. He also spends his sum­mers skat­ing at home in Gävle, part of a small group of pro play­ers which in­cludes goal­tenders Anders Lind­back of Tampa Bay and Ja­cob Mark­strom of Florida.

“They had a great team (last sea­son) and they worked to­gether and some spe­cial guys like Sil­fver­berg,” said Back­strom. “It was huge, it has been a cou­ple of years (since a cham­pi­onship). It’s a hockey town. It was huge for the team and the whole city.”

Sil­fver­berg, how­ever, laughs when it’s sug­gested he’s more of a house­hold name than Back­strom, who nat­u­rally served as role model be­cause they’ve shared sim­i­lar paths to the NHL.

“He’s a very skilled player, prob­a­bly one of the best play­ers in the league,” he said. “He’s so skilled with the puck and he has such a good head. I’m not there yet, but hopefully I will be there one day.”

Sil­fver­berg, 22, was se­lected by the Sen­a­tors in the sec­ond round (39th over­all) of the 2009 en­try draft. While the Sen­a­tors tried to con­vince him to stay in Ot­tawa for the 2011-12 sea­son, Sil­fver­berg opted to play one more sea­son with Bry­nas. In that re­gard, he was fol­low­ing in the skate marks of Back­strom. Sil­fver­berg says Back­strom “evolved as a player and a per­son” while play­ing with Bry­nas.

He’s also tak­ing to heart the words Back­strom told him dur­ing the sum­mer skat­ing ses­sions.

“When you get the puck, you’ve got to get a quick shot off,” he said. “You don’t have time to look up and shoot it. You’ve got to know where you want to shoot it when you get it. You’ve al­ways got be ready for tak­ing a shot be­cause nor­mally you have a guy right on you. That’s the best ad­vice I’ve re­ceived from him.”


While Mika Zibane­jad was back in the NHL with the Sen­a­tors Tues­day, Swedish com­pa­triot Robin Lehner picked up AHL player of the week hon­ours. Af­ter be­ing shipped to Bing­ham­ton from Ot­tawa early last week, Lehner went 2-0, win­ning a pair of shootouts.

In a 1-0 win over Syra­cuse Fri­day, Lehner stopped 40 saves in reg­u­la­tion and over­time and all five in the shootout. In a 3-2 win over Her­shey on Satur­day, he stopped 38 more, plus all three he faced in the shootout. On Mon­day, Lehner played in the AHL Al­lS­tar Game. For the sea­son, he’s now 16-5-1, with a 1.80 goals against av­er­age and .948 save per­cent­age.

“He was a su­per­star Fri­day night in the shootout of a 0-0 game and he stops five in a row,” said Sen­a­tors gen­eral man­ager Bryan Mur­ray. “The next night, in a 2-2 game, he stops all three in a shootout. Maybe we have to have a guy (here) on the bench like that. It shows that if you take your time with peo­ple, young peo­ple, the ma­tu­rity level does take a lit­tle time. He has be­come a real pro.”

While Lehner is al­ways knock­ing on the door of play­ing full-time in the NHL, a pair of other Bing­ham­ton prospects won’t re­ceive that chance soon, due to in­jury.

Mike Hoff­man, who at­tended the Sen­a­tors train­ing camp and has scored 12 goals and 12 as­sists in 38 games, is out with a bro­ken col­lar­bone. Mean­while, Mark Stone, who has scored eight goals and 11 as­sists in 35 games, is out with a bro­ken fin­ger.


Washington Cap­i­tals for­ward Nick­las Back­strom, left, says Jakob Sil­fver­berg of the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors is a big star back home in Swe­den af­ter hav­ing led his club team Bry­nas to the cham­pi­onship in the Swedish Elite League last sea­son.


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