U.S. must beat Canada to avoid elim­i­na­tion tonight

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Stephen Whyno

TORONTO — One game into the World Cup of Hockey, the United States is on the verge of elim­i­na­tion.

The U.S. goes into its show­down against Canada tonight need­ing a vic­tory to sur­vive and give it­self a chance to ad­vance to the semi­fi­nals.

A loss in the opener to Team Europe and Europe’s over­time vic­tory over the Czech Repub­lic on Mon­day made this a win-or-go-home game for the Amer­i­cans.

U.S. play­ers cir­cled the game against Canada as the big­gest game of the tour­na­ment as soon as the sched­ule was re­leased. Based on their pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion, it has be­come ex­actly that.

“We were look­ing for­ward to this game as a great mea­sur­ing stick, and the re­sult of not win­ning the first game is it’s also for our lives now,” cen­ter David Backes said. “We can’t hold any­thing back. This is all the chips on the ta­ble for our team, and we need to play des­per­ate.”

Coach John Tor­torella called it the Amer­i­cans’ “cham­pi­onship game” even be­fore it was clear that they had to win to stay alive. He ex­pects a charged at­mos­phere at Air Canada Cen­tre, where the U.S is the en­emy and has to win.

“Play­ing there, against them, ev­ery­body wants us knocked out,” Tor­torella said Mon­day. “I can’t wait and I think our play­ers can’t wait for this game to start. It’s go­ing to be a blast.”

The U.S. fo­cus has been on Canada, and the host and tour­na­ment fa­vorite is fo­cused on it­self as well. Goal­tender Carey Price called fac­ing the U.S. “just an­other game” and said Canada is go­ing about its busi­ness as usual.

“The most im­por­tant game you’re play­ing in these tour­na­ments is the one you’re play­ing to­mor­row,” coach Mike Bab­cock said.

Cana­dian play­ers even brushed aside elim­i­nat­ing the U.S. as a source of mo­ti­va­tion. They just want to beat ev­ery­one.

“I don’t think we re­ally look at their sit­u­a­tion,” de­fense­man Jay Bouwmeester said. “I think we know the mag­ni­tude Pre­lim­i­nary round Air Canada Cen­tre, Toronto Tonight, 8 TV: ESPN of the game just be­cause of who we’re play­ing — the ri­valry and all that.

“For us, I don’t think we should re­ally be con­cerned. We know how im­por­tant it is [for the U.S.], but it’s im­por­tant to us to be­cause we’ve got to win those games to move on.”

Canada would clinch a spot in the semi­fi­nals for it­self and Europe with a win.

Some things to watch when the U.S. faces Canada: Kane and Ab­delka­der: Hart Tro­phy win­ner Pa­trick Kane is ex­pected to play on a line with grinder Justin Ab­delka­der and cen­ter Derek Stepan. Ab­delka­der isn’t a line­mate any­one ex­pected to play with Kane, but Tor­torella thinks the Detroit Red Wings winger has been strong and needs to play more.

“I need to get in on the forecheck, use my size, use my phys­i­cal­ity to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Ab­delka­der said. “Wher­ever he uses me, wher­ever he puts me, I’ll be ready. I’m not go­ing to change any­thing with my game.” Con­tain­ing Crosby: If the U.S. is go­ing to have any suc­cess, it will have to keep Canada’s po­tent first line of Brad Marc­hand, Sid­ney Crosby and Pa­trice Berg­eron from do­ing too much dam­age. Check­ing cen­ter Bran­don Du­bin­sky has guarded Crosby many times, but stop­ping the Cana­dian cap­tain is a team ef­fort. Price per­fect: Price hasn’t al­lowed a goal in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in 224:19, count­ing the World Cup opener and the semi­fi­nal and fi­nal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. U.S. goal­tender Jonathan Quick was bril­liant against Canada in Sochi, al­low­ing one goal on a de­flec­tion by Jamie Benn, who’s in­jured and not play­ing in this tour­na­ment.

Cap­i­tals for­ward T.J. Oshie and the U.S. face Canada in the World Cup of Hockey

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