Russian swagger

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:11 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Has Russia-Canada changed so much as this?

"I think Saskatchewan will be cheering for me," said Russian goaltender Anton Khudobin.

All of Saskatchewan?

"Yes."

Khudobin plays for the Saskatoon Blades.

He was pulled from Canada's 6-1 win over the Russians in last year's gold medal game.

"This game will be totally different than the last one," he said. "I feel more confident. I have some feelings of taking some revenge. If we play our game we will win.

"If we reach our technical level and play as one, not just dump and chase, we will probably dominate."

He stopped short of guaranteeing victory in today's Canada-Russia gold medal game at the world junior.

"I would not guarantee. It is not possible to guarantee a win in a game like this."

FOURTH TIME IN LAST FIVE YEARS

But Russian players, coming off a 5-1 win over the U.S.A. to make the Canada-Russia match for the fourth time in the last five years at the World Junior, say the same thing. If they play their game they will win.

"Easily," said Evgeni Malkin, the best player not in the NHL who has also been the best player in this tournament.

"We can compete with them physically. We are more skilled. If we play to our technical level we will beat them," said defenceman Andrei Zubarev.

Put all of the above together and you have a composite quote - "We will win, we will beat them, probably dominate, easily."

But say what they say, there is always the 'if.' If they get to their game ...

And in there IS the game.

Canadian coach Brent Sutter suggests the Russians won't find it so easy to get to their game as they did against the U.S.A.

"We will certainly play a different game than the Americans played against them.

"We got this far playing as a team," said Sutter of giving up only six goals, only one of them playing five-on-five.

"Russia scored four of their goals off the rush," he added of the U.S.A game. Not going to happen against his team, says Sutter.

"We have to play a different game to be effective. We've held our own pretty good so far. I like our 22 players."

He especially likes his goalie, Justin Pogge, the Fort McMurray native who plays for the Calgary Hitmen.

Pogge has been a study in steadiness and you don't find a goalie going into a gold medal game any more low-key than this kid. He said he watched the Russian play the U.S.A. and isn't concerned with the idea he could be facing more shots.

"They're just shots."

Pogge said you can't have a better team defence going into a gold medal game at the world junior than he has going into this one.

"I'm not going to see many shots."

Pogge doesn't give the idea his knees are going to be knocking behind his pads to face Malkin, either.

"Not really. He's a really good player on a Russian team that has a lot of really good, skilled players. That's about it."

LAST YEAR WAS DIFFERENT

You'd figure off the last two games these two teams played - a 6-1 Canadian win in the gold medal game last year and an 8-1 Canadian win in a pre-tournament game in Kamloops - Canada would be favoured.

But last year was different teams and the pre-tournament game doesn't count said Malkin.

"This game was an exhibition and we still were not acclimatized to the time difference," he said of stepping off the plane to play the Kamloops game. "This will be an interesting game and it won't be the same result as the last game."

Ryan O'Marra, the official temperature-taker of Sutter's squad, says good old Canadian hockey emotion will play a huge role for Canada going for gold.

"It's going to add energy. When the emotions come out and you're going to be a bit more physical when that happens - and that's a scary thought, us being more physical than we already are."

The Russians, because of the for-against totals in the tournament will be the home team and have the last change. Russia will wear red. Canada will wear white. And the crowd will be cheering for Canada, not for Russia as was the case against the U.S.A.

"It was good to have the crowd," said Zubarev. "It was a great help to us. In the final we have to play without their help."

Except all those fans from Saskatchewan, of course.


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