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Blasts from the Past

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Danny Labraaten - Better This Year
by Susan Nicol

Danny Labraaten is in the midst of his second season as a Winnipeg Jet. His English has improved considerably and he no longer shied away from interviews. He is more poised on the ice and his contributions to the team are improving as well.

He had a good rookie year, but he says it did have its low points.

"I came over here (to Canada) and right off I had a problem with my knee," he says, referring to an injury he sustained during the Canada Cup series.

"I had it in a cast and for a month all I could to was come to practise and watch."

The injury kept him from starting the regular season with his new team mates.

"It was tough to get over that, but I did and I started to play not bad, but not great either."

Just as he started to adjust to professional hockey, he separated his shoulder and spent more time on the sidelines. He recovered from that setback and went on to score 24 goals and to collect 27 assists.

"I think the whole year was pretty good. I don't think I could have done much better in my rookie year. Now that I'm starting a new season, things are even better."

Danny was chosen "Rookie of the Year" for the club, but he says the title meant nothing to him.

"Not that I wasn't glad to be chosen," he adds quickly, "but it wasn't really fair. There were only two of us ... Kent Ruhnke and myself and Kent was sick (with mononucleosis) for most of the year. I had a pretty good chance to be chosen."

He smiles when asked about living in Winnipeg.

"That wasn't much of a problem," he says. "I have lots of Swedish people around me. And Winnipeg has really nice people ... friendly people."

This season, Danny has been playing with Kent Nilsson, another Swedish import.

"Kent and Peter Sullivan play much the same. Peter plays like any other European centre. I like playing with both of them. Their styles aren't much different. Kent had a really good start, but now he's a little down. The whole line is down right now ... maybe the whole team."

Although the Jets have sagged a bit after their tremendous start, Danny believes it is mainly due to the rest of the league catching up.

"I think the other teams are playing a lot better now," he says. "It took them a little longer to get into the season. We came from Sweden and a good training camp at the beginning. We skated a lot there so we were ahead of them - in better condition."

An ailing Kim Clackson, who played defence behind the Lindstrom-Labraaten-Nilsson line, has left a gap that isn't readily filled.

"Kim Clackson is good for the whole team," Danny says, "and especially good for us. He was behind us the whole time."

Looking ahead to the Czech/Russian games, Danny is predicting an exciting series.

"I know the Czech team this year," he explains. "They are good skaters and it's going to be tough to beat them. The fans can look forward to more skating than they're used to, more passing and a faster game. The Europeans haven't changed much, except that they may be tougher.

"In the first games, they'll be at a disadvantage. We'll be working on the rebounds. We have a good chance to take them here in Canada. But we'll have to skate with them."

As far as the games against the Russians in Japan go, Danny says the Jets can count them as true away games. Not only will the travelling affect the team, but the style of the game will be European.

"I've heard about their rinks. They are the same size as those in Europe so the game will be the same as played there."