Swedes turn up the heat

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

A future Flame declared all the heat will be on the home team in tonight's gold medal game of the world junior championship at Scotiabank Place.

And he wasn't the only Swede to say so.

"The pressure is more on them," said forward Mikael Backlund, a first-round Calgary pick in 2007. "We have some pressure, too. We really want to win this game. I'm really looking forward to a win. But hockey is bigger here, and they're playing here in Canada. There's going to be a lot of pressure, with 20,000 fans screaming.

"If we win, they're going to be pretty quiet. It will be a sad day in Canada."

The Swedes, who survived their only real scare of the tournament by bouncing back from a 2-1 third period deficit to beat the Slovaks in the semis, will be out to avenge last year's overtime loss to Canada in the gold medal game of the WJCs.

Magnus Svensson Paarjavi said his team will be focused.

"I'm not thinking about the NHL, I'm not thinking about the draft," said Paarjavi, a speedy forward expected to be a high first-round pick in Montreal next June. "I'm thinking about the gold medal. We really want that gold."

Paarjavi was asked why the Swedes are better than the Canadians.

"We want it more, I think," he said. "We just want it. Hopefully, we can play as a team, as we did in the whole tournament.

"I don't know about the pressure, but of course hockey is much bigger here than it is in Sweden," he added. "You can't even imagine how it is in Sweden (compared) to here. Absolutely, they've got a lot of pressure with the crowd, 20,000."

The key player for Sweden will be goalie Jacob Markstrom, a second-round pick of the Florida Panthers. Markstrom has been the top goalie at the WJCs, with a 4-0 record, 1.25 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage.

Yesterday, the 6-foot-3 Markstrom was asked if he's feeling nervous about the game.

"Absolutely no, I'm just going to enjoy it," he said. "I wouldn't be any place except here. I'm really looking forward to (tonight). I just want to go out and beat Canada."

Markstrom remembers watching last year's final.

"Unfortunately, Canada did the gold in overtime," he said. "We're here to take the gold back to Sweden."

Markstrom said he has enjoyed playing in front of the big crowds here.

"It's more fun," he said. "Everybody sees every step you do, and every save. (Tonight) everybody will be cheering for Canada of course. Still, they've got all the pressure. We just go out there and play."

"The mission we have now is to take the gold home. I can't see going back to Sweden with a silver."

Swedish coach Par Marts said his game plan will include "puck control, lot of skating, lot of challenging and much energy."

Said Marts: "For me pressure is the drive. It's not nothing bad. You have to deal with pressure if you're athletic. Everyone wants to win. That's why from the beginning we've been talking about the gold, nothing else. I think we have a lot of pressure, but good pressure.

"I think it's a big difference. I read all over this is Hockey Country. But I think we can benefit from it. I'm impressed by the audience and how they cheer for Canada and so on. I like that."


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