GOTHENBURG, Sweden – As a consistent scorer at the SHL level for more than a decade now, Joel Lundqvist’s early-season struggles have clearly frustrated the Frolunda captain.
Lundqvist’s slow start can in part be attributed to a prolonged back injury that he says has improved.
“The back is better,” Lundqvist said. “The first 10 games were tough and I didn’t play well, but now I have more power in my game. Of course it’s been tough not having the same offense that I am used to, but now it feels much better and hopefully the goals will come.”
Much like Lundqvist, Frolunda started the campaign slowly. The Gothenburg club won just four of their opening 10 league games under new head coach Roger Ronnberg who replaced departing Kent Johansson at the helm.
Lundqvist speaks highly of Ronnberg and, after a run of improved performances, feels their problems are behind them.
“We have a lot of new players and coaches. It takes some time to be a good team, but I feel that we are on the right track.”
“We have more speed in our game and now we play to win. Before we waited on mistakes from the other team. He [Ronnberg] loves hockey and doesn’t miss a thing, he’s very well prepared.”
Perhaps Frolunda’s biggest strength is their youth. Montreal’s Sebastian Collberg, Toronto’s Tom Nilsson and Columbus first-round pick Alexander Wennberg form the core of an impressive pool that Lundqvist, as captain, is eager to advise.
“Now we have a really young team and they are all very good hockey players, so it’s more off-ice than on-ice that I help the ‘kids’. That is part of being a captain.”
One of Lundqvist’s immediate targets beyond his club season with Frolunda is the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. Named to the preliminary Sweden roster earlier this year, he says booking a ticket to Sochi would mean a lot.
“It would mean a lot to me to make the final roster when all the best players are going to play. And to play in the same team with Henrik again would be a special feeling.”
New York Rangers goalie and twin brother Henrik recently became a father to daughter Charlise. Lundqvist is enjoying his new role as uncle and delights in sharing another common bond.
“It’s really fun. I already have two kids so now we are both living the family life. The bad thing is that they are home in Sweden such a short time and the the kids are growing fast.”
Like his brother, Lundqvist has spent time in the NHL. He speaks fondly of his three years with the Dallas Stars and admits that, though time may not be on his side, a return to North America is still possible in the future.
“It was three fun but tough years. I still have a dream to maybe play in the NHL again, but I’m not getting any younger. Dallas was a really great organisation with a lot of good players. The playoffs in 2007/8 when we lost to Detroit were a fun few weeks.”
As for short-term planning, his aim is pretty clear…
“Our goal is to be at the top of the league and to fight for SM-gold.”
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