VANCOUVER -- For David Bolland and his Canada teammates, there is no need for coach Brent Sutter to instruct them of the importance of tonight's game against an arch-rival, the U.S.
"For us, the time has come," Bolland said. "We don't (need a motivational speech from Sutter) because we know this is a big game."
It's fairly simple for Canada, which is 3-0 in the round-robin. If it wins or ties tonight, it will finish first in Group A and have two days of practice before playing in a semi-final on Tuesday. Lose, and it plays in a quarter-final on Monday, which would mean it would have to win the quarter and semi to get to the gold-medal game on Thursday.
Canada has managed to avoid the quarter-final in the past three years.
The most recent time Canada played in the quarter-final and went on to win gold was in 1997.
"Neither of us want to play in a quarter-final," defenceman Marc Staal said.
"There is a lot of pride in both countries and it is going to be intense."
Certainly, for the first time in this tournament, Canada will have a challenge on its hands. Gone are the no-names of Switzerland and Norway; in their place tonight will be young players such as Phil Kessel, the favourite to be picked first overall in the NHL draft next year, and Rob Schremp, the London Knights' explosive forward.
Though he has faced only 47 shots in three games thanks to a strong defence led by the pair of Staal and Ryan Parent, Team Canada goalie Justin Pogge was not overly concerned with the level of talent that will come at him tonight.
"I have been practising with Team Canada and our team is just as good, so I think I have seen anything that can come and I am ready for it," Pogge said. "It's nice coming in as an underdog but we are playing in Canada and we can't forget that. We are the favourite team (among fans) and we have to play with a lot of emotion."
Though Canada's games have been plagued with penalties and hence there has been little flow, Sutter is not worried about his club's inability to show much during 5-on-5 play. But while there has been little to grouse about with Pogge and the defencemen, Canada needs more production from its forwards.
Though Canada did have 50 shots against Norway, just two goals of the four came from forwards. Three forwards who were expected to supply some offensive punch -- Guillaume Latendresse, Andrew Cogliano and Jonathan Toews -- have combined for four assists. Latendresse, who had a stellar pre-season with the Montreal Canadiens, is one of only two forwards with no points (Daniel Bertram is the other). Canada does not have a game-breaker up front.
"Your best defence is always your best offence," Sutter said. "We have to make it difficult on goalies to see shots, be around the net to pay a bigger price. We probably have to do that a little bit more."