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Canadian Press
Jan 4, 2007, 5:34 PM EST


LEKSAND, Sweden (CP) - Canadian defencemen Marc Staal and Ryan Parent relish their assignment in the gold-medal game of the world junior hockey championship Friday.

The defensive partners were successful shutting down Russian superstar forward Evgeni Malkin in last year's final in Vancouver en route to Canada's 5-0 victory.

This time, they'll be seeing a lot of the top Russian line that includes 17-year-old Alexei Cherepanov, who is tied for second in tournament scoring with eight points (5-3) in five games.

"It's something we focused on in practice today, the whole week and the whole month we've been together, so it's something we're ready for," Parent said Thursday.

Staal, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Sudbury Wolves, was named top defenceman in Vancouver on the strength of his performance against Malkin.

The six-foot-four, 207-pounder from Thunder Bay, Ont., is expected to contribute offensively with the Wolves, but with the Canadian junior team, his role is more limited and he likes it.

"It makes the game a lot more simple when you just have to keep pucks out of the net and get in guys' faces and shut them down," Staal said.

He and Parent, who plays for the Guelph Storm, are the pillars of Canada's back end. They are particularly effective killing penalties with solid positioning, physical strength and long reaches to gain possession of the puck.

And it's unlikely Canada will be able to stay out of the penalty box Friday against Russia (1:30 p.m. ET).

"They know that killing penalties will be a big part of it," Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg said. "Everyone is going to have to be good defensively. Marc and Ryan will be a big pair for us.

"They're big sturdy guys and they think the game really well. There's no panic in either one of them, especially defensively when things start to happen, they tend to sort things out very quickly.

"They move the puck quickly and that gets you out of defensive problems if you can get the puck up the ice and out of your own zone."

The six-foot-two, 194-pound Parent grew up in Sioux Falls, Ont., which is about 370 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

He is a first-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators and was taken six spots after Staal, who went 12th overall to the New York Rangers.

Staal's older brother Eric plays for the Carolina Hurricanes and younger brother Jordan plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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