Russia downplays collapse

Sweden goaltender Johan Gustafsson stops Russia's Yevgeni Kuznetsov during a World Junior Hockey...

Sweden goaltender Johan Gustafsson stops Russia's Yevgeni Kuznetsov during a World Junior Hockey Championship match in Calgary, Alta., Dec. 31, 2011. (MIKE STURK/Reuters)

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:20 PM ET

CALGARY - There will be no Canada-Russia gold-medal rematch.

But the game's two oldest rivals could clash in Tuesday's semifinal.

And Russian sniper Evgeni Kuznetsov, the team's lone returning player from last year's championship squad, would like nothing better.

"That's why I'm here," Kuznetsov said when asked about facing the host Canucks.

"I came just for that.

"One of us will be without the gold."

The defending champs have extra homework to do before that much-awaited rematch can take place.

After a third-period meltdown against the Swedes on New Year's Eve, they'll first have to take care of the Czechs in Monday's quarterfinal (7 p.m., MT Saddledome).

"The Czechs are a good team," Kuznetsiov said. "I will enjoy playing them."

If you get the sense the Russians aren't in panic mode, you'd be right.

Not one player seemed overly concerned after they watched a 3-0 third-period lead evaporate in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Swedes.

Nail Yakupov, projected as the No.-1 pick in this summer's NHL Entry Draft, talked about the loss like it was a scrimmage.

"I don't know what happened," Yakupov said. "We just need to keep going.

"It's OK, it's life, it's hockey. We just have to play one more game. It's not problem."

The way Yakupov sees it, it just means an extra game on the schedule.

"It's hard when you're winning 3-0 and you lose," Yakupov said. "It's a little bit shock. But that's life.

"It's fun. You play hockey and that's your work.

"We have one more game against the Czech Republic and it's OK. Everybody good."

Yakupov is well aware which team is waiting in the wings, but was adament it doesn't matter who's up next.

"If we win (against the) Czech Republic, we don't care what team is next.

"It's not a problem. Canada, Finland, Sweden, it doesn't matter."

The Russians are emboldened by recent history.

They finished third in their pool last year before beating Finland (in overtime), Sweden (in a shootout) and Canada for the gold.

The Americans were forced to take the long route in 2010 but ended up winning it all.

"Life goes on," Kuznetsov said. "The game is behind us. It was the same last year when we were in third place.

"The last few times, whoever had a bye into the semifinal, hasn't gone on to win."

The Russians could get skilled forward Mikhail Grigorenko back from a suspected sprained ankle.

He skated at Sunday's practice, but did not take part in all of the drills.

Head coach Valeri Bragin said solving Czech goaltender Petr Mrazek will be the top concern.

"It's difficult to say right now how we're going to win," Bragin said. "They have a really good goalie and we played against them in the pre-tournament games.

"They play an aggressive style. This year, the Czech team is not looking like it was last year or years before. It's a good opponent."

As for his team's mindset, Bragin took the same stance as his players.

"I think we already have a good team," he said. "This loss means we have to go a more difficult road to the medal round.

"That's basically it."

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNScottFisher


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