Come out flying

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

The eight championship banners are hanging high over the ice at the south end of MTS Centre.

Canada's quest for a ninth -- in 10 attempts -- begins tonight when it kicks off the World Women's Hockey Championship with a round robin game against Switzerland.

Game time at MTS Centre is 7:30. More than 9,000 tickets had been sold as of yesterday afternoon.

"I don't know much about Switzerland, to be honest. We haven't played them for a few years," Canada captain Hayley Wickenheiser said. "I expect us to come out really flying (tonight). It will be a big game, and we'll be excited to play in front of all the fans.

"I would expect Switzerland to want to be able to compete, so we'll have to respect them. But if we play our game, there shouldn't be any problems."

Wickenheiser is right. Canada will win tonight's game. The questions are: How badly will they clobber the Swiss? And, more importantly to the Canadians, will they take the positive steps they want to take?

"You really want to set the stage. You want to come out flying," defenceman Cheryl Pounder said. "We want to try and put together a performance that's going to grow throughout the tournament."

The Canadians have met the Swiss twice in world championship history and outscored them 16-0. Their last meeting was in 1999, when Canada cruised to a 10-0 whitewashing.

"They'll come out hard and battle us," Canada coach Melody Davidson said. "They'll protect the middle of the ice and do the things as best they can.

"A lot of teams against us will protect between the dots and look to chip and try to get an outnumbered rush."

Don't expect that to happen very often, though. Canada is expected to cruise past Switzerland tonight and Germany on Thursday in the preliminary round before meeting up with the U.S. and either Sweden or Finland in the playoff round, which starts Saturday.

That's when the real fun will begin for Canada, which won gold at the 2006 Olympics but lost the 2005 world final in a shootout to the U.S.

"(The Americans) are the reigning world champions, and that's something that we want to get back," Pounder said. "But we gotta kind of hit every step along the way and definitely grow with every game."

Added Wickenheiser: "We have the team that can win. We have the right depth. We've got good young players coming up.

"I look around the room, and I just have a lot of confidence in everybody."


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