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Canadian Press
1/2/2007 7:08:56 PM

LEKSAND, Sweden (CP) - Canada and the U.S. will meet again at the world junior hockey championship and this time the stakes are much higher.

The two sides square off in a semifinal Wednesday after Canada beat the U.S. 6-3 in a round-robin game last week. The game can be seen at 9:30am et/6:30am pt on TSN and TSN Broadband.

The Americans earned another crack at Canada by beating Finland 6-3 in a quarter-final Tuesday in Mora.

Sweden downed the Czech Republic 5-1 in the other quarter-final and will meet Russia in a later semifinal Wednesday, which can also be seen on TSN and TSN Broadband at 1:30pm et/10:30am pt.

Both semifinals will be played in Leksand and the winners advance to the gold-medal game while the losers battle for bronze Friday.

Canada will be the more rested team against the U.S., which will have had less than 24 hours to recover from the hard-fought game against the Finns.

The Canadians' last game was a 3-0 win over Slovakia on Sunday afternoon, so they'll have had three days since their last game.

Canada held a 70-minute practice Tuesday in Leksand after getting the previous day off from the ice.

"We were snappy and focused out there and we've got to stay on task," forward Jonathan Toews said.

About 45 minutes into Canada's session, the Russian players arrived rinkside and watched intently from behind the glass as the Canadians practised.

The Americans are loaded with talent. Half of them were taken in the first two rounds of NHL entry drafts and half of them have won a world under-18 championship.

They were pre-tournament favourites along with Canada, winner of the last two world junior titles.

The U.S. underachieved in the round robin and lost to lightly regarded Germany to open the tournament, but they showed much more team cohesion in Tuesday's game than they had in the preliminary round.

The only round-robin game Canada didn't control from start to finish was against the U.S., which twice pulled within a goal of the defending champs after Canada had held leads of 3-0 and 4-2.

"They're a pretty dangerous team," Canadian defenceman Marc Staal said. "They have a lot of skilled players and you always have to be on your toes.

"If we play simple and play our game and limit our turnovers against them, that's where we're going to be successful."

The Canadians went 4-0 to top their group and get the semifinal bye on the strength of special teams, goaltending and stellar play by their defenceman at both ends of the ice.

They'll need all that again Wednesday and perhaps more against a U.S. team that is starting to believe in itself.

"Everyone in our locker room wanted another crack at them," American captain Taylor Chorney said. "I think everyone's rival in this tournament is Canada because they've won it the last few years.

"I think everybody is looking to take them down."

Half of the Canadians' goals have come from the power play and their penalty killing as been excellent. Only one of Canada's four goals against has been a power-play goal.

But the Canadians can't afford to go two men down four times against the U.S. as they did against the Slovaks on Sunday. The U.S. scored three power-play goals in the third period against Finland.

"We don't want to get in five-on-three situations again because that's playing with fire," Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg said.

"They're going to call little hooks to the stick that we don't probably call as much back home. When we do get a call against us, we have to hold our composure and get (the penalty) killed."<

Canada has the edge in players who have experienced success in this tournament with 11 returnees from the team that won gold last year in Vancouver. The U.S. has eight veterans from the squad that finished fourth.

"This is where we have to use our experience," Toews said.

Canadian forward James Neal of the Plymouth Whalers says he's healthy enough to play in the semifinal after sitting out Sunday's game with a sore groin.

"Games are getting bigger," Neal said. "Hopefully we can do something big here and do what we came here for."

London Knights forward Pat Kane, 18, has been a standout for the U.S. and was named his country's player of the game for the third time in the tournament Tuesday.

Canada's top defensive pairing - Staal and Ryan Parent - could see a lot of ice time against Kane's line and the line centred by Peter Mueller of the Everett Silvertips.

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