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Teams ready for quarterfinals at ice hockey worlds

Teams ready for quarterfinals at ice hockey worlds

After a long and sometimes sloppy round-robin stage, the remaining teams at the ice hockey world championships know there's no more room for mistakes when the quarterfinals start Wednesday.
"The discipline part of the game has really got to get cleaned up now," said Canada coach Lindy Ruff, whose team won five of the six group games over 11 days to enter the knockout round as a top seed.
Canada defenseman Dan Hamhuis has been in this position before, after helping the team win gold in 2007 and silver last year, after losing the final in overtime to Russia.
"All you really need to do is throw together three really good games, and have a really good goalie, and any of the teams can win it," Hamhuis said.
Defending champion Russia opens the quarterfinal round against Belarus, with the winner advancing to play either Finland or the United States.
Canada gets Latvia in the early game Thursday, and is heavily favored to reach a semifinal against Olympic champion Sweden or the Czech Republic.
Canada has the tournament's top offense with 35 goals in six matches _ five wins in regulation before a shootout loss to Finland on Monday _ and will now have to overcome Latvia goaltender Edgars Masalskis.
Masalskis' shootout saves keyed upset wins against Sweden and Switzerland, and says his confidence was not shaken by a 6-1 loss to Russia on Sunday.
"It's Russia," he said. "It's not the worst that could happen."
Russia is coached by Slava Bykov, a five-time world champion as a player between 1983-93, who is preaching a team-first style of play.
"The guys are playing very creative and they have fun. They try to play for the team," Bykov said. "We are expecting a bit more from some players."
Russia has trailed in games against Sweden, Switzerland and the United States, but rallied for a 4-1 win against the Americans Saturday.
"Against the U.S. we played a really solid game and that gave us a lot of confidence," forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "If we are going to play 100 percent, a team game first of all and really good defense then we have a really good chance."
Kovalchuk, the Atlanta Thrashers captain, said a higher standard of play in the domestic Continental Hockey League (KHL) has helped the national team.
"There are so many great players there and lots of them can play in the NHL, no question," Kovalchuk said.
Sweden and the Czech Republic also have players from the KHL.
Swedish forward Mattias Weinhandl, who has four goals and three assists, plays for Dynamo Moscow, while Czech star Jaromir Jagr is with Avangard Omsk.
"(Jagr) had a good season. His skills are still there for sure," Weinhandl said of the former NHL great.
Sweden improved mid-tournament by adding Columbus Blue Jackets forward Kristian Huselius and New Jersey Devils defenseman Johnny Oduya to the roster.
"We had a couple of so-so games in the beginning but we talked a lot and it's getting better and better," Weinhandl said.
Against the U.S., Sweden trailed 5-2 with under 12 minutes left but eventually won in OT.
The American roster has an average age below 25 and Atlanta defenseman Ron Hainsey said the inexperience has showed.
"We're doing a good job getting leads, but our play late in games has not been good enough," Hainsey said. "We have backed off. When teams play in your end for long periods of time bad stuff usually happens.
"We don't know much about Finland. I've heard (Pekka) Rinne is playing real well so they have a hot goalie and that's a big challenge."


Updated : 2021-02-27 09:20 GMT+08:00