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March 18, 2016

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Game within a game ...

Swedes Salo, Hedberg went toe-to-toe

By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

 It was two games for the price of one last night. One was scheduled. The other required a little lobbying.

 The Oilers versus Penguins wasn't really worth writing about. But Johan Hedberg versus Tommy Salo for Sweden's No. 1 goalie at the Olympics? You could have heard a pin drop at IKEA.

 "This was the game I marked at the start of the year,'' said Hedberg, the Manitoba Moose goalie who was called up to the Penguins for the playoffs and brought out all the antlers in Pittsburgh last year. "This is the one game I've been thinking about all year.''

 Hedberg lobbied hard to get this start. But he swears he's not lobbying for the start in goal for Sweden against Canada at the Olympics.

 It's either going to be Hedberg or Salo that Mario Lemieux and Gretzky's gang face in Game 1 of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. And if you think it's Salo, Hedberg at least made you think again last night. Which wasn't necessarily the idea, the former Manitoba Moose swears.

 "We're good friends,'' said Hedberg.

 "I'm on the national team to back him up.''

 Last Olympics, Hedberg sat up there with Curtis Joseph.

 "I was up in the stands eating hot dogs,'' he said of being Sweden's No. 3 goalie.

 Hedberg says this is good friendly competition between a couple of Swedes, not anything more.

 The game within the game was a lot more interesting than the game.

 Hedberg stopped 25 Oiler shots for his sixth shutout of the season. Only Patrick Roy has more.

 Salo, currently featured in Sports Illustrated as the greatest goalie that nobody knows and selected to play in the All-Star Game, is the guy who made the shootout save against Paul Kariya that put Peter Forsberg on the postage stamp when Sweden won the Lillehammer Olympics.

 Two wins in a row please

 Salo, who is one shutout away from breaking Curtis Joseph's franchise record of 14, is more interested in just getting two wins in a row right now than any showdown with any other Swede.

 He hasn't won two in a row since before the Grey Cup.

 And with the Oilers next four games against San Jose, Colorado, Toronto and Detroit, prospects don't look good before that all-star break.

 Any chance for a shutout this night went out the window with Mike Comrie's giveaway in front of his own net which resulted in the only goal of the game.

 Salo made a breakaway save on Michal Rozsival in the fifth minute of the game and stopped Lemieux on a two-on-one midway in the second.

 A short-handed break

 He also stopped ex-Oiler Dan LaCouture on a short-handed break. In the third he robbed Alexei Kovalev point-blank. The Penguins only had 15 shots but they had more great chances.

 Hedberg was no slouch either, the best one arguably a great glove grab against Rem Murray in the second period. Most of his saves came from in close. But he made them all and that made him the first star of the game on Hockey Night in Canada.

 "He made big saves at the other end,'' said the man Mario calls Moose, the goalie who now has a 17-18-4 record with an out-of-the-playoffs team and compared to Salo's 19-19-7 record with a feel-something-slipping squad which is back to playing for a playoff spot.

 Hedberg doesn't think he became No. 1 for Sweden last night.

 "I know what Tommy has done. I watched the game against Anaheim. He's the reason they won.''

 Indeed. Salo is the reason the Oilers have one win in their last six.

 Hedberg says he calls Salo all the time on the phone and talks with the Oilers' goalie at length.

 "He told me he wants to win against me so badly,'' said Salo.

 "He's a great goalie. And he's a great guy, too.

 "We talk all the time. I told him it would be 1-1 and we'd win in overtime.

 "I always knew he was good. But he never got a chance. I'm not surprised how well he's done now that he's got the chance.''

 Salo said having competition for No. 1 for Sweden at the Olympics is good.

 "It's good that we've got two goalies.''

 Hedberg jokes that the two are both store owners in Sweden.

 "I've got a goalie store and he has a liquor store,'' he said of Salo's bar.

 "He loves that stuff,'' says Salo of selling goaltender gear.

 He says he's never bought anything off him.

 "He should give me something for free after this game.''

2002 Games Columnists