Amid continual speculation that he was playing through an injury, Henrik Lundqvist will not play in Sweden's first game at the World Cup of Hockey. According to Sweden, the presumed starter is sick, not injured.
It's a big game to miss as Sunday's opponent, Russia, boasts one of the deepest scoring attacks in the tournament. Vancouver Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom will start in Lundqvist's place.
Given the small margin for error in the preliminary round, especially in Group B where the teams are so evenly matched, Sweden is going to have to be sharp in front of their backup goalie. Meanwhile, the Russians will be looking to pounce early.
Markstrom has played in multiple World Championships for Sweden and even has a gold medal on the international stage.
Last season, he split time in net with Ryan Miller in Vancouver. Markstrom had a 13-14-4 record, .915 save percentage and 2.73 goals-against average in 33 appearances for the Canucks.
Jhonas Enroth, a recent signee of the Toronto Maple Leafs, will back up Markstrom against Russia.
While Sweden has said that Lundqvist is ill, the speculation around a potential injury started early on in camp. Lundqvist revealed that he had taken a puck to the ribs in an on-ice session before Sweden's training camp began. He downplayed that, saying only that there was only some mild discomfort.
During his two appearances leading up to the World Cup, Lundqvist did not look terribly sharp. He allowed eight goals over two games. That fueled the notion that he may have been fighting that injury.
New York Rangers fans are surely hoping that this is indeed just a short-term illness as opposed to any lingering ailment. He remains crucial to their ability to compete next season.
For Sweden, this is obviously not the ideal way to start off the tournament. The pressure is going to be on their defense, which looks to be one of the best in the tournament on paper. Even the best defenses would prefer to have that safety net in the experienced, steady Lundqvist, though. We'll see just how resilient this Swedish team is now as they face a little early-tournament adversity.