VANCOUVER -- No longer are the Russians international men of mystery.
Canada knows what to expect from Anton Khudobin tonight because he usually tends goal for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. Forward Alexander Radulov, a first-round pick by the Nashville Predators in 2004, is tearing up the QMJHL for the second year in a row with the Quebec Remparts. And forward Roman Voloshenko skates for the Houston Aeros of the AHL, the farm team of the Minnesota Wild.
Defenceman Kris Russell, a member of the Medicine Hat Tigers, has faced Khudobin twice this season and agreed it's a small bonus for the Canadian players to have a better handle of what they will be up against.
"We did pretty well against him, but you hear stories where a goalie can be unreal one night and then he has a tough night,"Russell said. "He is a smaller goalie and we will have to make sure we have a lot of guys driving to the net."
The eight Russians who have returned to their world junior team from last winter remain a little sour over what happened in Grand Forks, N.D. In the gold-medal game, Canada crushed Russia 6-1 and Khudobin was pulled that night.
"I have some feelings about taking revenge," Khudobin said. "I would not say I have completely forgotten what happened last year. If we work as one, we will probably dominate."
Radulov, who has a good command of the English language, said he has benefitted from playing in Canada.
"It has already helped me,"Radulov said. "It is much different here than in Russia, with a lot of contact. I like to play in Canada."
Canada has Evgeni Malkin to worry about, but Radulov, Nikolai Lemtyugov, Sergei Shirokov and Alexei Emelin all can score as well. Though Malkin is special, painting Russia as a one-player club would be to underestimate it.
Canada beat Russia 8-1 in an exhibition game in Kamloops on Dec. 22 but the players know that means little now, especially as Malkin as not in the lineup.
"We can't think back," Steve Downie said."They got to the final and we have to work hard to compete with them."
If Canada wins tonight, coach Brent Sutter, who set a record against Finland on Tuesday with 11 wins as coach, will be 12-0 in two years. No man has coached Canada in three consecutive world juniors but Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson says Sutter will be offered the job again for next year's event in Sweden.