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Canadian junior team not ready to let up in Super Series against Russia

NHL.com @NHL

RED DEER, Alta. (CP) - Pride, the chance to play for their country again and the desire to have their coach win one last game in his home building is what's driving the Canadian junior hockey team now in its Super Series against Russia.

With a 6-0 record in an eight-game series, the Canadians have to find other motivation to not let the remaining games degenerate into glorified shinny Friday in Red Deer (10 p.m. ET) and Sunday in Vancouver (8 p.m. ET).

Head coach Brent Sutter will coach his last game in Red Deer's Enmax Centrium after seven years there as owner, coach and general manager of the Red Deer Rebels.

He'll remain the owner of the franchise, but heads to New Jersey next week as the new head coach of the Devils.

A sellout of about 7,000 is expected Friday to see him off and the Canadian players want to give them a game worth celebrating.

"Everyone was excited when we came back to Canada from Russia and knowing we're playing in front of our friends and family, it's definitely motivating," Kelowna Rockets defenceman Luke Schenn said Thursday after a short practice.

"To see everyone decked out in Canadian gear and the fans going crazy, it's great to see."

Since Canada clinched the series Tuesday in Winnipeg, Sutter has made sure the players know they are still auditioning for the next edition of this team, which will attempt to win the country's fourth straight gold medal at the world junior hockey championship running Dec. 26 to Jan. 6 in the Czech Republic.

Sutter is contact every day with Craig Hartsburg of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who will coach that team for a second consecutive year, and they discuss the performance of each player on this Canadian team.

"(We're) fully aware of that," Guelph Storm defenceman Drew Doughty said. "We all know it's one of the biggest goals of our junior careers to make the junior team at Christmas.

"We know in the back of our minds, the coaches are watching the games on TV and Sutter is communicating with Hartsburg."

Russia has traditionally given Canada far more competition than they've given in this series. The two countries have met in the final of the world junior hockey championships six times since 1999 and have won three gold medals apiece.

For that reason, a clean sweep of the Russians in this series would be a feather in Canada's cap.

"Winning all eight games is something that we can be very proud of," Doughty said.

Added Schenn: "We know if it was the other way around and it was Russia up 6-0 in the series they wouldn't let up at all either, so we've got a lot to do here."

Sutter plans to split goaltending duties between Steve Mason and Jonathan Bernier on Friday with each one playing half a game.

Even with the series well in hand, he isn't any less demanding of his players than he was in Game 1 in Ufa back on Aug. 27.

"They're representing their country, the front of that jersey and every individual that loves hockey in this country and I just want them to play well," Sutter said. "They're still being evaluated daily and they know that."

Having clinched the series the previous night, Canada played its worst two periods of the series in Wednesday's Game 6 in Saskatoon, but rebounded with one of its best thirds in a 4-1 win.

"At the beginning, we played selfishly and didn't really follow the game plan. Brent gave us a really good talk between the second and third periods and we dominated that third period for sure," Doughty said.

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