Loui Eriksson is living the Swedish dream

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By Mike Heika
The Dallas Morning News

FRISCO – As childhood dreams go, this one is pretty great.

Loui Eriksson was 9 when Peter Forsberg scored the most famous goal in Swedish hockey history, a one-handed slide in the shootout that won the 1994 Olympic gold medal over Canada. It was a play that made Forsberg Eriksson’s hockey hero growing up and cemented the Olympics as an ultimate goal for kids throughout Goteborg, Sweden.

So when Eriksson was informed Sunday morning that he had been named to Sweden’s 23-man roster for the 2010 Olympics that will be played in Vancouver in February, and that Forsberg would be his teammate, it was like a childhood dream coming true. Forsberg, 36, has battled injuries for the last few seasons, and this will be his last Olympics. So the fact it’s Eriksson’s first chance is a strange sort of Swedish kismet.

“That was such a big game, and it was something that we all remember so much, it was a great, great day,” Eriksson said of the 1994 game that is remembered like the 1980 Miracle on Ice in the United States. A painting of the goal was even made into a stamp in Sweden.

“He was the player I looked up to the most, so to get the chance to play on the same team, it’s just something I never imagined.”

Eriksson’s star has been rising briskly over the last two seasons. The 24-year-old winger struggled to score goals in his first two NHL seasons, but then put in 36 last season to lead Dallas. This year, he is second on the Stars in scoring with 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists). He is fast becoming the team’s best defensive forward and is plus-19 for his career.

“It wasn’t surprising, and I think he’ll play really well for them. He’s that level of player now,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “He’s such a good skater, and he’s so strong on the puck. He’s a complementary player, and I think he can play with just about anybody.”

Even Forsberg, possibly?

“I know he has played well in his comeback, and he can do so many things,” Eriksson said of Forsberg’s battle to come back from chronic foot injuries. “I think he will be a great player for us.”

In addition to Forsberg, Sweden has a loaded lineup that will include Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings, Henrik and Daniel Sedin of the Canucks, Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Sweden won the gold medal at the 2006 Olympics in Italy.

“It’s a very good team, and I know they are looking forward to defending their title,” Eriksson. “It will be a big challenge with lots of teams coming after us, but I’m looking forward to it.”

It will also be a big challenge for Eriksson. He signed a four-year contract extension with the Stars that will pay him an average salary of $4.25 million starting next season, and he is seen as one of the stalwarts on Swedish Olympic teams for years to come.

“I think it is important,” Crawford said of the selection. “It shows that he’s taking the steps along the way.”

Briefly: LW James Neal missed practice Sunday with flu, and Stephane Robidas was dizzied briefly when he was hit in the head with a puck. {ellipsis} G Marty Turco (flu) and LW Brenden Morrow (flu) practiced after missing Saturday’s game. {ellipsis} D Trevor Daley (shoulder) and D Mark Fistric (concussion) also practiced. Daley has missed five games and Fistric four, and both are on injured reserve.

Olympic hopefuls

Loui Eriksson was named Sunday to the Swedish men’s hockey team for the 2010 Olympics. Here are some Stars who also hope to be in Vancouver in February (these teams will be named this week):

Player Country Mike Modano USA Karlis Skrastins Latvia Jere Lehtinen Finland Brad Richards Canada Brenden Morrow Canada Stephane Robidas Canada James Neal Canada