* Zetterberg scored goal in Sweden's Sochi opener
* Swedish captain started to feel pain on Thursday (Recasts with player comments)
By Frank Pingue
SOCHI, Russia, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The loss of captain Henrik Zetterberg is a blow to a Sweden team that came to the Sochi Games favourites to win the men's ice hockey gold medal but his team mates refuse to take their eyes off that prize.
Rather than fall into a state of disarray after the news on Friday that Zetterberg would miss the rest of the Sochi Olympics with a herniated disc, Sweden went out and sealed top spot in Group C with a 1-0 win over Switzerland.
"He's a huge part of our team. Our captain and our big leader but in saying that we have to find a way through and we can't feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to keep battling," said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who will captain the team in Zetterberg's absence.
"I still think we are in good shape, no doubt. Of course we lost our number one center right now but every team goes through injuries and we just have to find our way through it."
Zetterberg, 33, was one of the top players on the Swedish team that captured the gold medal at the 2006 Turin Games and his leadership and offensive output were a big reason the Tre Kronor arrived in Russia as one of the favourites.
He played about 18 minutes in his team's first game in Sochi, scoring one goal in a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic.
But Zetterberg, who has had recurring back problems for years and suffered a herniated disc last December, started to feel pain on Thursday and missed the team practice and photo.
"Almost impossible to replace a guy like Zetterberg," said Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist. "He's our captain and such a great player. All over the ice he makes good decisions.
"It was not a good moment for sure but at the same time you just have to stay positive here and it means that other guys have to step up and play a bigger role."
The team doctor said Zetterberg would return home as soon as possible for treatment and that there was "no chance at all" that he would be able to rejoin the team before the men's ice hockey tournament concludes on Feb. 23.
Injuries are nothing new to the Swedes, having lost key forwards Johan Franzen and Henrik Sedin in the lead-up to the Sochi Olympics.
The run of bad luck was not lost on the Swedish players but they remained confident in each other to step up and fill in.
"We are used to people coming and going, disappearing with injuries and things. It's a part of the sport. So it shouldn't be any problem in any way," said defenseman Erik Karlsson.
"We play with what we have and we have such depth in our team that we shouldn't have to worry too much." (Editing by Clare Lovell)