STOCKHOLM, Sweden — 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.”