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Finland looks to break through against Sweden

by Shawn P. Roarke
VANCOUVER -- Finland did not spend much time enjoying its thoroughly enjoyable 5-0 victory Friday night against Belarus.
Nope, before the heads of the Finnish players hit their pillows as Friday turned into Saturday here, visions of the Tre Kroner were dancing menacingly in their heads.

Team Sweden is Finland's final opponent in Group C pool play. The game will take place Sunday night -- the nightcap of a three-game card that could go down as the best in international hockey history -- at Canada Hockey Place and the Group C title and a bye into the quarterfinal round will be the spoils for the victor.
But that is mere child's play compared to what was on the line the last time these teams met in Olympic play. Four years ago, these same two bitter rivals met for the gold medal in the Turin Games.
It was as much a passion play as it was a hockey game and, when it was over, the Swedes were celebrating gold. The Finns, meanwhile, had a new Swedish-inflicted wound from which to clean out salt. 
"Those guys, they won last time, so (this is) a big test for us," said Finnish forward Olli Jokinen, a member of that 2006 team that sees its silver medal not as a testament to their accomplishment, but rather, as a reminder of their failure.
Jokinen, at 31 years of age, may get another shot at the Swedes in four years. But a big part of the Finnish core is looking at its final opportunity to end up on the right side of what has all too often been a one-sided rivalry.

"We all know it's going to be a test Sunday and we can really measure where we are as a team," said defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who had two power-play goals Friday night against Belarus.
In that Belarusian game, Teemu Selanne, one of the Finns making his last run at Olympic gold, earned an assist to set the Olympic scoring record with 37 points. Afterward, he barely wanted to talk about that tremendous individual accomplishment, though.
He was already consumed with thoughts about the Swedes and what he can do to make Sunday different from the match four years ago.
"I think the focus starts going (to Sweden) pretty soon," Selanne said after the game. "It's going to be a huge one Sunday. I'm very happy. I like how we have played so far and it is good to move on."
Selanne is happy because the Finns seem to be hitting on all cylinders.
Starting goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was very good in the first game against the Germans. Backup Niklas Backstrom was even better in the second game against Belarus.
The Finns have received scoring up and down the forward lines. In fact, the top line -- Selanne, Saku Koivu and Jere Lehtinen -- has yet to score, and the Finns still hold a 10-1 goal advantage.
Also, their power-play has been insane, clicking four times in the game against Belarus alone.
"A short tournament like this, special teams are a big part," Jokinen said. "We saw it tonight. There are not many goals scored on 5-on-5. Every team can defend and they can play hard. It was a good confidence boost to get some goals on the power play, but with all the respect to the first two countries we play, the next one is huge."

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