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Olympics-Ice hockey-Backstrom's absence big blow for Sweden

Reuters

By Philip O'Connor

SOCHI, Russia, Feb 23 (Reuters) - The absence of Nicklas Backstrom from the gold medal game against Canada derailed Sweden's hopes as they went down 3-0 in Sochi on Sunday, with the centre missing the game due to a failed dope test.

"I got the message two hours before the game that something was wrong," Sweden coach Par Marts told a news conference. "I can't say any more. The doctor will tell you what happened."

Marts was sharply critical of the decision to inform the Swedes just two hours before faceoff.

"There are rules that should be followed and they weren't followed, and that saddens me," he told Sweden's TV3.

"One should be informed 24 hours before. It shouldn't be done like this. The IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) had people here and they said he could play, but the IOC said he couldn't play.

"I think it affected us more than we might think. There was focus on the wrong things all the time and it doesn't feel good," Marts said.

"He was desperately, desperately disappointed that he couldn't play."

Sweden had already been hit by injuries, with star centres Henrik Zetterberg (back) and Henrik Sedin (ribs) both out.

The 26-year-old Backstrom's team misfired in his absence, failing to create chances as they succumbed to Canada's swift breaks and suffocating defence.

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist told reporters that he felt sorry for Washington Capitals player Backstrom, and that the positive test had been a result of an innocent mistake.

"What I heard (is) he had taken allergy tablets that he's had all his life, It's about getting it all down on paper," he said.

"It's not about being faster or stronger in hockey, it's about other things that are more important. You'd never risk that."

Backstrom arrived at the Bolshoy arena but did not appear on the ice for the warm-up, and there were suggestions that he was suffering from a migraine and would miss the game.

It later emerged that he had failed a dope test, a fact confirmed by the Swedish Olympic Committee as the game went on.

"He's been our best centre the whole tournament," Daniel Sedin said, adding that he found out Backstrom wouldn't play about half an hour before the game.

"We lost three world-class centres and got to an Olympic final. It wasn't enough today against a skilful team so there's not so much to say about that. It's always tough to lose a game," he said.

"He's one of the most skilful players in the world, and we'd have wanted him in the final," forward Marcus Kruger told reporters.

"But we tried to win it for him instead." (Reporting By Philip O'Connor, editing by Ossian Shine)

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