12/29/2006 1:07:08 AM
LEKSAND, Sweden (CP) - Canada meets the other undefeated team in Group A at the world junior hockey championship Friday, and who knew it would be Germany?
The Canadians can clinch first place in their pool and earn a bye to a semifinal with a victory against the upstart Germans. The game can be seen live on TSN, TSN HD and TSN Broadband at 12:30pm et/9:30am pt.
Germany was one of two countries that earned promotion to the world junior tournament by winning last year's second-tier world championship.
Expectations for promoted teams are low because they are usually relegated right back to the 'B' tournament.
But Germany stunned the U.S. 2-1 in overtime to open the tournament and then doubled Slovakia 4-2 to sit one point back of Canada (2-0).
Canada is the heavy favourite Friday, so the Germans feel they have nothing to lose.
"Everybody is expecting us to lose against Canada," German assistant coach Uwe Krupp said Thursday. "There's no question who has got the better team and the better talent and who is expected to win.
"That's not the worst situation in the world to be in to start the game."
Sweden defeated Slovakia 6-3 in the lone Pool A game Thursday, putting the Swedes at 1-1 and dropping the Slovaks to 0-2.
Russia remained undefeated in Pool B at 2-0 with a 6-0 thumping of Switzerland and Finland beat the Czech Republic 6-2. The Finns and Swiss were 1-1 and the Czechs fell to 0-2.
The teams with the best records in each pool earn byes to the semifinals while the runners-up and third-place teams cross-over to meet in the quarter-finals.
The Americans' loss to Germany was a reminder to Canada that one early goal to inspire hope and a hot goaltender can be all the ingredients an underdog team like Germany needs to stage an upset at this tournament.
"Right now they don't have any pressure on their shoulders and we have," Canadian captain Kristopher Letang said. "We have to be hard on them early."
The Canadians want to get to German goaltender Sebastian Stefaniszin quickly as he can supply his team with a lot of momentum. He's seen the most shots of any goaltender in the tournament at 70 and has given up three goals.
The Germans play a decent team game and will likely try to check Canada hard in their own zone at the start before falling back and clogging up their own blue-line. They may try a few stretch passes the other way to spring their forwards.
Canada's speed can draw Germany into taking penalties and then the tournament's best power-play can go to work.
Goaltender Carey Price will likely see a drop in the number of shots he faces after getting over 30 in each of his first two starts.
He's been a steady performer in his first two games and Canada's special teams were the difference in a 6-3 win over the U.S. on Wednesday and a 2-0 victory over Sweden to open the tournament.
Canada had more offensive punch in its second game.