For Canada to get past the IIHF World Championship quarter-final for the first time in four years, the Sedins must be contained.
Vancouver Canucks forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin joined the host country after Canada’s 3-0 win over Sweden in the preliminary round.
The addition of twin brothers and Canucks defenceman Alex Edler inject confidence and offence into Sweden that the team lacked earlier in the tournament. Canada expects an improved opponent Thursday at the Globe Arena.
“With their additions to their team, we’ve got to make sure we’re doing the right things with the puck,” Canadian forward Jordan Eberle said. “You can’t turn it over with the high offence they have.”
The quarter-final has been Canada’s banana peel lately with three straight losses knocking Canadian teams out of medal contention. Eberle, an Edmonton Oilers forward, was a part of all those losses and doesn’t want an early exit a fourth time.
“For me, anyway, it’s been a game that’s been tough to get by, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night,” he said. “Playing Sweden in Sweden, it doesn’t get much better than that.
“We want to make sure we’re bringing our best in a one-game elimination that any team can win. You can’t be soft that night or else you’re in trouble.”
Canada (5-1-1-0) finished second in the Stockholm pool ahead of third-seeded Sweden (5-2). Unbeaten Switzerland and the Czech Republic meet in the group’s other quarter-final Thursday.
The quarter-final matchups in co-host Helsinki are Russia versus the United States and Finland against Slovakia. Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin is expected in Russia’s lineup Thursday.
Canada’s anti-Sedin weapon is their Canucks teammate Dan Hamhuis, both in the intelligence he can provide on the twins and the positionally-sound game he knows to play against them.
“I certainly have a lot of experience playing against them in practice and with them a lot,” Hamhuis acknowledged. “They’re a real challenge.
“I really think it’s a group effort out there. Certainly it’s a lot of pressure on the two guys who are covering them, but it’s a huge responsibility of the other guys too to cover the guys they’re looking to pass to and make sure they don’t get open.”
Henrik Sedin said he watched his country’s round robin game against Canada on television when he was still in Vancouver.
“They’ve got a great team on paper,” he said of Canada. “They brought top guys from each team. It’s almost an all-star team over there. It can be a tough game, but if we play our game and keep it tight, we might get them a little bit frustrated maybe.”
Buffalo Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth single-handedly kept the round-robin game between the two countries close by foiling Canada on several golden scoring chances early in the game.
Head coach Lindy Ruff wouldn’t comment on his starter, but Mike Smith’s 33 saves for the shutout against Sweden in the round robin means he’s likely Canada’s man in net.
Henrik Sedin was quoted in Swedish media saying the Phoenix Coyotes goaltender dives to draw penalties in the NHL.
“That’s fine,” Smith responded. “I go back there and do my job and clear the puck. Whatever happens, happens.”
Hamhuis has logged the most minutes on the team in the two games since his arrival Saturday. Canada continued to shore up the blue-line with the addition of Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban.
The finalist for this season’s Norris Trophy that goes to the NHL’s top defenceman skated with the team for the first time Wednesday and was paired with Jay Harrison. The Ottawa Senators eliminated his Habs in the first round of NHL playoffs last week.
Subban tied with Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang for the most points by a defenceman in the NHL this season with 38. So he’s expected to generate offence from the back end, particularly on the power play with his booming shot.
Subban spent his Ontario Hockey League career playing on wide ice at Belleville’s Yardman Arena.
“I’m quite familiar in terms of how to take the rush and how to use the size of the ice to your advantage, but at the same token, I haven’t played on that rink in four or five years,” Subban pointed out.
“This is my first game of the tournament. It’s been four days since I played a game and it’s a little bit different coming from a playoff game thinking you’re not even going to play hockey until next September to all of a sudden being in quarter-final game, Canada versus Sweden. That alone is a challenge.”
Ruff tinkered with his forward lines Wednesday moving Taylor Hall in with Ryan O’Reilly and Jeff Skinner. Canadian captain Eric Staal formed a trio with Eberle and Matt Duchene and his brother Jordan Staal was installed beside Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds.
Ruff didn’t touch Canada’s top-producing line of Claude Giroux, Andrew Ladd and Steven Stamkos.
The Canadian coach wouldn’t reveal which players would be assigned to cover the Sedins and linemate Loui Eriksson of the Dallas Stars, but hinted he might not designate one checking line.
“I hope to roll through our top three lines and be able to put a lot of pressure up against them where we can play in their end,” Ruff said. “If we play one line against them, it’s going to take a couple of our lines out. We don’t want to do that.
“We’ve got a plan in mind. I’m not going to share it with you, but we do have a plan.”
He pointed out the Sedins played more than 23 minutes each in their first game of the tournament Monday, which was a 4-2 win over Denmark. Ruff intends to roll his lines with short shifts and attempt to corral them in their own end.
Canada’s 1972 Summit Series hero Paul Henderson watched Wednesday’s skate from Canada’s bench and joined the players for a post-practice picture.
Henderson and former national women’s team player Danielle Goyette will be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame on Sunday. TSN commentator Gord Miller will receive the Paul Loicq Award for his contribution to international hockey.
Notes: Canada added St. Louis Blues forward and former Canadian junior team captain Jaden Schwartz as an alternate forward, who will play in the event of an injury up front . . . Canada has the maximum 25 players a country can register in the tournament with three goalies, nine defenceman and 13 forwards . . . Defenceman Luke Schenn will be back in Canada’s lineup after serving his automatic one-game suspension for a match penalty he took Sunday against the Czechs.